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Old 06-11-2011, 05:36 PM   #11
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Mama, I can't say enough about raised beds. I don't have them now, but did in both Florida and Hawaii; and yes, the start up was $$$, but well worth it in the long run. (where I live now my husband jokes that everywhere else in the U.S. is dirt, here we have soil). When you use this method, I cannot recommend more highly Mel Bartholomew's "Square Foot Gardening" books. I don't do it much any more, but still use the old book I have for reference.
Thanks Claire! I look for that book. I need all the help I can get. I tried gardening a little in this red clay dirt down here but wasn't very successful. This raised bed has made all the difference in the world.
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Old 06-11-2011, 05:44 PM   #12
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I too love the Miracle Gro potting soil. They now have it with moisture control. I rotate crops in my big containers and mix in new Miracle Gro every year. I usually don't use any other fertilzer other than compost. I also use styrofoam peanuts in the bottoms of big pots, which saves on soil.
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Old 06-11-2011, 06:07 PM   #13
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I find it rewarding to grow some vegetables from the seeds of last year's crop. My grandfather regularly did this with his plum tomatoes. I currently have 6 tomato plants that I put outside on 2 June. They were planted with seeds dried from a variety of a neighbors' tomatoes that I potted up on 20 March (75 days prior to setting outside). I count myself as being particularly fortunate this year in not having any damping off problems. Aside from potting soil sanitation, I'd attribute this to sparse watering and good air circulation. Some of the potted plants required staking prior to setting outside. All of the potted plants were set outside during the day for several weeks in May to acclimate them to outdoor living. Hope the critters do not decimate them before I get some ripe fruit. Next year, God willing, I hope to do more tomatoes and some hot Hungarian peppers.
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Old 06-12-2011, 12:13 AM   #14
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I suspect you're buying big plants. You don't have to.

When we had a vegetable garden we'd buy flats of a dozen tomato plants for $6.00. Of course they were only about 6"-8" tall. We'd plant them on or before Memorial day.
I have only bought a plant once and it was the only size they had, it didn't look very big to me, really.
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Old 06-12-2011, 01:01 AM   #15
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You are from MN. The simple answer, if you don't have a great place to start them inside, is .... plants. Our season is great further north simply because of the long days we have. That said, the season is so damned short that starting most from seed is a joke. You'll get your first tomato the day before our first frost. So the simple answer is to buy seedlings and plant them after the last frost (here the tradition is after Mothers' Day, but we had a couple of hard frosts in the weeks after!).
Last year (and this year too) I started the seeds in April and last year I was able to get some stuff for a good portion of the summer so I didn't feel like it was a waste, I just wish more of my stuff would have grown correctly. I had a lot of green beans that died only because I didn't have anything for them to grow up except 1 stick of bamboo and the wind just blew them right down and they died from that.


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Exceptions, to me, are lettuce, dill, and basil. Other hardy greens as well (although I bought my chard in plants this year as well, our season started so late).
I tried growing lettuce last year, it never did anything. Basil, on the other hand, was VERY successful, which I'm grateful for, since that's one of my favorite herbs!

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If you are a tomato grower, for next year I recommend "Early Girls".
Thanks for the recommendation! I'll try those next year and I'll start from a plant since I've never had any luck with growing tomatoes from seeds.
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Old 06-12-2011, 02:00 AM   #16
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I'm probably not the best person to chime in here since this is really my first year of trying my hand at some serious gardening but I'll chime in anyway

This year, I put in a raised bed garden. I filled it with miracle grow garden soil. It was pretty expensive but next year I won't have to buy any and all I plan to do is to mix in a little manure. Anyway, I bought many of my plants but I did start my lettuce and mustard greens from scratch. Both of which did really well. I didn't start them in pots. I started them right in the garden. I don't know how well that would work for you though since I'm in Georgia and you're in Minnesota. Maybe you could try using the miracle grow garden soil in pots?

Here is a pic of the mustard greens that I started from seed right in the ground. I picked and froze them just the other day
Wow, nice mustard greens! and this is your first year? Impressive!

I have used Miracle Grow soil, and I've also used fertilizer pellets too. Except for the crappy dirt that comes in those starter kits, the more I think about those the more I want to grow from plants next year, at least then i'll be almost guaranteed to get a good amount of produce!
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Old 06-12-2011, 02:08 AM   #17
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Another hint is that when you buy a tomato plant later in the season, and it's a little gangly, then pinch off the bottom row or two of branches. Either dig a hole deeper than you might, or make a sort of trench. The part of the stem that you've pinched the leaves from goes under ground. Those places you pinched the leaves from with put out roots and make a stronger plant. Great hint for late plantings.
WOW! That is amazing!! Thanks for sharing that, I'm gonna tell everyone I know who has a garden about that trick!
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Old 06-12-2011, 09:56 AM   #18
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If you start your own seedlings, depending on the seeds, some germinate and some don't. Out of 6 flats I started in a south facing window, about 65% of them germinated, so out of 32-48 pockets of dirt/flat, thats at least 150 plants we had growing--tomatoes and peppers.

The tomatoes did decidedly better than the peppers. Next year I'll use the same flats, new soil, and more peppers and less tomatoes.

The entire seed packet of Rosemary, didn't germinate at all.

Just water them and talk nicely to them.
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Old 06-12-2011, 10:45 AM   #19
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Astra--starting seeds can be a little difficult. It takes room, good light, and good air circulation. Tomatoes and peppers need to be started about 6 weeks before you set them out.

I start tomatoes and peppers, and have good luck, but I have a southfacing sunroom, and a shelf and light set up that I bring up out of the cellar every spring. I also set up an oscillating fan as soon as the seedlings pop up.

Don't worry a bit about squeezing the bottom of the pot to get those seedlings out--but DON'T grab the stem or leaves, or pull from the top. One method is to turn the pot upside down, with the stem of the plant between your fingers, and smack the bottom of the pot with your other hand. Or, if you are using those flimsy 6 pack pots, just push the bottom of the pot.

I don't like peat pots, either. If you leave the top of the pot above the soil, it acts like a wick to move the water from the root zone to the surface where it evaporates. If I buy a plant in a peat pot, I pull the pot completely off, and crumble it into the soil.

Plants at my greenhouse are not anywhere that expensive--but plants in fancy markets can be--I actually saw grown bean plants, with beans on them, for $15. Silly! A packet of bean seeds is a couple dollars, and if you buy a grown plant, you have no idea about what chemicals have been used on them.

Look for a 'country' store--somewhere out of downtown that does not cater to the 'urban homesteader' crowd. Seedlings are kind of expensive, but shouldn't be anywhere near $10 each. The farmers market may be a good place, but I did pay $3.50 each for pepper plants a couple of weeks ago!

Beans, zucchini and other squash, cukes, basil, lettuce--all those things are easy and quick to grow from seeds. Pole beans need sturdy support--buy 3 eight foot bamboo poles, tie them together at the top (use wire or some kind of string that won't disintegrate in the sun), and make a teepee. Cukes can grow on a trellis, too, saving you some room. Fasten it to a sunny wall.

Lastly, (because I have already written a whole book here!) gardening is one place where you learn as you do. Find your local Extension office--they may have a beginning gardening class, they have horticulturalists available to answer questions and they certainly have guidesheets to help you. (Google "Minnesota Extension, your county name" to find them--we are often hard to find in the phone book.)

Oh, wait, one more last thing--finding an experienced gardener to help you is worth a million dollars. Ask questions here, or at your Extension office.
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Old 06-12-2011, 10:59 AM   #20
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I once had a package of kidney beans that had been sitting around for years. On a whim, I planted one in an unused pot. It grew into a lovely plant.
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