Time to start your gardens!

Fortunately, nature gives us a break from the political upheavals and allows us to get back to our roots. (Pun intended)  We should capitalize on that opportunity while we can. Growing your food is one of the important factors to contributing to the care of our world and for building Time of Living. It is great for your health and also reduces our carbon footprint so future generations can enjoy this world… if it survives.

I know; it’s January 26 and there is snow on the ground. However, this is when some plantings begin. If you want to grow some onions in the Northeast and do not wish to select from the paltry selection of sets sold at Home Depot or Walmart later this spring, then you need to purchase some onion seeds and start them indoors now. Go to your seed catalog and pick them out so you can get them quickly. Read over the descriptions and select “your” choice. For the Northeast, select varieties for “Long-Day”. The southerners in the USA can select “Short-Day” onions. There are some onions that are intermediate that are supposed to grow well in either location.

I planted my onions, using my own seeds, several days ago and they are germinating nicely. It is a wonderful feeling to see plants come around full-circle. In most cases, the plants improve each year if you are selective when harvesting seeds and when planting plants that will be used for seed. If you plant onion seeds, you can plant several in each cell, just so long as they have a lot of light.

Onion seedlings just beginning to sprout. So exciting!

Onion seedlings just beginning to sprout. So exciting!

Another plant that should be started now are Amaryllis bulbs. You can purchase a kit or buy the bulbs and plant them in pots of potting soil. They are dormant bulbs that sprout up quickly and give you red lily-type flowers in your house. If kept in the house year-round, they may never blossom again. They require a cold period during winter to die back so they can re-sprout and send up new flower stalks. When the threat of frost is past in the spring, I move mine under a shade tree outdoors. The plant and bulb will grow in size over the summer and fall. In fall, I let the plant stay outside until the first frost. I then bring it into the garage where it does not go below freezing, but stay as cold as a refrigerator. (If you have a cold basement, then that will work too.) Do not water it while it goes dormant. I then bring it back into the house to regrow sometime in January. (Still in the same pot) By then, most if not all of the leaves had died back to the bulb. Water it as you normally would. (When I say “normally” I mean to use liquid fertilizer in the water every other watering) In a week you will begin to see new growth. Grown in this fashion, you get flowers every year and will never have to purchase another one. They actually look very nice outdoors during the summer. My Amaryllis is already growing inside and has a nice new bulblet growing next to it this year. I am anxious to see if it will bloom as well.

This Amaryliss began to re-grow about a week and a half ago.

This Amaryliss began to re-grow about a week and a half ago.

Other plants that you need to start now are tree seeds that you may have put into the refrigerator in the fall for stratification. These include apple, pear, plum, peach, and cherry, to name a few. I planted mine yesterday. One cherry seed had already begun to germinate in the storage bag. One thing to keep in mind is that these seeds will most probably not bear fruit identical to the parent plant because they are not grafts. Each will be a unique plant. That is what I find exciting! While some come out as pure junk, some come out with their own unique flavors and shapes.

For all other plantings, if you are going to purchase seeds through the mail, you better start now. They do run out. The company I use now posts how many remaining packets are left. My ordered seeds are already in the refrigerator in a zip-lock bag. The seeds last much longer that way.

If you live in the southern USA you may need to look into your last frost dates now to get prepared for plantings. If planted too late, the summer heat is not good for growing some plants.

A good place to get planting flats is from Walmart. Get the planting flat kits that have 72 plastic cells in them. Generally they come molded together in groups of 9. If not, simply cut them out that way with scissors. It makes it easier to carry 9 at a time to the garden when transplanting them outdoors. Be sure to feed them when watering them in their cells indoors. Water from the bottom. Keep the planting cells in good shape by rinsing the cells out after removing plants. Use them again next year after soaking them in a bleach/water solution before putting the seed starter soil in.

My hydroponics grower is doing great in the basement! This winter we are eating fresh lettuce (two of my own varieties now), kale, mustard, basil, Salad Burnett, and arugula. Yum yum! We will have fresh veggies right up to outdoor harvests in late spring. The system is amazing. (Yes, it is one I designed and sell through my company called New Wave Gardening.) The system I designed is made to grow plants to full-term, unlike other commercial systems. They literally can grow plants for months at a time. The picture below is of the plants thirteen days ago. They are twice that size now. Those rinky-dink systems can’t do this. That is why we will have veggies for months just from that one planting. The system is also mobile and can be moved outside when the danger of frost is past. (Actually it can be moved out before then if using a cover.) I have also purchased a rare tomato seed that I hope to use in my hydroponics tomato growing system. So far I am very happy with the progress it is making.

The red lettuce is a new variety I created in 2016. Both lettuces are my creation.

The red lettuce is a new variety I created in 2016. Both lettuces are my creation.

If you are going to order trees from private nurseries, do it now! They are already running out of some varieties. The smaller guys keep track of purchases and when they are out, they are out. Some are already out completely. Larger companies, owned by foreigners, will over-fill orders when they have no clue if they even have stock, but will continue to take your orders. Many times you will not get your order, even if they said earlier that they were in stock. Do a search on those mail order places and look for comments. As for those companies, they take all orders and fill them from the south going north, so it does not matter too much when you order, as the southern states will generally have first pick regardless of the time of order. If they run out of stock for the southerners, then they will note on their website that they are sold out… even if your order was placed months earlier than the southern orders and it hadn’t shipped yet. You are then out.

On a negative note, the winter has been too warm and some fruiting trees are already showing silver-tip on their blossom buds. Yikes! That is not good! What happens is that the sap will run into the buds and then swell them with moisture. The temperature then drops and freezes the moisture in the bud, fracturing it. The result is no blooms in the spring. Another problem is that the sap will freeze in the trunks of thin-barked trees and cause the bark to rip, effectively killing parts of the tree, if not the entire tree. Our new climate genius in the White House believes there has been no climate change. Well… that man has never so much as grown a weed. He has no understanding of nature whatsoever.

One might think that warming up the north would be great for growing. It is not! Yes, we get warmer days that some plants like; however, our planet spins on an axis that is titled. That is how we get seasonal change. Therefore, we are in a position on the globe that will always get frigid cold fronts coming down from the north. When the warmer temps are warmer than normal, plants try to grow. But when cold comes down because of the tilt of the axis, we continue to get cold blasts. That wreaks havoc with growing. The southern states are mostly protected from that by distance and their position on the planet relative to the tilt. Furthermore, some fruit trees require a significant number of “cold days” before a trigger is activated for bearing fruit. Have you ever wondered why you don’t see apple orchards in Florida or in the low-lying areas of the southern states, like Georgia? Only in the higher elevations is it possible in some of the southern states. So… maybe you can write to the yellow-headed guy in the White House and tell him climate change is not a hoax, but it is here NOW! It will only get worse with time if things do not reverse.

Another problem with climate change (that many now call “climate weirdness”) is that we are seeing more stretches of drought or rain. Both kill plants and one kills people. Those cycles also come with abrupt weather patterns that can be devastating when it turns into a storm.

On a positive note, the Speckled Sussex pullets (young hens) are beginning to lay eggs. I purchased them later in the year last year so they did not being laying at maturity because of the decrease in daylight hours. Now that daylight is extending again, it triggers their reproductive cycle. I plan to use them for creating the Seney Homesteader breed of chicken that will be hardy and productive in Northeastern winters. That bar is getting lower each year because of the mild winters. I will also use the poop in fertilizer experiments for organic growing. I already know I can make a manure tea that makes herbs grow like they are on steroids. This year I will lay down a sub-bed of manure below a test-bed of potatoes. Horse manure causes potato scab. I am curious if poultry manure is better. I know it works great on top of the soil for blueberries.

I wish you all a wonderful growing year! Now go out and grow some food!

Live Strong and True

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