Organic Gardening Tips and Plants – How to


Gardening Tips

Terra Viva Organics


a Quick & Easy Germination Test

Activities for January

Slugs and Snails

and Turnip Greens with Turnips

a Quick & Easy Germination Test

by Arzeena

If the holidays have pretty
much wiped you out, here is a simple activity that will
not only save you money but will help organize your
garden for the upcoming year.

Like many gardeners, my
stash of seeds has accumulated over the years to the
extent that I often forget what varieties I’ve bought.
Some of these seed packets date back several years so
before I take a chance, basing my whole crop of sweet
corn on that package from 1997, I do a germination test.
A test can be done on as few as 5 seeds but a more accurate
prediction of germination percentage requires at least
20 seeds.

I use a very low-tech
method of germinating seed: damp paper towels and plastic
bags. Moisten one towel and arrange your seed on the
sheet. If the seed is large (peas, beans, corn), apply
another moist towel on top and roll the 2 sheets together
into a tube. If the seed is small, the sheet can be
folded over and then rolled onto itself. Once rolled,
the paper towel should be placed inside a plastic bag
or Ziploc to keep it from drying out. Finally, place
the plastic bag in a warm spot (on top of the VCR, in
the kitchen, on top of the fridge).

Before rolling the sheets,
make sure the seeds are not too close to each other.
Seeds that don’t germinate can begin to mould and this
mould will infect nearby seeds if they’re too close
or touching.

After about 2 days, check
the paper towel at least once a day to see if the seeds
have started to germinate. If the towels have started
to dry out, re-moisten them with a couple of drops of
water. Most seeds will germinate within 5 days at room

The majority of vegetable
seeds will keep for at least 3 years if they’ve been
kept cool & dry. The types of seed that don’t store
well include sweet corn, parsnips, Swiss chard, spinach,
and members of the Allium family (onions, leeks, scallions,

The percentage of seed
that do germinate in the towel will give you a pretty
good idea of how they’ll do in the garden. If only 50%
of the seeds germinated in the towel, you may want to
consider planting the seed closer together to compensate
for the seeds that don’t emerge. Alternatively, you
may want to peruse your favourite seed catalogue and
replace that seed package.

Finally, being the frugal
gardener that I am, I hate to see a germinated seed
go to waste. I pot-up whatever I can and keep them growing
under lights. In the case of root crops, I plant the
pre-germinated seed directly in the garden. I get a
much better stand by doing this, especially if the soil
is still slightly cold and would have caused un-germinated
seed to rot.

Activities for January

  • Cut up your Christmas
    tree and use the branches as a mulch over perennials
    and around shrubs.

  • Inspect perennial beds
    for heaved plants during warm periods. Mulch around
    heaved plants but don’t push them into the soil! Dig
    and replant them in the spring.

  • By mid-month, test
    your onion, leek and chive seed. Start growing the
    seeds that do germinate under lights.

  • At the end of the month,
    begin to select flowering tree & shrub branches
    for forcing. Suggested plants: forsythia & vernal
    witch hazel.

    Slugs and Snails

    by BZ

    Slugs and snails are molluscs
    of the class Gastropoda that literally means ‘stomach
    foot’. Gastropods, form the second largest class in
    the animal kingdom, insects are the largest. For the
    most part they are hermaphroditic. They contain both
    male and female reproductive organs, allowing them
    to mate with any mature animal of the same species.

    Slugs are gray to
    black or brown and soft-bodied, often with a soft
    hump in the center; snails have a hard calcium shell.
    Eggs are round, clear, and less than 1/4 in diameter,
    often with a thick outer shell of calcium carbonate;
    laid in clutches of three to 50, with some species
    laying as many as 500 per year. Living throughout
    North America, particularly in moist, temperate
    climates. Snails require calcium for their shells,
    so are less prevalent in areas where this mineral
    content is low.

    The first step is
    making your yard and garden less desirable for these
    creatures. Keep the garden clear of debris that
    offer moist, dark hiding places and be careful about
    over watering. Keep an eye on ground covers of ivy
    and succulents, which are snail and slug, habitat.
    Wait to mulch until the plants are well established
    or the temperatures are over 70F.

    Cultivating the soil
    around your garden beds frequently will help destroy
    snail and slug eggs before they hatch. Learn to
    like ground beetles, garter snakes, moles and shrews
    because they all prey on slugs. Slugs really love
    Campanula carpatica, Chinese cabbage, delphinium,
    gentian, hosta, lettuce, lilies, mustard greens,
    petunias, marigolds, primroses, strawberries, and
    trillium. This is the short list they like to eat
    other things too. Here are a few ways to help discourage
    slugs and snails from eating your garden:

    Invite more birds
    into your yard by installing a birdbath. Planting
    a variety of fruit bearing shrubs is a good way
    to encourage birds to stay in your garden. They
    have hungry babies and slugs are a wonderful meal.
    The larvae of some ground beetles and rove beetles
    eat slugs. You can encourage them to set up house
    in your garden by providing permanent grass pathways,
    stones or planks and perennial beds that provide
    shelter. A garden healthy in organic matter also
    helps increase their number. Firefly larvae and
    centipedes will also eat slug eggs.

    Put up barriers to
    slugs’ travels patterns. When slugs and snails travel
    they secrete a layer of slime which protects their
    foot and enables them to travel over a variety of
    surfaces. Using some of the solutions below will
    help you to keep the pests out of your garden.

    • Crushed eggshells.
      Their edges are too sharp for the slugs to pass
      over. Wood ashes are caustic to slugs and snails
      but in limited quantities won’t hurt your flowers.

    • Coarse sand, sawdust,
      human hair, coffee grounds & garden lime barriers
      are difficult for slugs to cross.

    • Copper strips,
      10 cm/4 inches wide. Place rings around favorite
      plants Slugs and snails are said to get an electric
      shock when their ‘foot’ touches the metal and
      they can’t cross the barriers.

    • Diatomaceous earth
      sprinkled 3 times a month, more if the rains are
      frequent. Sand paper, cut a slit to the center
      and another little circle at the center to accommodate
      the plant stem. Remains of grapefruit halves turned
      upside down in the garden and left overnight.

    • Raise your garden
      beds. The surface of a raised bed dries out more
      quickly from a rainstorm making it a less attractive
      place for slugs to hang out.

    • Hand picking is
      an excellent remedy. If the slime on the slugs
      bothers you use gloves.
    • The old stand by
      of beer in yogurt containers works well. Cut a
      rectangular opening on two sides of the yogurt
      cup just below the opening. The put the lid on
      and bury the container with the bottom of the
      slits just above the soil line.

    Varieties of plants
    that are not attractive to slugs:

    agapanthus anemone artemesia amsonia
    aruncus astilbe monarda begonia
    some campanulas
    rudbeckia dicentra calendula
    columbine cosmos echinacea daffodills
    geraniums daylilies coral bells dianthus
    ferns fox glove nasturtiums oregano
    lobelia hellebores lavender lamb’s ears
    poppies rosemary sage santolina
    sedum sundrops sunflowers violets

    There are others that
    slugs and snails don’t like very well especially
    plants with tough ever green leaves.

    Re-printed with permission
    from Charlotte’s Gardens.
    A wonderful resource for tips on growing a gorgeous
    garden, making recipes they will rave about at your
    next get together and the place to find Gourmet
    Foods & Botanical Beauty Products.

    and Turnip Greens with Turnips

    • 2 bunches mustard
    • 1 bunch turnip
      greens with turnips
    • 6 slices of bacon
    • Salt to taste
    • 1 tablespoon sugar

    1. Soak all the greens
      in salt water for 15 minutes. Any unwanted “guests”
      will die, turn loose and float to the top. Rinse
      3 times in fresh water.

    2. Place greens in
      a large pot. Peel turnips and cut into 1/2-inch
      cubes and add to greens. Fill with 2 1/2-inches
      of water; add salt and begin heating.

    3. In separate skillet,
      fry bacon slices (not crisp, just enough to free
      most of the fat) and add both bacon and fat to
      the greens. Bring greens to a boil; reduce heat
      to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 2 hours
      or until tender. Remove greens to a bowl and using
      a knife and fork, chop them up, then pour some
      of the soup (pot-liquor down South) over the greens.
      Great served with pepper sauce (chili peppers
      and vinegar).



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