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Organic Gardening Tips
Terra Viva Organics

Craving Fresh Greens?
Get Some Growlights Going
Starting Hot Pepper Plants From Seed
Baby Potato and Broccoli in Mushroom Wine Sauce

Craving Fresh Greens?

At this time of the year, the garden has been put to bed and is producing very little for the kitchen table. Right about now, gardeners begin craving all of those fresh greens that were so plentiful during the growing season.

Click here for our Bioset organic seed sprouter

Sprouting seeds indoors is one of the fastest and easiest ways to satisfy this need for fresh greens. All that is required is sprouting seed, a container, and 5 minutes a day.

A wide variety of seed can be sprouted: alfalfa, fenugreek, lentils, peas, radish, red clover, mung beans, cabbage seed, cauliflower seed, broccoli seed, kale seed, garbanzos beans, barley, rye, wheat, buckwheat, mustard seed and quinoa.

Many types of sprouters are available on the market; most come with multiple tiers so that different types of seed can be sprouted at the same time. However, seeds can also be sprouted in jars, tubs, or any kind of container that can be covered so that the seeds will not dry out.

A tablespoon of seed is enough to feed one person so only start a small amount at a time.

  • The first step is to rinse the seeds, removing any that are broken or discoloured.
  • Allow the seeds to soak overnight in a bowl of lukewarm water.
  • Rinse the seeds in the morning and then place them into the container and cover them.
  • Place the container in a warm spot, i.e. on top of the fridge.
  • Twice a day, rinse the seeds and drain.

You should have sprouts within 3-5 days so refrigerate when they're ready.

Terra Viva Organics carries a whole range of organic sprouts as well as the Bioset, multi-level sprouter which makes growing sprouts in your kitchen easy. Click here for our complete range.

Alternatively, you can plant the seeds and harvest the sprouts as they come up through the soil. This is very effective with wheat, barley and rye. Not only does it help prevent molds that grow on the unsprouted seed, many avid sprouters report that the taste of wheat sprouts grown in soil is much sweeter.

For more information, you can visit the following websites:

Mumm's Sprouting Seeds

The Sprout House

Wheatgrass & Mold

Or, you can refer to the following books:

Sprouts: The Miracle Food
A Complete Guide to Sprouting

By Steve Meyerowitz

The Sprout Book
by Mark M. Braunstein

The Sprouting Book
by Anne Wigmore


Get Some Growlights Going

by Susan Ward
Tired of leggy, floppy seedlings or being limited to the space of your available south-facing windowsill? Get ready for the seed-starting season by getting some grow-lights ready to go.

If you've ever tried to start seeds inside before, you already know that relying on windows to give enough light in the winter and early spring is a mistake. The early season light just doesn't have enough intensity and duration. While a great many seeds will germinate well without light, once they germinate, most seedlings require 12-14 hours of direct light to manufacture enough food for healthy stems and leaves. Without this amount of light, seedlings begin stretching to find more light, thus producing leggy plants. Only growing your seedlings under lights can solve this problem.

For the home gardener, there are two types of light systems to choose from: The priciest kinds of growlights available are the High Intensity Discharge lamps (HID). They're the most expensive because they're the most efficient; one 1000 watt HID lamp can produce the same amount of light as fifty 40 watt fluorescent lamps. Both High Pressure Sodium and Metal Halide HIDs are available, most commonly in a 400 and 1000 watt size. The 400 can supply enough light for a growing area of about 16 square feet or a 4 x 4 garden. The 1000 can cover an area of about 7 x 7. Unfortunately, an HID lamp costs approximately $200.

If you can afford it, an HID light is great, but if you're like most home gardeners, there is a less expensive solution that is ideal for starting seeds or cuttings; fluorescent lamps. One fixture with two four foot lamps installed can cover two 10x20 inch trays. The standard "shop light" fixture will cost from $15 to $25; the fluorescent tubes cost $4 through $8 each. To provide the full spectrum of light to the seedlings, you should purchase both warm and cool fluorescent tubes.

Grow lights help you start gardening earlier

Because seedlings need high light intensity, you want to keep your plants no more than 3 inches away from the bulbs. To accomplish this, I make wooden frames for my fluorescent light fixtures, attaching a six inch piece of wood to each side so it will stand on a table. Although the resulting standing fixture isn't terribly strong, this allows me to put the seedling trays directly underneath the lights where they need to be.

Otherwise, you can also build your own shelving unit and hang the fluorescent light fixtures on chains over the seedling trays. As the plants grow, the chains can be shortened to provide the seedlings with more headroom.

Once your seeds have germinated, the lights will need to be left on for 12-16 hours a day if you have no other light source. If you're starting your plants in a sunny window, you should still supplement your seedling's light supply with an additional four hours a day of artificial light.

Starting seeds inside and watching seedlings grow into strong, healthy little plants is a pleasure that you shouldn't have to forego just because you live in an area with a long dark winter. Putting together some growlight fixtures is a great way to beat the winter blues and get ready to spring into the growing season.

Susan Ward is a freelance writer living in Comox, B.C. who has a passion for gardening. She is the Suite101 Editor for Gardening in B.C. and writes for magazines such as BackHome.


Starting Hot Pepper Plants From Seed

by Joe Arditi
GETTING STARTED:

Fatalli peppers

The selection of hot peppers available at the supermarket is very poor. Although the selection of plants from a nursery or store is a little better, when you start from seeds, there is a terrific variety available. And as hot pepper popularity is growing constantly, the varieties just keep expanding. One catalog, Pepper Gal boasts over 200 varieties! So for starters, pick out your selections.

MAKING THE PROCESS EASY:

Soil: There are many good seed starting mixes available at nurseries or discount stores. They work very well and I would recommend them as there is no mixing, measuring, etc. If you prefer to make your own mixture, go with 1/3 good garden soil (don't go with clay soil as it compacts badly), 1/3 vermiculite or similar growing medium, and 1/3 sand. Hot pepper plants LOVE sand as many varieties originate in areas with sandy soil. Also, it provides excellent drainage. Mix all 3 ingredients together very well.

Containers: I like plastic gro-packs for 6 to 12 plants, peat pellets or peat pots. Gro packs are especially good because you can cover tightly with "cling-wrap" after first watering and create a little "hothouse" environment. The soil stays moist longer at a higher temperature. Just remove cling-wrap when seedlings emerge. Put your soil/seedling mix into containers. Don't fill to exact top but leave at least 1/4 inch for watering or it will run off.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION:Some varieties can be finicky to germinate. I recommend soaking seeds overnight in warm water to give them a head start. Then sow seeds 1/4 inch deep 6 to 10 weeks before the last frost. Keep seeds moist, but not soaked, through germination phase. They germinate best above 65 degrees. Ideal is 75 to 85 degrees. Because most homes are not this warm, another tip is to place them on top of your refrigerator until seedlings emerge. It stays pretty warm there. Don't forget my cling-wrap tip in a sunny windowsill. Again, be patient, some varieties can take 4 to 6 weeks to germinate. Others can show up in 7 to 10 days. It depends on temperature, sunlight, soil and variety. After they emerge, seedlings prefer at least 6 hours of sunlight, the more the better. As they develop their first set of leaves I'll snip off with a scissors the weakest one. As they develop their second set of leaves I'll snip off all but the healthiest one. Once you have healthy seedlings you're ready for the transplant and growing stage, then the harvesting stage, then my favorite the cooking and eating stage.

Pepper Joe's "Best & Worst" hot pepper seed list:

Turkish Cayenne peppers

  • Best for small gardens or container planting ..Thai, Tabasco and Pueblo.

  • Best for dried powder ..Cayene, Turkish Cayenne, Serrano and Charleston.

  • Best garden novelty ..Peter Pepper. Rated "most pornographic" by Organic Gardening magazine.

  • Most abundant yeild ..Bolivian Rainbow, Fatalli, Hot Lemon and Purrira.

  • Pepper Joe's favorites ..Golden Habanero, Barney, Jamaican and Fatalli

  • Hottest ..Red Savina, Caribbean Red, Orange Habanero, and Golden Habanero.

  • Worst..Bulgarian Carrot (Tough skin, no flesh), Rocoto (hard to grow, and a poor producer), and Mexibell (not hot at all).
Most varieties available at Pepper Joe's




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