Plant Parenting: Seed Sowing Tips

March 29, 2020

Seed Starting Success

When you are first starting out, sowing seeds can be tricky & scary. Here's a few tips to help get you started successfully:

  • Check the seed packet for optimal germination seasons and temperatures to decide whether to start them early indoors, or direct seed them in the garden.
  • Check the seed pack to see if pre-soaking, scarification, or stratification is recommended or required (I explain all techniques in my book Plant Parenting).
  • Before planting seeds, be sure to thoroughly moisten the growing media, pellets, or plugs.
  • Plant your seeds at the depth recommended on the packet. Typically, you can plant larger seeds deeper and smaller ones more shallowly. You should sow some seeds, such as lettuce, on top of the soil and lightly press them down.

When sowing these pepper seeds, I placed two seeds per cell, approximately 1/2 inch beneath the soil surface.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

  • Always make sure that containers (especially large ones) have drainage holes.
  • Maintain proper moisture for germinating seed by using a mister bottle. The addition of a thin layer of coir or vermiculite can also aid in keeping even moisture.

I added coir to the top of these seeds to help conserve moisture.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

Keep in mind: you won’t always achieve 100 percent germination from a group of seeds, whether you buy new seeds or harvest and keep for the next season. You can sow two seeds per container, cell, or plug, so if one seed doesn’t germinate, you have a backup.

  • Use a humidity dome or other type of clear plastic cover to maintain high humidity around your germinating seeds, until seedlings have sprouted and started to grow their first set of true leaves.

If you want a more detailed tutorial on seed starting, be sure to check out my propagation book Plant Parenting!

Plant Parenting: Direct Seeding into the Garden

March 28, 2020

Depending on your climate, starting seedlings indoors ahead of garden planting time is advisable. However, some types of edible plants can, and should, be direct seeded either into the outside garden, or into the final container in which they will grow until harvest. Direct seeding is good for quick turn crops, such as lettuces, as well as for root and large-seeded crops that do not transplant well, such as carrots, beets, turnips, cucumbers, beans, corn and squash.

Carrots are the perfect crop for direct seeding.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

The days-to-harvest number on the packet is calculated from the date of germination in the garden when you direct seed.

PC: Leslie F. Halleck

The days-to-harvest number on the packet is calculated from the date of germination in the garden when you direct seed.

I direct seeded this mixture of edibles and flowers above that includes calendula, kale, Swiss chard, borage, bush beans, and lettuces, into my vegetable garden. I sowed the seeds directly into the garden beds when outdoor temperatures were favorable, rather than starting transplants indoors. The days-to-harvest number on the packet is calculated from the date of germination in the garden when you direct seed.

This weekend I'll be direct seeding bush beans and bush squash out into my garden beds. What about you?!

Home Harvest: The BEST Roasted Tomato & Rosemary Recipe

March 19, 2020

A Favorite Tomato & Rosemary Recipe

Ok, for something yummy to do while you are #stayathome ... One of my all time favorite and EASY recipes from the garden (or kitchen) are roasted cherry tomatoes with fresh rosemary. It's my favorite thing to do with my garden rosemary and garden tomatoes when they are ripe (but store bought is just fine too). I picked this up from my friend @robingillculinary and I eat it on EVERYTHING! Ok, maybe not on cake but you catch my drift. It makes the best easy party food (even for your parties of one or two right now) and you can put it on just about anything from crackers to cream cheese to chicken or other roasted veggies. You're the boss.

As you can see I like to make my favorite breakfast with it. I throw some in the skillet with a yard egg fried over easy, then top a piece of sourdough toast. Takes 5 minutes and you'll feel like you're brunching at your favorite breakfast spot.

Roasted tomatoes & rosemary on eggs
PC: Leslie F. Halleck


So, here's what you do:

  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Fill a large casserole baking dish with cherry or saladette size tomatoes
  • Cover generously and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper
  • Chop a few garlic cloves and throw them in in
  • Snip 4-5 long stems (8-10") of fresh rosemary from garden/patio
  • Strip a few rosemary leaves and toss into tomatoes
  • Lay the rosemary stems across the top of tomatoes - that's it (it will seem like a lot of isn't!)
  • Pop in the oven uncovered for 20 minutes(depending on your oven -smaller cherry tomatoes may be 15 minutes, larger may be 20-25 minutes)
  • When tomatoes have begun to wrinkle and pop and a have little browning you can remove and cool (or serve warm, but not right out of the oven because those 'maters will pop in your mouth and burn you!)

Serve cold or warm on EVERYTHING. With the amazing flavors and juices from this easy dish, you can make just about anything you top it with taste instantly amazing. I always have rosemary planted in my landscape beds - it's the perfect foodscape ornamental/edible, but even just a single pot of it on your patio will pay off big time. ENJOY!

Plant Parenting: Optimum Temperatures for Seed Germination

January 24, 2020

Seed Germination Temperatures

It's that time of winter where many of you may be starting seeds indoors. Both air and soil temperature affect the speed and success rate of seed germination and growth. Each type of plant has a different optimal temperature range, based on its natural environment. Be sure to check the seed packet for specific optimal temperature ranges for germination.

Different types of seed will germinate faster than others. This basil ‘Genovese’ (below) is clearly an overachiever, when compared to the slower tomato and pepper seeds sown at the same time.

PC: Leslie F. Halleck

Many seeds germinate well in the 68°F to 80°F (20–26.6°C) range for both soil and air temperature. If temperatures are too cold or too warm, some seeds take a very long time to germinate or may not germinate at all.

If you want to speed up germination, or are starting seeds in a cold room or garage, try using a seedling heat mat, that goes under your seedling tray. Seedling heat mats can warm the soil or growing media temperature about 10-15°F. You can also purchase controllable thermometers for your heat mats.

Plant Parenting: Tips for Avoiding Damping Off in Seedlings

January 17, 2020

Damping Off Disease

Damping off is a disease that is extremely frustrating for seed starters. It's usually a combination of several soil borne pathogens that move in quickly to take down seedlings as they are germinating. If your young seedlings turn brown or black at the base of the stem, then topple over, your you see mold-like growth on your seedlings, damping off may have set in. Typically, properly managing and balancing moisture is the key to preventing damping off.

Dealing with Damping Off

There are a few tips you can employ to decrease your chances of the disease attacking your seedlings:

  • Avoid adding fertilizer to your seeds before or right after they germinate. Fertilizers can encourage fungus and mold growth.
  • Commercial growers will use synthetic chemicals to prevent damping off, but you probably don’t want to do this in your home or for edible crops. A handy alternative is to water your seedlings with a hydrogen peroxide solution. Hydrogen peroxide oxygenates the soil, which kills off many fungi and bacteria. Mix 1 teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to 2 cups of water and then use the solution to water or mist your seedlings.
  • Keeping excess water off the foliage will help reduce fungal disease problems. As seedlings grow, you’re best to shift from a spray bottle—which wets the foliage—to small watering cans or squirt bottles, so you can deliver water directly to the root zone without getting water on the foliage.
  • Don't leave your germination humidity dome on too long. Once seedlings have germinated and are developing true leaves, you can usually remove the humidity dome so excess moisture doesn't build up and breed disease.

Plant Parenting: How to Recognize Damping Off in Seedlings

January 10, 2020

Damping Off Disease

Nothing is more frustrating than to have your seemingly healthy seedlings suddenly succumb to disease. Damping off is a fungal disease caused by a combination of pathogens: Rhizoctonia, Pythium, or Fusarium fungi.

While older seedlings and transplants can typically fend off the fungi, germinating seeds and young seedlings are particularly susceptible.

Conditions were too wet and dark when these microgreen seedlings were beginning to germinate, and some mold began to grow on the seeds. I removed the humidity dome for a day or two and increased the light and was able to save this crop.
PC: Leslie F. Halleck

Recognize Damping Off

Signs your seedlings are suffering from damping off:

  • Your seeds never emerge from the soil
  • The cotyledons are discolored or look waterlogged or mushy
  • The seedling stem becomes thin and water-soaked looking
  • The new leaves wilt or look discolored
  • You find no roots on your seedling or the roots are discolored and stunted
  • White mold-like growth develops on seeds or seedlings in high humidity

Plant Parenting: Use Silicone Molds for Propagation

December 17, 2019

Reusable Plant Propagation Containers

If you're like me, you're probably always looking for ways to recycle materials we already have around the house for our plant projects. I try very hard to cut back on plastic use in as many areas of my life as I can, and try to use re-usable containers whenever possible. Same goes for my plant propagation projects.

PC: Leslie F. Halleck

For example, I’ve found that silicone molds - as shown above -make handy seed and plant cutting trays. You might have some of these silicone molds for making ice, soaps, or baking. They are pretty great and last a long time. When you start seeds or cuttings in them, the plugs pop right of the malleable container cells after they are rooted.

Containers with no drainage

Now, as they come these molds do not offer your seedlings or cuttings any drainage. So you'll need to be careful not to overwater. This is actually an advantage when you you are rooting vegetative cuttings, because they need to stay very moist. You can simply stuff these mold cells with some sphagnum moss and you're good to go. If you are starting seeds in them, be very careful with water, OR poke some drainage holes in the bottom of the cells if you know you're going to keep using them for seeding.

Plant Parenting: Holiday Gift Guide for Plant Lovers!

November 26, 2019

Gifts for Plant Geeks

I'm admittedly not a huge shopper come holiday season...trying to find just the right thing for everyone stresses me out! BUT, when it comes to my plant keeping and indoor and gardening hobbies, I can always tell you what I'd like. This is the time of year I start getting questions about cool plant tools. As a professional horticulturist in the industry - and a lifelong gardener and indoor grower, I use A LOT of gear and always get to see what items are brand new to the market. I thought I'd show you some of my favorite items right now if you happen to shopping for a plant lover in your life.

Please note, this is not a sponsored post or advertorial. These are all items I personally like and use that I'm sharing with you!

Mini Bamboo Light Garden, Gardeners Supply Company

Not tool long ago, I acquired the low and medium LED Bamboo Light Gardens Gardener's Supply Company, which I love. But they recently came out with a Mini version, which will fit more easily under cabinets or in smaller spaces such as college dorm rooms, studio apartments, or any other setting where space is at a premium. The Mini will be great for keeping small houseplants and succulents alive and thriving indoors as well as some indoor herbs. The nice thing about these plant light shelves is that they look like a piece of furniture, instead of a utility item. You know me, I don't like to sacrifice style when it comes to my plant growing gear!

Golden Plant Stakes from BOTANOPIA

Once your baby houseplants start to grow and vine, you may quickly find yourself needing a stylish way to support them. These lovely plant stakes and supports from Botanopia can be used in potted houseplants and outdoors in patio pots or the garden. Great for all those hoya you're collecting. And I love the chain support for your climbing Monstera! If you have a copy of my book Plant Parenting, this is the company I ordered all those lovely ceramic propagation supports you see me use with my glass jars. They used to be called Sprout, but recently changed their name to Botanopia. Lovely stuff.

Green Thumb Starter Kit from Soltech Solutions

If you've read my book Gardening Under Lights - or listened to any of my grow light podcast interviews - you probably know that I'm a fan of the SolTech Solutions Aspect LED grow lamps. Designed to both please your plants and style your space, the Green Thumb Starter Kit is the perfect living wall starter-pack for any plant lover. With the pop of the WallyGro planters, the warm brilliance of the Aspect and the Pinocchio wall hanger to tie it all together, your plants and home will be looking and feeling happier than ever. They have a nice deal going on this combo kit right now!

Also, because the guys at SolTech are super nice (and they like my book Gardening Under Lights) they gave me a discount code you can use anytime you order to receive 15% off! Just use: halleck15

Folding Watering Can from Centurion

I don't know about you but finding places to stash large watering cans is always a challenge. Again, I don't like to sacrifice style for function in my living space, so where to put a large two-gallon watering can?

THIS folding watering can is for the gardener who doesn't have much storage space - perfect stocking stuffer for those with small spaces and lots of plants. I was seriously impressed with how flat this watering can folds and the large volume of water it holds. The folding watering spout is great because it keeps you from splooshing water all over the house as you travel from plant to plant. Once empty it returns to flat, perfect for tucking under the sink (or the garden shed).

Forest Green Planner from Passion Planner

I’ve been using Passion Planners for a few years now and I find them very effective. Us plant lovers get a bonus for the 2020 planning year with this leafy green version, complete with embossed Monstera leaves! I already have mine! I usually use the large planner, but switched to a small planner this year so it was easier to take with me on all my work trips.

Garden in a Box with 17″ Procyon Light from Happy Leaf

If you're looking for a good under-cabinet growing set up for small greens, herbs, and microgreens this is a great kit to start with. This kit comes complete with 17” Procyon LED Grow light along with growing baskets, hydroton, nutrients, and lettuce seeds that you can get started with for some passive hydroponics growing. I just grabbed some of my empty mason jars and set up the system in a few minutes, and my baby lettuce is growing on nicely. Very cute. I really the hooks that screw into the top of the LED lamp, make it really easy for you to either hard mount, or hang it from any hooks.

The 17" Procyon LED produces mixes blue and red diodes with full spectrum white diodes, so there is still a slight pinkish tint to the light, but it's not super pink, like most dual-band LEDs, so it won't be offensive in your kitchen or office. It will also be good for growing your high light succulents indoors with some supplemental light from nearby windows. Hang the lamp closer to high light plants, higher for leafy greens. Check out the 33" Procyon, which puts off less pink light (it blends green diodes with the blue/red). Great light volume output for a larger footprint of houseplants, succulents, or leaf greens and microgreens.

I've measured the PAR output on these LEDs and they emit just the right volume of light for the necessary DLI for the lettuce they include with the kit - (when you run the lamp for 11-12 hours max for lettuce so it doesn't bolt). If you set the system up next to a bring window, you can run the lamps for fewer hours.

Plant Lady Sweatshirt from Bloom and Grow Radio

If your plant lover wants to garden in plant-style while it’s chilly, be sure to grab your Plant Lady sweatshirt from my gal pal Maria over at Bloom & Grow Radio. I mean, why not advertise your plant insanity to the world? It’s always best to give everyone a warning that they are going to have to listen to you talk about plants. I think these are also on sale right now. And don’t miss my next episode with Maria all about Roots 101! It debuts 12/4/19. Plus, be sure to catch my other episodes on the basics of natural light for your houseplants and how to measure light, propagation 101, and grow lights 101.

BloemBagz Herb Planter from Bloem Living

If you're looking for easy ways to pot up herbs - or any smaller plants really - and want something that stores easy, I love these BloemBagz. Their herb planter is designed with herbs in mind. It comes in two sizes: the big herb planter has six pockets, and the mini herb planter has three. Each one has a large top space for planting taller herbs. The small planter also has grommets at the top for optional hanging or attaching them to railings or a balcony. Lots of nice color options to choose from - bright to neutral. Great stocking stuffer.

Hooray for Haworthia! Bundle from Little Prince of Oregon

BUY PLANTS! Of course. But from where and which ones? There are lots of places I like to order plants so it's hard to choose just one. Succulents are ever so popular, but most require a lot more light that we typically give them indoors. If you have a houseplant collector who hasn't yet jumped into grow lights, then Haworthia are the low-light succulent for them. Little Prince has the perfect bundle of six lovely Haworthia species, perfect for lower light levels. They also have some cute pottery you can pair them up with.

SpotOn PAR Quantum Light Meter from Innoquest

Ok, so if you have a serious indoor grower in your life, or a houseplant addict who is adamant about getting the light right for their burgeoning plant collection, then I have a new PAR light meter for you to check out. This SpotOn PAR meter is quite easy to use, is calibrated to take accurate PAR measurements from LEDs (as well as natural light and all your other type of grow lamps), and has an easy DLI scan option. I also like the handy little stake that's attached, which allows you to stick it in a plant pot. Quality Quantum Flux PAR meters aren't cheap - they will usually run you at least in the $400-$500 range and higher, depending on features. The SpotOn takes a little price heat off at $295 - perfect for that REALLY NICE gift for the serious plant lover in your life.

GIVEAWAY ALERT: I asked Innoquest if they'd be willing to provide one of their light meters to include in a holiday book giveaway I'll be doing next week (12/4)..and they said YES! SO, keep your eye's peeled on my Instagram channel @lesliehalleck for that very cool giveaway post. I'll be giving away a package that includes signed copies of my both my books, Gardening Under Light and Plant Parenting, and one of these SpotOn PAR Meters.

My Book Bundle!

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't include my own books on my gift list! My book Gardening Under Lights came out last year - it covers all the basics of the science of how plants use light, descriptions of all the types of grow lights you can use and how they work (which ones to use), how to accurately measure light and calculate your plants needs, and how to grow a variety of ornamentals and edibles indoors. I cover environmental control, grow name it.

My NEW book Plant Parenting just came out this summer, and covers all things plant propagation! I teach you all the basics of how to propagate plants in many different ways, with tons of instructive photographs for you to follow. Houseplants, veggies, and flowers.

So if you need them for yourself, or the plant lover in your life, you can get my book bundle of both books for a special price - personalized and signed by me. You can also purchase them individually in my SHOP.

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