Small space gardening

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Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings

You’ve planted rows of vegetable seeds, and now it’s time to thin your seedlings. If pulling out those precious baby plants makes you queasy, take heart. You no longer have to feel like a serial plant killer.

I’ve been re-planting my throw-aways for a few years now, and with great success. I’ve done this with pretty much every vegetable seedling there is—spinach, radishes, lettuce, green beans and cucumbers to name a few. In this post, I’ll be thinning and re-planting peas.

First let me stress that it’s a total waste of seeds to plant them closer together than what the package recommends. I used to think more is better with seed planting, but it’s not. And I strongly suspect I’m not the only gardener that has over-planted for fear of not having enough seeds germinate. And besides wasting seeds, transplanting your thinnings is another reason not to plant too closely or you won’t be able to get a spade in between the seedlings in order to dig up the ones you want to save.

I also used to plant seeds too close together because what was I going to do with all those leftover seeds anyway? May as well use the whole pack, right? Wrong. I’ve learned that you save the leftovers and plant them the next year. And the next, and the next…I’ve planted seeds four and five years old with no problems. I just stored the packets in a closet. No need to refrigerate them as far as I’m concerned.

So here’s what I’ve got. My peas are ready to be thinned to about four to six inches apart. At the moment, they’re about two inches apart.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If I don’t thin these peas, they’ll be a tangled up mess because the tendrils will grab onto the plant next to them instead of my metal fencing. Then I’ll have a glob of pea plants that are all stuck together independent of the fence. Once that happens, it’s all over. Trust me folks, you need to thin your peas.

I bought these bamboo stakes at a garage sale, and they’re perfect for peas to latch onto.

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First, I stick them in the ground where I want my peas to grow. Then at the base of each pole, I remove some of the soil where each seedling will be planted.

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I put the excess dirt on this cardboard lid so I can carry it with me.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Now I very gently dig up the extra seedlings by pushing my trowel down into the dirt, three to four inches on each side of the plant, making a square in the soil around each one. Then I dig up the seedling and place it on my cardboard.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I use the excess soil I brought with me from the original holes to fill in each hole I create when I remove the transplants. I push the soil down firmly after I fill each hole with dirt.

Then I plant the seedlings into the original holes. Here they are!

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

They now have four to six inches of space in between each plant to spread out and grow.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Since peas are considered a cool-weather crop here in zone 5, they’re going to bite the dust when it gets hot. They’ll quit producing, turn brown and be pulled out of the ground by yours truly. The beauty of that is, I can plant them close to other plants that will take over their space when they’re gone. In this case, my tomatoes will grow into their space.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I was fortunate enough to have a cloudy day to do this, which is less stressful for the plants. If the sun is out, it’s best to move them in the morning or evening when it’s cooler. Unfortunately, it’s a windy day (we can’t have everything), so I used some twist ties to very loosely tie the taller transplants to the poles to keep them from flopping over.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Soon enough, the tendrils will grab onto the bamboo and they’ll climb on their own like this little guy is learning to do. FYI – since the tendrils aren’t very long, they need something small to grab onto. Lattice, for example is too large for peas to grasp.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Here are a few other places I moved my transplants to. My front flower bed…

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

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I planted some in a pot with some cucumber seeds that haven’t germinated yet, but will take over after the peas are finished producing.

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And in an empty spot near a dwarf lilac bush was another place to plant them.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If you’ve never planted peas, and are considering taking the plunge, I highly recommend the edible pod variety. They’re great for stir-frying if you pick the pods when they’re young and tender, and if you let them grow, the shelled peas are great eaten raw on salads. In zone 5, you’ve got until the end of May to plant them, or you can also plant a fall crop when the weather cools.

Re-plant Your Thinned Seedlings / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Happy thinning!

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting

When the first warm days arrive in spring, I’m ready to get my hands in the dirt. Although some garden seeds can be sown outdoors now, it’s too soon to plant many of the common container plants in mid-April here in zone 5.  I can prepare my pots now though, so when the time comes, I’m good to go. It’s not one of my favorite projects, but it has to be done. Here are some of the pots that need tended to.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I started getting more into container gardening a couple years ago after finding a couple of large, killer pots at some yard sales that were ridiculously cheap. And since my yard is small, it gives me another avenue for planting so I figured why not give it a try. Now of course, I’m hopelessly addicted. No worries about bunnies, insects or crappy soil.

It’s a good thing my garage sale pots were almost free, because I was shocked, disappointed, frustrated, and then amused to find out how expensive potting soil is. It’s dirt, after all. In my mind it’s like buying water to drink when it comes out of the faucet for free. But I realize potting soil is a whole different animal, and is a necessity for healthy container plants.  Since I almost had to take out a second mortgage to buy lots of potting soil when I first started this adventure, I decided rather than dump out all of my potting soil and start over each year, I would amend what I have and save some money.

To illustrate why you shouldn’t re-use potting soil without amending it, check this out. Here’s what came out of my window boxes. It was just like popping an ice-cube out of an ice-cube tray.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasishoto IMG_4922.jpg

 Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Solid chunks like that one came out of every pot when I dumped out the soil. Here’s a clump of roots that came out of one of my larger pots after I shook all of the soil loose.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Plants aren’t going to be very happy trying to find their way through all those old roots. I promise.

It’s easiest to dump the pots into a wheel barrow, and remove all of the chucks and roots. Those go into my compost pile. I have a pretty large wheel barrow (!!garage sale find!!), but I could only dump a few pots at a time, or it would be too difficult to mix it all up.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

The old potting soil can be amended with either some fresh potting soil, or as I’m doing this year, worm castings and composted manure. Here are some castings I’ve been saving from my worm bin.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

What you don’t want to add to your potting soil is dirt from your yard. I tried that one year when I ran short of potting soil. I thought just a small amount of “earth” mixed in with it wouldn’t hurt, but I was wrong. The soil became hard as a rock and the plants didn’t do well.

So now I have my amended soil ready to put back into my pots.

Some of my smaller pots that I love, don’t have drainage holes in them. I won’t purchase any more ceramic pots without drainage holes because plants don’t seem to like them all that much. I’ve tried drilling holes in ceramic pots with a specialized drill bit, but it’s nearly impossible to do. But since these pots are among my favorites, I still want to use them–drainage holes or not. I use Styrofoam peanuts in them to allow for some drainage space. Even though the pots are medium-sized, they’re still heavy, so peanuts are the way to go. Here’s two of them.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

It’s much less mess if you just put the pot right into the wheelbarrow (if you have one) to fill it.

 Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

For larger pots, I do pretty much the same thing. The lightweight “fake” pots are easy to drill through, and often do not come with drainage holes. After I drilled holes in the larger pots, I duck taped a small section of screen over the hole to help keep the soil from running out.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I know they look like garbage cans at the moment, but for the bigger pots, I add big chunks of Styrofoam and/or empty plastic bottles (with the lids on) so I don’t have to use so much soil. The plants grow just fine in several inches of soil–they don’t need two feet of it. And of course it helps keep the pots from getting too heavy. Also, in the bigger pots, when it’s time to refurbish your soil, it’s much easier to fish through and pull out large bottles and chunks of Styrofoam than it is to pick out a couple hundred packing peanuts.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

I went to a local garden shop today for a few seed packets. I started some lettuce, radishes and onion sets in some of my pots.  I couldn’t help myself and bought a four pack of annuals for one of my smaller pots. Here’s my instant gratification for all my hard work. If it snows or freezes again, yes snow is a possibility–anything can happen in Illiniois–I’ll bring my one pot inside with me for safe keeping.

Tips for Prepping Pots for Planting / MyUrbanGardenOasis

If you’re not a container gardening person, but want to try your hand at an in-the-ground garden, now in mid-April is the time to sow some of the cool-weather crop seeds outside. (See the “Planting Timeline” in the margin of this web page to find out what can be planted now in zone 5.).

This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

Mid-March Gardening in Zone 5 and My Garlic Surprise

Today is the officially the first day of spring, so I thought it fitting to publish a new post today. Allow me show you what’s coming to life in my zone 5 tiny city garden, and what types of veggies can be planted now. If your yard is ho-hum, and you need some motivation to get planting, I hope this post works for you.

My beautiful crocuses are blooming, and they’re the first sign of spring in my yard. I planted them a couple of years ago because by the time March rolls around, I’m in desperate need of a reminder that nice weather is on it’s way. I was also looking for a colorful header for my post, and now my little bursts of color are the star photo. Crocuses will make their way through the ground so early in the spring that they will even bloom through the snow. My little beauties have multiplied, and I’ll probably start moving them around to other areas of my yard this year. I’ll do that in the fall.

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In addition to the crocuses, here are other plants waking up from their long winter naps. In just a week, my miniature rose-bush went from this…

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To this…

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My clematis went from this…

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To this…

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My chives from this…

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To this…

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Some other pretties in my yard–

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These onions are sprouting from last year!

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My cilantro is going gangbusters. I tried planting cilantro two different times in past years because at my house, we love to make fresh Pico De Gallo. I was 0 for 2 on that deal. Then last year it just took off, and has been re-seeding ever since. Cilantro is a cool weather crop that comes up in the early spring, bolts and goes bad in the heat of the summer and then re-seeds again for a beautiful fall crop when the tomatoes are ready. What an incredible combination! When the cilantro produces its tiny, tan, ball-shaped seeds (coriander), I rub them off the stems, and let them drop to the ground and the cycle continues. I guess sometimes persistence pays off! I probably should thin out these plants so they’re not so crowded. Too much togetherness isn’t a good thing in the plant world!

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Before we get into what to plant in mid to late March, let me show you what my last major outdoor project at this house is–hopefully. Since our weather has been unseasonably warm, we were able to complete it last night at 9:00 p.m. in the dark. For three years, I’ve wanted to get rid of the river rock on the south side of my home so I can substitute it with mulch. I’ve wanted to plant veggies in with my landscaping in that sideyard where the sun is best, but haven’t been able to do it with the rocks in the way.

My friend, John, came over and worked like a mad-man for eight hours scooping and hauling 40 feet of 4” to 6” deep rock from my side yard. I am a happy little gardener now, and can plant to my heart’s content. Almost. I really have to work the soil because it’s so compacted from all the rock, and is mostly clay, but that’ll happen over time. It doesn’t look great yet, but it will when my plantings grow to fill it in. My goal is to build a trellis or two for cucumbers or green beans to grow on, but we’ll see how that goes later. Here are before and “during” pictures. I’ll be showing after pictures in another post later in the season. In case you’re wondering, I have such long downspouts because I have them directed to empty near some new trees I planted.

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My other project was hauling 10 large bags of rabbit manure in my little economy car for my garden. I must tell you it was not a pleasant ride home. Peeeeeeyooouuuuu! I put poo on everything. I spread it in my flower beds, around my birch trees and in my garden plot. It’ll sit for two months until I get ready to plant my main vegetable garden, and then I’ll work it into the soil, and hope for a bumper crop!

You can Google the benefits of rabbit manure if you like. I read it’s the best manure because it’s high in nitrogen. It’s not too acidic either so you don’t have to let it set a year before you use it like you do with other manures. I’m sure my neighbors weren’t too happy about the aroma after I spread it around the yard, but the smell diminished substantially after just one day. They’ll be glad they endured it when I offer them some tomatoes, and what’s wrong with bringing some of the country to the city anyway? (The Green Acres theme song is playing in my head right now.) Here’s my freshly “manured” garden plot.

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Now onward and upward with what you can plant this early in zone 5. I planted lettuce last week. I love the mixed varieties, and plant them every year. The mix I plant is called “Mesclun”, and it has several different shapes and colors of leaf lettuce all in one seed packet. I’m so glad someone had the idea to mix them so I don’t have to buy several different kinds. Love it!

It’s nice to buy store-bought heads of lettuce, and mix in home-grown varieties with it for a gorgeous, colorful salad. I don’t care for the taste of leaf lettuce by itself, but love it mixed with store-bought. Lettuce is a cool-weather crop, and will wilt and bolt in the heat of the summer, but grows well in zone 5 in the spring and in the fall. Vegetables that bolt will have a bitter taste to them, so it’s a good idea to just pull the plants out and throw them in the compost pile. This year with the Central Illinois mild winter, I was harvesting lettuce and other crops well into December. I was glad I took the time to plant a fall crop in late summer. As you can see if you look closely, my lettuce has germinated already.

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For a tiny garden, I have to show you the best garden tool ever. It’s perfect for planting tiny rows of seeds, and the blade is only about 2” wide. I bought this one at an estate sale for a couple bucks, and it’s my favorite.

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I just planted my onion sets. The ones I had were a couple of years old and were a bit “crispy”, but I tried planting some anyway because there was still a hint of green in the centers. I often use leftover seeds from prior years, and they grow just fine. The germination rate is supposed to decline after a year or two, but I’ve never noticed any difference.

The onions should sprout pretty quickly so I’ll know soon if planting crispy onion sets was a good idea or not. Onions are one of those vegetables that I don’t use my garden plot for. I tuck them in the soil all over the place—anywhere there’s a tiny space in the sun. I plant them in between bushes, strawberry plants, ornamentals and in with my row of lettuce. As soon as I pick a few, I plant a few more so I have them all summer, fall and sometimes into winter. When harvesting, you can pull them out by the roots or chop them off and watch them regrow! Often they will resprout in the spring if you left some in the ground from the summer before.

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I’m growing cabbage for the first time this year, and am planting a smaller variety called “Red Express” cabbage. I’m planting these where I just removed my landscaping rocks, so I’m not sure how well they’ll do. I dug down several inches to loosen up the soil, brought in some soil from my garden plot to mix with it, and then put down a fine layer of store-bought garden soil that I had leftover from last year. Then I scattered a few seeds around, and put more of the store-bought garden soil on top of them. They are only supposed to be buried 1/8th of an inch deep; so again, I wanted fine soil so they could push their way through it. Then I lightly pack the soil over them.

I put some chicken wire around them to keep the rabbits away, and gave them a drink. I’m loving rabbit poo in my garden, but not the actual rabbits! Now it’s a wait-and-see game. I always plant extra seeds, and then thin them out. In this case, I have a friend, Cinny, who’s planting a garden, and I’ll offer her some of the seedlings if they grow. She’s a veggie lover too. She went with me on my manure adventure, and filled her car with poo too so she’s a rabbit poo newby just like me.

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I would like to take a moment to explain my garlic clove discovery. I’ve tried planting garlic cloves before, and never had much luck with them. The heads were so small that preparing a clove for cooking was like performing microsurgery. I went on the internet for information on growing it, but could only find information on planting it in the fall, and leaving it in the ground over the winter. Anyone who lives in zone 5 would reason that you don’t plant something like garlic in the fall intending to leave it in the ground over the winter and expecting a crop come spring. Not with the snow and sub-zero temps.

Last spring I planted garlic again, determined to give it another try, and never did harvest it. The shoots shriveled up, and I forgot about them. Low and behold, this spring I have sprouts all over my planting areas where I tucked a clove in the ground last spring. I saw the sprouts, and back to Google I went. I read that for those of us in zone 5, we really are supposed to plant garlic in the fall, and harvest the following spring. So for all of you zone 5 garlic lovers, I’ll remind you in the fall to plant your garlic! You can bet I’ll be planting it again too. I have no guarantees of how my garlic will turn out after being in the ground all last spring, summer, fall and winter, but judging by the tops, they’re looking pretty good. I’ll keep you posted on how they turn out. Oh, and the furry legs belong to my dog, Conner.

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So today I planted peas, radishes and spinach.

Since peas need something to grow up on, I made a simple fence that I use every year just for them. I buy the edible pod varieties of peas so I can either pick them early and use them as a stir fry ingredient or wait until they mature and use the shelled peas in lettuce salads. Peas will die in the heat of the summer so you need to plant them now, and again in August if you’d like a second crop. You have to be gentle when you pull the pods off the vines or you’ll pull the whole vine out by the roots or damage it. Here’s the fence I grow my peas on. Again, I surround these with chicken wire.

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Here are before and afters of the area. My heart goes pitter-pat every time I see a photo with my rocks out of the way.

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I plant spinach and radishes in these areas sectioned off by some scraps of bamboo. I would like to hope that sectioning my veggies off with bamboo would keep people from walking in that area, but I had two people, who shall remain nameless, walk in my lettuce after I planted it. You know who you are, and I forgive you.

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Both spinach and radish seeds are pretty small so, as I did with my cabbage, I sprinkle some store-bought soil on the ground, sprinkle my seeds, and then cover them again with store-bought soil. Then I gently pack the soil, and water the area. The problem I find with just putting tiny seeds directly into garden soil is that they can fall in between the small clumps, and not have good soil contact. This is especially true when planting early crops because the ground is often still damp, and it’s hard to get rid of the clumps in order to plant correctly. Since peas are a larger seed, for example, I just put them directly into the garden soil, and they should be fine.

Now you’re up to date on what you can be planting in zone 5. Now is also the time to plant potatoes, rhubarb and leeks. Don’t wait too long for these types of veggies or they’ll fry in the hot sun just when they start to produce for you. Or if you just don’t get them planted in time, you can always plant them in August, and you can enjoy a wonderful fall crop.

I hope you’ll hit the “follow” button in your browser bar and follow my garden through the seasons!

If you have an interest in Redesign, please feel free to check my other blog at HomeStagingBloomingtonIl. You can find additional before and after pictures on my website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.

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