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Garden preparation for May

Photo by Zack Dowell

Photo by Zack Dowell

What to do in the garden in May to get ready for all the plants that will be in the ground before you know it? May is an in-between month for many gardening zones. Too cold to plant your less hardy varietals that might be harmed by a late frost, but just warm enough to start prepping the soil for those seeds that can take a little colder weather. But regardless of what gardening zone you are in,  there are plenty of tasks to be done to prep your garden and give it the head start it needs to perform:

  • Rip out invasive plants while the soil is damp, before they spread even further.
  • Check out spring flowering trees and shrubs while they are in bloom and make notes for future purchases.
  • Ready your compost bin, turn it and add nitrogen or plant matter if need be.
  • Keep a watch out for asparagus beetles, aphids, cabbage worms, cutworms, scale, slugs & snails and any signs of fungal diseases.
  • Clean the flower pots with a solution of bleach and water to kill any lingering disease or mold if used from one season to the next. If you have Togetherfarm Blocks, you can simply toss them in the dishwasher for one cycle!
  • Seed cool season vegetables and root crops after mid-month (beetsbeanscabbagecarrots,chard, lettuce, onionspotatoesradishesturnips).
  • Start warm season melons and squash indoors, to transplant after Memorial Day.
  • Keep seeding lettuces, greens and beans.
  • Summer bulbs can be planted outdoors.

For those of you new to gardening this year, you can get a head start on the Spring weather by snapping your Togetherfarm garden beds together, add a good compost rich soil, and plant your zone appropriate veggies and flowers.

And here is a zone-specific garden “to do” list  from the USDA, and a task specific to do list for each zone at Organic Gardening.

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Spring is almost here! Planting successful starts in your Togetherfarm Blocks.

You can use your Togetherfarm Blocks as seed or starter planters!

You can use your Togetherfarm Blocks as seed or starter planters! Just flip them over, plant your seeds or starts with potting seed mix, water and put in a warm place.

Spring is finally almost here, but in many parts of the world (including ours in the Pacific Northwest of America), we have quite a few months to go before it is safe to put many plants directly in our raised Togetherfarm Block beds because of the danger of low temps, late frost and hail.

March is the perfect month to start plants and seeds indoors that require a long growing season (like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and broccoli) so that when the later Spring months of May and June roll around, they already have a good start on their growth, and you can move them in your Togetherfarm Blocks raised bed.

Depending on the area you are planting in, you may start your seeds for different plants earlier or later. This handy planting calculator can help determine when to plant your seeds and starts according to your zip code.

Easy way to sanitize your Togetherfarm Blocks for planting seedlings and plant starts!

Easy way to sanitize your Togetherfarm Blocks for planting seedlings and plant starts!

Using sanitized seed planters is key to disease-free starts
Seeds and small plant starts are especially prone to contracting bacteria or harmful plant disease that may be left over from an earlier season in your planting pots. To avoid transmitting disease to your seeds and starts, just toss your Togetherfarm Blocks into the dishwasher for one cycle–the Blocks can be safely sanitized in the dishwasher and then ready for use year after year.

Light exposure and warmth
There is little as frustrating as trying to get a strong start from a seed, but ending up with a weak and spindly stalk that cannot “weather” the transfer to an outdoor climate. The secret to a strong start begins with the amount of light it is exposed to each day. Here are some tips on getting the most light for your seeds and starts–even in the dead of winter when light is scarce.

1. Choose a south facing window and put your starts in a place without shade and make sure if it is close to a window that the environment is warm enough to get the seeds going. Ideal temperature is between 70-85 degrees.

2. Head to a hardware store and pick up a fluorescent light, and keep the light pointing at the tops of your plants and planter. The light should not be very far away from the planter—2-3″ above them at most. The plants should be exposed to this light for 10-12 hours per day for best results.

Soil and moisture
Small starts, and especially seeds require a very light soil (organic seedling potting soil works best) as the heavier potting soil for mature plants is too heavy and will not allow the small seeds to push up to the light. When covering your seeds with the potting mix, be sure to go no deeper than 1/8″ inch, and in some cases even less, depending on the size of the seed.

Water your seeds and starts every day, preferably with a sprayer so that you do not disturb the seedlings growing process. Never allow your seeds or starts to dry out! A consistent even moist (but not drowned!) environment is ideal.

Fertilizing
Don’t fertilize your seeds with anything until 2 or more leaves have formed on a stem. With your small starts, you may start fertilizing them with a light to medium strength, lower nitrogen organic fertilizer such as sea kelp liquid or fish emulsion. When your seeds have formed 2 leaves, fertilize the plants once a week to help form a strong root system.

Transferring your starts from potting container to outdoor raised bed safely
After you have gotten your seeds and starts to a state in which they are ready to be transferred to your raised bed, you must first “condition” them to a colder overnight climate than what they have been used to in the indoor environment they were grown in. This process is called “hardening off” and it is essential to a smooth transition and for survival of your seed starts.

About 10 days to two weeks before the time to move the plants outdoors, start by putting the plants in a shaded, cool place on your porch or patio that is protected from the wind. You can leave them for up to 2 weeks, and then move them to a shady area in your garden close to the area that holds your raised bed. Leave them in this area for another 7-10 days and then if the ground is warm and there is no frost forecast, plant them in your Togetherfarm Blocks raised bed. You can shield them further from wind, birds, squirrels, etc by placing a barrier such as a milk carton with the ends cut off around them until they are sprouting at least 2-3 bunches of leaves off of one stem.

If frost is forecast, bring them in for the night to protect them or until frost danger has passed.

 

 

 

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Benefits of Growing and Eating Kale

Benefits of Growing and Eating Kale

Ornamental Kale looks beautiful in the garden and is also edible.

Kale is one of those garden plants that is packed full of all kinds of nutrients and benefits for your body. In addition, it is really easy to grow and is hardy in lots of different climates. This article will tell you how to grow kale as well as explain some of the benefits to eating kale.

How to Grow Kale

Kale is really easy to grow. All you need is a portion of your garden that gets lots of good sunlight and where the nutrient rich soil is at least 6-12″ deep. Kale is in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts which all require soil that is rich in nitrogen. You can buy kale starts at most places where vegetable starts are sold however, kale is also easy to start from seed. The past few years I have done a combination of purchasing a few starts to give me some kale earlier in the year and then started a few kale plants from seed. Once the kale plant has established itself, water it 1-2 times per week when the temperatures are under 80°F and every other day for warmer climates. When the plant has several leaves on it, you can start picking and eating the bottom leaves. The plant will continue to grow and produce more and more leaves that can be eaten. I had one summer where my kale plants had gotten to about 4 feet tall and we had so much kale that we were sharing with all of our neighbors.

Benefits of Growing and Eating Kale

Ornamental Kale can survive freezes as low as 20°F.

If you live in a colder environment or if you want to grow kale in the winter, many varieties do well in near freezing whether. In addition, some of the ornamental kale can withstand temperatures down to 20°F. The ornamental kale is edible but doesn’t taste quite as good as regular kale.

One of the garden pests to watch out for with kale is aphids. If you have a problem with aphids on your kale, check out this article for some organic ways to get rid of aphids in your garden.

Benefits of Eating Kale

Kale is full of incredible nutrients. It is high in Vitamins A, C, and K. It also has lots of calcium, potassium, folic acid, lutein, and antioxidants. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef, more calcium than milk, and 10x more vitamin C than spinach. Wow! That’s a lot of wholesome goodness in one plant. So what is all that good for? Well, these nutrients help with eye health, skin health, reduction of the risk of heart disease and cancer. Kale also contributes to weight loss, lower cholesterol, and healthier bones.

Here is a fantastic info graphic that sums all of this up, courtesy of Juice Generation:

Why you should eat kale and health benefits of kale

Do you grow kale? How do you like to eat your kale? Share your favorite recipe in the comments.

Eat Kale, Stay Healthy

 

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In the News

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It’s been an incredible month so far and we’ve been mentioned in the news a number of times just in January alone.  We wanted to share these with you.  Help us say thank you by checking out a news article or two!

As always, thank you for your support and for your efforts to get the word out about Togetherfarm Blocks!

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