The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

April 11, 2014

Use a heat mat for quick seed germination

Filed under: Equipment,Greenhouse,Seeds — bob @ 10:11 am

For many years I started seeds without using a seedling heat mat.There never seemed to be any problems doing it that way as long as I was able to find a warm spot for my seed trays. Those were the days when the tops of refrigerators radiated heat and were nice and warm. That was the best place to germinate small amounts of seeds because the constant heat warmed up the seed starting containers to the ideal temperature. Small heat mats for home use were not readily available back then.

It wasn’t until I worked in a large private greenhouse that I really found out the advantages to using bottom heat. I needed to grow thousands of flower and vegetable plants from seed. Time was, and still is, a valuable commodity, I couldn’t afford to wait for seeds to sprout.

Seeds I grew on heat mats seemed to jump up through the soil surface compared to their unheated brethren — germination percentage went up too. After the first transplant growing season, I invested in a few large commercial heat mats.

These days, nearly all garden centers sell small heat mats. They are usually preset at a specific temperature and are not adjustable, unlike the commercial mats.

Heat mats will last for years  if you use them properly and store them carefully.

Heat mats will last for years if you use them properly and store them carefully.

The small mats work just fine for small amounts of seeds. By small amounts, I mean you can still germinate enough seeds to grow hundreds of plants. That’s more than enough for an average home garden.

If you are even a little bit serious about growing plants from seed, a seedling heat mat is an essential investment, especially now that refrigerators aren’t warm anymore.


April 4, 2014

Supplemental light for growing seedlings

Filed under: Greenhouse,Indoor Gardening,Seed Starting — bob @ 9:35 am

Plants need light for photosynthesis and without light they can’t grow. But not all light is equal.

If you remember from your middle school science class, sunlight contains many colors or wave lengths of light. Plants mainly use the blue and red part of the light spectrum and not much else.

Seedlings need good quality light to thrive. The ideal place to grow seedlings of course,  is in a greenhouse or sun-room where there is plenty of natural sunlight. However, not everyone has access to a space like a greenhouse. A south window can help, but even in that case, supplemental lighting may be needed.

An adequate substitute for natural sunlight is light from fluorescent bulbs. Special “grow lights” are available but are quite a bit more expensive than standard fluorescent tubes and they don’t last as long. Research has shown that plants do as well or even better under “cool white” bulbs. Cool white bulbs provide plenty of blue light.

You don't have to spend a lot of money for supplemental lighting. I bought this light fixture for one dollar at a garage sale. I had to buy a new bulb separately.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money for supplemental lighting. I bought this light fixture for one dollar at a garage sale. I had to buy a new bulb separately.

Despite all of the newest research, some gardeners still feel that seedlings grow better if the light is “blended”. So, they’ll add a “soft white” bulb to a florescent fixture to provide some red light for their seedlings. The plants certainly look more natural under mixed lights. Shining light from an incandescent bulb onto the seedlings will also add some red light.

Most vegetable and flower garden seedlings need bright light, at least 500 to 1,000 foot candles. Placing the light fixture within six inches or so will provide them with that amount of light. Still, that is not a bright as a sunny day where there can be 10,000 foot candles shining on a plant.

Just as people need sleep , plants require some darkness every day. So, dig out your Christmas light timer and set it so the lights go out at night  for six to eight hours, that is sufficient for most plants.

If you are really serious about growing a large number of plants under artificial light, special high output light fixtures are available starting at around $300 each.





Old and new crops in the hoop house

Filed under: Greenhouse,Planting,Vegetables — bob @ 9:18 am

A while back, I mentioned I was planning on planting some seeds in the hoop house since the  soil temperature warmed up so nicely undercover.

Last week I planted about a third of the space with round red radishes, french slicing radishes, bib lettuce, a leaf lettuce salad combination, two varieties of spinach  and a couple varieties of scallions.

When I went into the hoop house to move away the inner plastic covering, I was surprised to see several lettuce plants growing. Those were the same ones I gave up for dead a few weeks ago. Since they are already growing, they have a big head start compared to the seeds I just planted. I decided to leave them in place and nurse them along thinking, may as well harvest them for salad since I really don’t need the extra room right now.

At this stage of growth, those lettuce plants will act like a biennial instead of an annual plant.

Biennials are plants that need two growing seasons to complete their life cycle.

A complete plant life cycle starts with a seed that grows into a plant, the plant flowers then produces more seeds.

Since biennials need two seasons, they grow the first season then go dormant through the winter. They start growing again in the spring, then flower and produce their seeds. Once the seeds are produced, those original plants die and the life cycle starts over again.

Beets, onions, carrots and most of the cabbage family of plants are all biennials. Foxglove, pansies and hollyhocks are common biennial flowers.

I have seen this type of thing happen before after a mild winter. Usually the lettuce plants will make some growth, then quickly flower and begin to produce seeds.

I’ll just help them grow as much as possible and harvest them when they’re big enough to eat before they decide to start making seeds.





April 1, 2014

Grow mushrooms at home in your fridge

Filed under: Uncategorized — bob @ 10:25 am

There’s a new product out on the market that make’s you want to say: ” Why didn’t I think of that!”

The scientists at a bio-tech company called Genetic Dynamics, have come up with an easy way to grow mushrooms from seed at home.

Head researcher, Dr. Fred Kim, said: ” Nearly everyone I know already has some kind of fungus growing in their refrigerator. Our research team  decided to take advantage of that fact”.

Using a combination of conventional plant breeding and cutting edge DNA technology, the scientists created a mushroom that will grow under conditions found in a typical refrigerator.

The new variety called ” Shrooms” uses any leftover food as a substrate to grow on. Dr. Kim noted: “The older and more forgotten the leftovers are, the better the mushrooms grow”.

I grew my shrooms on what I think is leftover mashed potatoes.

I grew my shrooms on what I think is leftover mashed potatoes.

Walter Tupper, the Executive Chef at Top O’ the Cave Restraint in Grosse Point Farms, Michigan, uses them almost exclusively in dishes calling for mushrooms. “They have a taste reminiscent of baby portabellas. We obtain ours from a local grower.” he says.

I was able to get a hold of a packet of seeds to try out. I have to admit they are very easy to grow and tasty too!

To order seeds visit the Genetic Dynamics website.





Mushroom seeds

Filed under: Uncategorized — bob @ 7:35 am

April Fool’s Day! Thanks for being such a good sport! Pass this along to your friends! Bob

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress