Potting up plants – what does that even mean?

Good Sunday morning!!! I’ve been busy already today potting up tomatoes and eggplant.

But what exactly does potting up mean?

When you start seeds in a smaller seed tray, the plants can only get so big and stay happy for a short time. Just as kids grow and need bigger shoes, plants grow and need a bigger space for their roots.

That’s why gardeners have so many plastic or biodegradable pots around. As the seedlings grow out of their first home, we “pot them up” to the next size.

For tomatoes, this also helps strengthen the stem. If you’ve ever noticed, there are what look like tiny hairs all over the tomato stem/stalk. When put in the dirt, those “hairs” create roots and help make the plant stronger. That’s why when you pot up or plant out tomatoes, you bury them deep, so those hairs help the plant grow strong.

There are some plants, like squash, however that you don’t want to start in a small seed cell. You want to keep the roots in tact until you plant them in the ground. Many people don’t pre-start squash plants because their roots are so finicky but I’m trying to out run the squash vine borer this year, so I started them early and am hoping for the best.

Some plants, you don’t want to start early in cells at all. Those include carrots and, for me, nasturtium. Both like to be direct sown and left alone to flourish.

Got any questions about starting seeds and potting them up? Drop me a note or comment below.


A short peek at what’s growing on Feb. 21.

Feb. 21, 2021

There are only 30 days until the last frost here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

30 days!!! That’s exciting.

I am ready for some warmer weather, growing tomatoes, blooming flowers and bees. I miss the bees. Today, I planted some sunflowers, cabbage and peanuts so they can sprout and be ready to put in the ground when it warms.

Even with all the seedlings on the porch, there are still many things growing, happily, in the garden right now. Here is a short video of just a few of the better-looking winter items.

Enjoy!


Winter gardening

A winter harvest

Today in Myrtle Beach, S.C. it is 39 degrees F and raining.

A typical winter day for us on the coast. It has been a bit rainier than normal, but not by much.
Even with the cold and rain, it doesn’t mean that gardening has stopped here. In our zone 8b, gardening is year-round.

Right now, I have lettuces, onions, peas, broccoli, mustard greens, 3 types of kale, cilantro, kohlrabi, pak choy, calendula, swiss chard, carrots, parsley, oregano, fennel, dill, collard greens, and garlic.

Carrots fresh out of the dirt

Under a cover, I have started radishes and spinach. In the seed starting area, I have tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, zinnias, eggplant, cabbage, broccoli and mustard greens. These, as they grow with heat mats and are moved in and out of the sun, will be ready for spring when the ground has warmed.

It was just last year that I bought the heat mats to start seeds earlier than March. It has helped get a jump start on the season. It also extended my season because the plants are ready to go and then new ones can be put in their place when they’re finished.

Collard greens with frost

Winter garden crops also need less attention. There aren’t as many bugs, it rains so you don’t have to water as much and the plants are hardier than delicate square or tomatoes.

However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be checked and fertilized. Because of the extra rain, nutrients in the soil can be washed away faster – so you’ve got to feed your plants. As Martha Stewart says, you have to eat and your plants have to eat.

So what can you do if you don’t live on the coast like me? Well, you can have a green house. You can have a cold frame or you can plant some herbs or smaller items on a sunny window sill. You can also enjoy a break from digging in the frozen, cold dirt and dream of spring and summer.

Camellia

Winter is a great time to plan and many gardeners also order their seeds during this time of year. If you’re craving winter vegetables and you’re not growing them – contact your local farmer. See what they’ve got in the fields right now. Because there are not many farmers markets in the fall and winter, buying some of their produce will likely help them out a lot.

Got questions about winter gardening? Send me a note or comment below.

Also, stay tuned this week for some exciting news!


Dreaming, and planning, for spring

Let me set the scene for you for most gardeners in the northern hemisphere in January.

Me, trying to figure out how to get all the plants I want into my space.

If you live anywhere not in zone 9 or 10, January is quiet time in the garden. You, of course, can plant kale, collards, cabbage, carrots and other crops under a cover that don’t mind the cold weather, frost and snow, but most gardeners take the winter to regroup and plan.

That planning process, for me, consists of as many seed catalogues as I can get my hands on, a comfy robe and blanket on the couch, my garden notebook and a pencil with a good eraser.

Seed starting dates

I try to keep good notes every season on where I plant things so that I can practice crop rotation. This practice helps keep the soil healthy by not using all of one type of nutrient. It also helps keep plants healthy as diseases can build up in the soil if you plant the same thing in the same spot all the time.

Because of this, and the excitement of trying new varieties, planning out where things will go is quite a process. I consider the date of the last frost, seed germination time, when to start the seeds indoors or when the soil will be warm enough to direct sow, the time it takes the plant to reach maturity and soil nutrition.

Garden 2021 goals and wish list

These things are all very important because the last thing you want to do is buy heirloom seeds, plant them and the seed never germinates. That is a waste of time, space and money. I have done that before and it is quite disappointing.

Once I’ve read every page of the catalogues, drawn out what space I have available and referenced what I grew last season, I try to set goals for the season and create a wish list. This helps me fix problems I had before and plan the space, if I want to get a trellis or plant a specific vegetable, herb or flower.

Spring 2021 garden

Now, I’ve been gardening since 2009 – as referenced in the post. But, I only started making a detailed plan for the garden in the last few years, not only because I want to garden to succeed, but I really love the planning process.

So, what can you do as a beginner or someone who has a year or two under your belt? Here is my list of things to do:

  • consider your growing zone. In Horry County, we are in zone 8b. This zone has quite a long season compared to others. I can grow tomatoes into November and start things as early as late January/early February. Don’t waste your time starting a warm season crop if your last frost isn’t until the end of April.
  • consider your frost dates. This is really important. As I said above, starting a seed too early leads to wasted money and time.
  • get free seed catalogs. I particularly love Park Seed, Southern Seed Exchange, Burpee, Seed Exchange and Gurneys. The catalogs will expose you to new seed varieties and options you can explore in your own space.
  • get a notebook. This can be a simple one or one that is more like an artist book. This will be where you keep your notes, ideas, and designs.
  • buy seeds or started plants. If you’re just starting out, you may want started plants from a local nursery. This takes the guess work out of starting seeds or buying seed starting mix, containers and heat mats. If you’re wanting an adventure, get some seeds and read up on what you can do to help the plant succeed.
  • get a ruler. I can’t draw a straight line by myself.
  • find a link to your local agriculture extension. Here is South Carolina, the Clemson Extension is the go to website. There are articles and plans to take some of the guesswork out of when to plant something.

So what questions do you have? Let me know in the comments below or email me at pigdogfarms@gmail.com. I’m here for ya!