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DIY Seed Starting: Seed Packets (Part 1 of 6)

Read the back of your seed packet to find details essential to successful germination.
Starting seed indoors is the best way to get your garden off to an early start. It also provides for earlier and longer harvest by extending the growing season. Not all plants are suitable to start indoors–these include large-seeded or fast-growing vegetables that produce quickly, such as beets, radishes, squash, and melons […]

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DIY Seed Starting: Damping Off Prevention (Part 2 of 6):


You wouldn’t put your newborn child into dirty blankets for fear of dangerous germs in the bedding, so don’t germinate your garden seed in anything but fresh, soilless seed starting mix. Used or natural soil is riddled with fungal microbes, called Pythium and Phytophthora fungi, which are fatal to seedlings. They quickly cause roots and tender stems to rot.
Under warm, wet conditions ideal for […]

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DIY Seed Starting: Containers (Part 3 of 6)


Gardeners that start seeds at home have lots of containers to choose from. You can buy seed-starting flat kits, peat pots, reused containers, or even make seedling soil blocks. Some are more costly, while others allow you to grow more for less. My preference is to germinate seed in recycled containers to save your money and reuse plastic waste. Here is what to look […]

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DIY Seed Starting: Proper Sowing (Part 4 of 6)


The first step of any seed sowing project is to read the entire label of the seed packet. That tells you how deep to plant each kind of seed and under what growing conditions. Those that are usually started indoors may be surface sown or planted 1/2 inch deep, depending on seed size and growing preferences. Each plant’s seeds have there own needs for […]

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DIY Seed Starting: Watering (Part 5 of 6)


Every gardener has done it at least once. Watering newly sown pots too aggressively, which dislodges seeds, moving them all across the soil surface. That’s why watering indoor seedlings properly is essential in the first weeks after sowing.
Watering Seeds
How you water seeds depends on the sowing depth, pot size, and available watering tools. Shallowly planted seeds need more gentle watering tools, such as misters, […]

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DIY Seed Starting: Transplanting Seedlings (Part 6 of 6)


 
Most seedlings will need to be transplanted as they grow. Larger containers and a more robust mix with added fertilizer will enable seedlings to become large, vigorous plants. (Note that good seed starting mix contains no added fertilizer because it keeps some seeds from germinating.). As long as the light is plentiful, repotting will help your seedlings develop stronger roots and shoots.
Seedling Pot Size
A […]

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Transformative Grasses: Anchoring Gardens and Soils

 
This hardy fountain grass is in full summer bloom, releasing pollen in the breeze. (Photo by Maureen Gilmer)
Over the past year, California has experienced drought, wildfires, floods, mudslides, and extreme cold.  The rest of the Southwest has seen the same crazy extremes and has experienced high-damage potential within a short time span.  Everyone will have some rethinking to do, whether making structural repairs or just […]

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Quasi Bonsai: Manageable Bonsai Beauty

(Image by Maureen Gilmer)
The price of neglecting to water your bonsai in midsummer even for a day will have to be paid in a withered plant.  You might as well plough the field and forget the seed as commit such negligence.  –Norio Kobayashi, Japan 1951
The little-known secret of true Japanese bonsai trees is that they are watered every day.  Not a single sunrise passes without […]

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Western Invasive Plants: Battling Ultimate Survivors

Star thistle is one of the worst of all western weeds.
The empire of plants is expansionist and certainly colonial. Immigrant plants are designed by nature to be incredibly self-sustaining through droughts, floods, and wildfires in their place of nativity, and beyond.  They must be able to survive Earth-shattering asteroids and volcanoes without becoming extinct.  The most competitive immigrants are from droughty climates where it takes hardcore […]

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Ponytail Palm: Beautiful Flesh Indoors or Out

This ponytail palm at the San Diego Zoo demonstrates how graceful they become.
Many believe Dr. Seuss’ Truffula Tree was inspired by a curious cypress in a San Diego park.  But maybe this isn’t true at all.  Maybe it’s San Diego’s epic ponytail palms that were the real inspiration for the Lorax story.  These are botanically known as Beaucarnea (“beautiful flesh” in Latin), a name that refers […]

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