Dress up salads, sandwiches and snacks with homegrown microgreens. “These mini sprouts are easy to grow indoors, ready to harvest in less than two weeks and require no special growing equipment,” says gardening expert Melinda Myers, host of The Great Courses Food Gardening for Everyone DVD set. Myers shared these tips for getting started:
Simply purchase seeds labeled for microgreen growing or organic sprouts such as sunflowers, kale, radish or cilantro. These are meant for this purpose and have not been treated with harmful chemicals.
Radish microgreens add a bit of zip to salads and sandwiches. Cilantro microgreens have a similar, but much milder taste than leaves harvested from a mature plant. Kids of all ages love sunflower sprouts. They have a nutty flavor and make a tasty snack when eaten alone.
Sprout seeds in a shallow container with drainage holes. Purchase sprouting containers or make some from clean repurposed fast food containers. Just punch holes in the bottom for drainage. Use the clear tops to create a mini greenhouse, helping retain heat and moisture to speed sprouting.
Fill the container with a quality seed starting mix like Hsu Germination+ organic seed starting mix that retains moisture and contains naturally occurring beneficial soil microbes. Leave about half an inch of space between the lip of the container and the seed starting mix.
Sprinkle seeds over the soil surface and lightly press them into the soil. Water seeds in place with a very gentle stream of water or spray bottle. Cover the planted container to increase humidity and speed sprouting. Place in a warm dark location.
Once the greens break through the soil, remove the cover and move the container to a sunny location or under artificial lights. Water often enough to keep the seed starting mix moist, but not too wet.
The microgreens are ready to harvest once they form a set of true leaves that look like those of the plants sprouting. This takes about 10 to 14 days and the microgreens will be about two inches tall.
Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut the greens just above the soil surface. Rinse thoroughly right before serving. Store any extra unwashed greens in a ventilated plastic bag for several days in the refrigerator.
Microgreens are easy to grow and tasty to eat, tempting many to plant even more. For a continual supply of this nutritious treat, simply plant a new batch every four or five days and enjoy!
It’s time to break out the seeds and potting mix to start garden plants indoors. “It’s a great way to keep your green thumb in shape over winter,” says Melinda Myers host of The Great Courses How to Grow Anything DVD series. “Plus, you’ll save money, increase the variety of plants and jump start the growing season. And when you start seeds under LED grow lights you’ll have better results.”
Indoor growing conditions often offer limited light and that can mean tall leggy transplants with weak stems, explained Myers. Gardeners can greatly increase their success by investing in quality grow lights. Adding artificial light to any seed starting regime results in stout transplants with strong stems and deep green leaves. Myers offered these tips for getting started.
Invest wisely when shopping for indoor plant lights. Fluorescent tubes used to be the standard because they provided a wide spectrum of light needed for plant growth and flowering, were relatively inexpensive and readily available. Unfortunately, they used significant amounts of electricity and needed to be replaced every few years. Then many gardeners shifted to full spectrum fluorescent grow lights. Many last longer than the older and larger fluorescent tubes, but new LED grow lights provide even better light intensity with much less energy.
In the past, LED lights tended to be pricey and many suffered from sticker shock. Fortunately, the prices have dropped. Plus, if people consider the fact that LED plant lights typically use half the energy of fluorescent tubes, provide consistent light quality and last up to five times longer, the long-term savings outweighs the initial investment. They’re also mercury-free and won’t add contaminates to landfills.
When replacing fluorescent tubes with LED grow lights, look for compatibility. Some of the newer LED grow lights are compatible with existing T-5 light setups. Consumers simply need to replace the bulb, not the whole lighting system.
Get the most out of this investment and grow better transplants with proper use. Move seedlings under lights as soon as they start breaking through the soil surface. Keep the lights about six inches above the top of seedlings. This means raising the lights or lowering the plants as the seedlings grow. Or make a light stand using adjustable supports to raise and lower lights as needed. Use a reflector above grow light tubes to direct the light downward toward the plants. Bounce light back onto seedlings by using reflective surfaces under and around the plants. Even easier, invest in a quality grow light stand like the SunLite® Garden.
Set the lights on a timer. Seedlings need about 14 to 16 hours of light. Plants do need a dark period, so running the lights longer wastes electricity and is not good for the plants. If using grow lights to supplement natural daylight, gardeners may only need to run the lights a few hours a day. Monitor plant growth and increase the duration if the plants appear leggy or pale.
Increased light along with proper watering, fertilizer and growing temperatures will ensure a bumper crop of transplants for gardens and containers this season.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments.
When performed incorrectly, tree work is extremely dangerous and can be lethal. In the wake of an increasing number of reported incidents involving tree trimming, the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) would like to remind arborists to use the proper tools and techniques, and for any untrained person attempting tree work to instead hire a qualified tree care professional.
“Pruning is an oft-needed maintenance treatment for good tree health and safety, but pruning without the correct knowledge or tools is not good tree care practice,” says Tchukki Andersen, BCMA, CTSP* and staff arborist with TCIA. “Pruning can be overwhelming to those not familiar with the process, and more often than not can result in undesirable results, including injury to the tree, injury to yourself and even death.”
Pruning tree branches away from a structure? A couple of things can go wrong.
Ladder placement, tie-in points, chain saw size and type of cut all affect the success of safely performing a “drop cut,” or a cut that controls whether a tree branch falls flat to the ground, as opposed to swinging unpredictably. When performed incorrectly, a branch could break mid-cut.
At the least, the cut branch might just tear the bark off the trunk while remaining attached. This would injure the tree and possibly cause a tree hazard in the future. A torn branch still requires a finishing cut, which can have an unpredictable result.
At the worst, the branch could unexpectedly and rapidly swing back into the ladder, knocking it and the worker to the ground. Another all-too-frequent scenario is when the branch weight is cut, the limb that the ladder is resting against will suddenly lift, and the ladder falls to the ground.
Many uninformed people have died attempting to prune tree branches from ladders.
Avoid the accident. Use proper tools and pruning cuts to control the limb.
There are specialty chain saw cuts professional tree care providers use to manage large limbs. But before making the first cut, they select the right cutting tool. It is necessary to use a chain saw powerful enough to make swift cuts through the wood. Do not use the following to cut live limbs from trees:
low-powered electric saws
Proper pruning of tree limbs involves three cuts.
First Cut: A short distance away from the branch collar, make a small cut in the underside of the limb about a third of the way through. This notch will keep the bark from splitting during the next cut.
Second Cut: Slightly farther out the branch (away from the trunk or parent stem), parallel with, and on the side opposite the first cut, make the second cut, or “top cut,” through the branch until the branch separates. This removes the weight of the branch so the final cut can be made without the branch splitting and falling. This cut requires a firm, two-handed grip on the saw. The saw must run at full throttle to reduce risk of the branch breaking.
Final Cut: The final cut should be just outside the branch collar at the swollen attachment point of the branch into the trunk, following the angle of the branch collar. If the saw doesn’t fit into the crotch at the correct angle, it can be cut from the bottom, up.
Do not try to remove the whole branch with one cut. Making one cut to save time or effort is extremely hazardous. Cut away short, manageable sections from the end of the limb first. Removing “end weight” will reduce the risk of the branch breaking during the cut and swinging. This may require moving the ladder several times as an extra safety precaution.
About that ladder…
Ladder safety is important to consider while pruning.
Always have another person around while working from a ladder.
Use an extension ladder. Do not use a step ladder.
When leaning the ladder against the branch being cut, extend it at least three feet past the branch. The branch will lift significantly past the ladder when the end is removed.
Keep at least 10 feet away from energized lines when carrying, setting up and working from an extension ladder.
It is more technical than it looks.
It takes training and practice to confidently cut and manage tree limbs. Those working without proper chain saw experience could cause tree limbs to fall out of control, causing damage to property or themselves.
TCIA does not condone the idea of untrained people using chain saws to prune trees, especially when standing on a ladder. Standards for professional arborists call for them to secure themselves to the tree when working from a ladder, and to have two separate attachment points to the tree when using a chain saw. That’s how hazardous these practices are.
TCIA always recommends contacting a qualified tree care provider to complete tree-pruning projects.
Find a professional.
Contact TCIA, a public and professional resource on trees and arboriculture since 1938. TCIA has more than 2,300 member tree care firms and affiliated companies. All tree care company members recognize stringent safety and performance standards and are required to carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance, where applicable. TCIA also has the nation’s only Accreditation program that helps consumers find tree care companies that have been inspected and accredited based on: adherence to industry standards for quality and safety; maintenance of trained, professional staff; and dedication to ethics and quality in business practices. For more information, visit http://www.tcia.org.
An easy way to find a tree care service provider in your area is to use the “Find A Tree Care Company” program. You can use this service by calling 800-733-2622 or by doing a ZIP Code search on http://www.treecaretips.org.
Board Certified Master Arborist, Certified Treecare Safety Professional
Unless it is the middle of summer and there has not been enough rain, watering your
outdoor plants is usually not necessary (or not very often). But indoor plants rely on you
as a source of water and extra nutrients in the form of fertilizer. It is important to know
the individual water and nutrient needs of each plant to keep them healthy.
As mentioned, individual plants will require different amounts of water to keep them
growing optimally. But what all plants do like is moist soil. If you are worried about
over-watering your plant, make sure that the pot you choose has a good drainage system.
With holes in the bottom of the pot or gravel inside the pot the soil and plant will soak up
the necessary water and the excess will run out through the bottom.
If your houseplants are not thriving no matter what you do, there are two things to look
into. If you are using tap water to water your plants there may be too much chlorine or
salt present. A solution to this is to use distilled or filtered water or you can leave a
container outside to collect rainwater. Either option is acceptable and may be the change
you need to make to grow healthier plants.
Choosing to fertilize your plants is another way to give them a boost. Fertilizer contains
nutrients and elements that plants need to grow. Indoors plants do not need as much
fertilizer as their outdoor counterparts do. Because of a slower rate of growth, feed your
plants minimal fertilizer. In the winter time you can probably skip this step altogether.
The spring or summer time is the best time to fertilize indoor plants. This is during their
growing phase when they need the extra nutrients the most.
Organic gardening isn’t only for farmers or people who have backyards. This is because it can be do using containers.
Organic vegetable gardening containers have advantages. You can use it decor every time you decide to let it get some sunlight when you place it by the balcony or patio. If the weather gets too cold outside, you can bring it indoors. But best of all, you don’t have to deal with certain threats that can only happen outdoors like weeds, insects or soil borne diseases.
Organic vegetable gardening containers do not use soil. You need to use potting mix that is much lighter and provides excellent drainage. You need to use organic fertilizer though to help it grow. An example of this is mulch that can be made from chipped bark, garden compost, leaf molds and manure which helps prevent it from drying out.
Another thing the plants inside these containers need is a lot of water. Ideally, you should put these in small amounts at least 30 minutes after an initial watering because putting in too much could drown your plant.
Read more… →