Author: Rachel Hameln

How to Grow Onions: All You Need to Know

How to Grow Onions: All You Need to Know

bowl with fresh onions on marble table
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If your are interested in learning how to grow onions I have good news for you! This cold season crop is hardy and easy to grow for gardeners of all skill levels. Some people may recommend that you plant your onions in the fall but its not too late, you can plant and have a successful harvest even if your start in the spring.

How to Grow Onions From Sets

Step 1: Choose your Onions

To start you need to know what kind of onions you want to plant. We like to plant a mix of yellow and red onions. Now that you know what kind to plant you have to decide whether or not you want to grow onions from seeds or from sets. We recommend that you plant onion sets. Onion sets make the process easier, faster, and increase the likelihood of a successful crop. Sets are small onion bulbs that you can buy from your local gardening center or farm store. Onion sets can also be planted without worrying about frost damage!

Step 2: When to Plant your Onions

Fall Planting:

If you plan on planting your onions in the fall it is important that your onions have around 4-6 weeks of warm weather. If you plant too late into the season they may not have the time they need to establish themselves in the soil. The crop will remain dormant during the winter and then continue to grow in the spring. One benefit of planting in the fall is that it increases the size and improves the flavor of the onions you plant. If your region experiences cold winters it will be best if you plant in the spring.

Spring Planting:

If you are planting in the spring (and using onion sets not seeds) plant when the weather is cool but not cold. You don’t want to plant your onions if the temperatures reach below freezing.

Step 3: Deciding Where to Grow your Onions

The first step in growing great onions is make sure you have great soil. It should drain well and be lose as well as fertile. To increase the fertility of the soil add compost to your soil as onions require lots of nutrients as they grow. Onions require full sun (at least 6 hours a day) so picky a sunny spot in your garden.

  • Pro Tip: Add an inch or two of compost to the base of each row prior to planting.

Step 4: Plant your Onion Sets

Plant your Onion sets around 1 to 1/2 an inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart depending on the size of your bulb. Make sure the rounded end is pointing down and the pointy end is facing upward. Next you should cover the onions with about 1 inch of soil. After this put a layer of mulch 1/2 an inch thick on top to lock the moisture in and restrict weeds.

Step 5: Care for your Onions

If you want large onions it is important that you fertilize every couple weeks with nitrogen. Make sure to stop fertilizing once the onions start to push the soil away and the bulbing process has begun. leave the pushed back soil where it is. The onions have to emerge above the soil.

When it comes to watering, onions are a breeze. They do not require constant watering. You should be giving your onions around 1 inch of water per week.

  • Pro Tip: If you want your onions to be sweeter, give them extra water

Step 6: Harvest

Similar to growing potatoes and growing garlic, when onions begin to mature the foliage will become yellow and start to wilt/fall over. At this point you can bend the tops to speed up ripening. When the foliage has turned brown it is time to pull up your onions. The harvesting should be done by late summer or you risk having your onions spoil in the cooler fall weather.

  • Pro Tip: Loosening the soil surrounding the bulbs can encourage drying.
Garlic on cutting board
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How to Grow Onions From Seeds

If you are going to grow onions from seeds you should be aware that it is a much longer process. You will have to begin by growing your seeds indoors in January or February depending on the region you live in.

Step One: Select your Onion Seeds

It is important to know that your onion seeds will not last long in storage so purchase your seeds the year you plan on growing onions. You should also select onion varieties that will grow well in your area. The types are; short-day onions (triggered when sunlight reaches 10 hours a day), day-neutral onions (12 hours of sunlight a day), and long-day onions (14 hours of sunlight a day)

Step Two: Begin Indoors

For this step you can use pretty much any container you can get your hands on. You could use empty egg cartons, berry containers etc. You will want to fill the containers of your choosing with seed starting mix. Sprinkle the seeds evenly on top of the soil and then mist with water. Afterwards cover the seeds with more soil. An eighth of an inch should do the trick.

Next label your containers appropriately if you’re starting more than one kind of seed inside. Put your containers in a water proof container and place in a warm area to increase humidity and encourage seed growth.

After the seeds have sprouted remove your little containers from the water proof container and place under growing lights if your area doesn’t get enough sun during the winter.

Keeping the soil evenly moist is vital at this stage. You can also fertilize with some compost tea.

Make sure to trim the tops of the onion seedling to keep them around 3 inches tall. This will prevent the stalks from stealing nutrients that the bulbs need.

Step Three: Hardening

Never heard of hardening? Or are you a hardening pro? Either way sometimes a refresher is nice. Hardening is the process of adapting your indoor plants to the outdoor environment. Place your seedlings outside, preferably in a covered location, for a few hours the first day. Then increase the amount of hours daily until they can manage being left outside overnight.

Step Four: Transplanting

Onions are not plants that grow well in limited sunlight. They need full sun, which is at least 6 hours of direct sunlight everyday.

Start the transplant by removing the seedlings. Do this carefully. You may need to turn the container over and slowly works the seedlings out.

Plant the seedlings 4 inches apart. Don’t plant them very deep, 1 inch should do it. Cover the roots with soil and water them. Seedlings will require more water than sets when they are first starting out. Make sure to cover with mulch or straw after watering to lock moisture in and keep weeds out,

brown shovel
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Pests

There are two pests you need to watch out for while growing your onions.

Thrips:

Thrips are small insects that might be hard to spot. To check if your onions are infested, simply smack dark fabric or paper against the onion tops. The thrips tan-colored bodies should show up on the paper or fabric. If you find thrips don’t panic. Simply spray your plants twice, three days apart with insecticidal soap.

Onion Maggots:

Dealing with onion maggots is a little more difficult than with thrips. To prevent and deal with onion maggots you can cover you emerging crop with fine mesh netting. Onion maggots like to lay eggs at the base of plants so this will prevent them from doing so. It will also help to remove any mulch you may have covered your onions with.

Tips for Growing Onions

  • Crop rotation is important if you plan on growing onions more than one year in a row.
  • You can sow leafy greens between your rows of onions to help suppress weeds.
How to Grow Garlic: A Beginner’s Guide

How to Grow Garlic: A Beginner’s Guide

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Garlic is know the world over for its delicious flavor and aroma. So it’s no wonder that you want to know how to grow garlic at home. This is great and I have good news for you, garlic is a very easy crop to grow. In most places garlic is planted in Autumn and by that time you will have already harvested most of your summer crops meaning you have lots of room in your garden to work with. Beware that the space you use for garlic will not be freed up until it is harvested late next summer.

How to Grow Garlic

Step One: Planting

You should plant your garlic in mid fall about 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes. Make sure it is planted in a location that receives full sunlight (6 or more hours) and has rich, well draining soil. Garlic is not a vegetable that grows well in the shade. Place the individual cloves root side down (the pointed tip should face up) 6 inches apart with the rows spaced 2 inches apart and place the cloves 4 inches deep. Your garlic will have the best chance if you buy garlic specifically intended for growing from a garden center or farm store.

Step Two: Water

Lightly water the soil to help it settle into place. Then cover the soil with 6 inches of either mulch or straw to protect the garlic during the winter.

Step Three: Fertilize

During the spring you will find that your garlic has sprouted. It is important at this stage that you feed the garlic to help encourage healthy growth. A pinch of a nitrogen heavy fertilizer like blood meal will work. Make sure to gently work the fertilizer into the soil around each garlic plant.

Step Four: Spring Care

After fertilizing check to see if the mulch has decomposed over the winter. If it has make sure to add another layer as this will help keep the moisture in and the weeds out. If your garlic grows flower stalks with small bulbils make sure to cut these stalks off. It is important that all of the plants energy goes into the garlic bulb itself and not into the bulbils.

Step Five: Harvest Your Garlic

The time to harvest your garlic begins when most of the leaves have turned brown. You can expect this to happen around the end of July or the beginning of August depending on where you live. You can begin digging the garlic bulbs up but be careful not to damage them. If you don’t take your bulbs out in time they will separate and will not store well.

Step Six: Store your Garlic Properly

The storage process begins with drying the garlic out. This will require at least 2 weeks and up to 3. Make sure to keep the garlic in a shady area with good air circulation. The roots will eventually start to feel dry and weak to the touch. Tear them off. Next you can go with the classic method of hanging the garlic in bunches in a cool airy location.

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Choosing Types of Garlic to Grow

While there are many varieties of garlic we’ll focus on the two most important and common varieties. These are the hardneck and softneck varieties of garlic. The most important difference between the two is in flavor and resilience.

Hardneck Garlic

Hardneck garlics produce stiff stems (hence the name). These stems grow through the center of the bulb. Harneck garlic tends to have a stronger and sharper flavor, especially when compared to softneck garlic. Hardneck garlic will do better in regions that have harsher winters. So if you live in a cold region this is the variety for you. The only real downside is that they do not store as well as softneck varieties.

Softneck Garlic

Softneck garlic does not have a stiff stem in the center and is the type you will usually find at most grocery stores. Softneck garlic tends to have a milder flavor and will grow best in a region with mild winters. If you are interested in creating garlic braids this is the type for you.

Pests and Diseases

Whether you’re new to gardening or have plenty of experience, dealing pests and diseases is a serious pain in the butt. I have good news though. Garlic is a natural pest repellent! There is one pest to watch out for and those are thrips. You will also need to watch out for White Rot. White Rot is a fungus that can attack garlic during cool weather. Sadly the only thing you can do about white rot if it shows up is to rotate your crops and clean up the area after your harvest.

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How to Grow Garlic Indoors

Feel like doing some gardening in the winter but missed out on planting your garlic outdoors in time? well garlic is a vegetable that you grow in the winter indoors. It is definitely not the easiest food to grow indoors as it require lots of light and does not do well with artificial light, but it is possible. If you are interested in trimming the greens as they grow and use them in salads this is the easiest method but you can grow full garlic bulbs indoors.

Choosing your Container

Almost any container will work for growing garlic. Just make sure that whatever you are using has a hole or two in the bottom to let water drain out. If the container of your choosing does not have a hole in the base you should drill a small hole, or if that isn’t possible get a different container. The container does not need to be large, anything around the size of a tin of coffee should do the trick. Use a peice of paper towel or a coffee filter to cover the hole so that the soil you are using won’t spill out.

Prepare your Garlic for Planting

When you plant garlic it is important to separate the cloves from the bulb so you can grow more plants. When doing this you should keep as much of the skin on as possible and get rid of any cloves that feel soft or show signs of decay.

Plant the Cloves

In your container dig a small clove-sized hole 3 or 4 inches deep. Plant the individual cloves with the pointy side up. Cover the cloves with an inch of soil. Next water the cloves until water trickles out the bottom of the container. If any cloves are visible after watering add more soil until they are covered. I would only recommend that you plant one clove per container but this of course depends on the size of your container. If you are using something wide and deep like a bucket then you should be able to plant 2 or three cloves.

Care for your Garlic

It is important that you water your garlic often enough that the soil remains moist but not wet. After a couple weeks you will see some green sprouts pushing out of the soil. If you plan on using the greens for salads and other cooking make sure you leave 1-2 inches of the sprouts so that it will stay alive and continue to grow. If you are interested in growing full size bulbs leave the sprouts alone until you are ready to harvest.

Harvest your Garlic

The time to harvest your garlic begins when most of the leaves have turned brown. You can expect this to happen around the end of July or the beginning of August depending on when you planted. You can begin pulling the garlic bulbs out but be careful not to damage them. If you don’t take your bulbs out in time they will separate and will not store well.

How To Grow Potatoes: The Ultimate Guide

How To Grow Potatoes: The Ultimate Guide

Want to grow some potatoes this spring but don’t know where to start? Follow this simple step by step guide to get started.

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Potatoes are a wonderful vegetable to grow for people of all levels of experience. If you know how to grow potatoes correctly they will grant you a large and exciting harvest with minimal fuss. If you follow these instructions you will learn how to successfully grow potatoes in the ground, in a container, in a bag, and even indoors!

How to Grow Potatoes

Step One: Selecting Seed Potatoes

The first step in growing potatoes is to select your seed potatoes. You can buy these from any farm store or gardening center in your local area. The reason why seed potatoes are so important is that they will perform better than potatoes from a grocery store that have sprouted in you cupboard. This does not mean that you cannot plant potatoes that have sprouted in your home, just that they will likely be less successful. Seed potatoes are also more likely to be disease free!

Step Two: Cutting the Seed Potatoes to Size

One you have purchased your seed potatoes you want to make sure they are the right size before planting them. If they are large you can cut them into pieces and grow even more plants. Make sure that each piece has at least one or two sprouts and should remain larger than a golf ball.

Step Three: Planting

This step is a little more exciting than the previous ones. It is time to plant your potatoes. Make sure to plant the potatoes in a sunny area. They should be getting at least 6 hours of sun a day and they prefer the cooler morning sun to the scorching afternoon sun. You will want to dig a hole or a trench that is about 8 inches deep and place your tubers (potatoes) cut side down so the sprouts are facing upwards. Afterwards cover the tubers with soil and then water them. Make sure to wait until after the final frost of the year to plant. The timing of this will of course depend on where you live. For me this is usually in the middle of May.

Step Four: Growing and Hilling

It is very important to the size of your harvest to “hill” the stems of your potato plants. Every time the stems grow 8 inches you will want to cover four inches in dirt or mulch. This will increase your harvest and prevent the potatoes being exposed to the sun which can render them toxic. If this does happen make sure to trim away any green parts or to be extra safe just throw them away.

Step Five: Harvesting

Now for the really exciting stuff! It is time to harvest your potatoes. Wait until the vines have died back, this is a signal that it is time to harvest your delicious tubers. It will usually take your potato plants 80-100 days to reach this point so be patient.

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How to Grow Potatoes in Containers

Growing your tubers in containers is a great option if you don’t have a garden or the space need in your garden. Containers may not provide as many potatoes during the harvest but it does have its own benefits. You won’t have to worry about things like crop rotations, pests left over from previous growing seasons or soil borne diseases. Containers also make for much easier harvesting.

Step One: Pick Your Container

To give your potatoes the best possible chance at reaching maturity and granting a full harvest make sure you select a large container. It should be around 16 inches tall and at least 14 inches in diameter. This way you can plant a couple of potato seeds in each container. It is important that the container has holes in the bottom so excess water can drain away.

Step Two: Planting Your in a Container

When you plant your seeds in the container of your choosing you should use a lightweight soil mixture. Make sure to pour 6 inches of your soil before planting the seeds. We recommend that you use a premade potting mix designed specifically for containers. It is also important to fertilize the soil during the planting process. Organic granular fertilizer should work well in this situation. Used coffee grounds are also an option as some plants like coffee grounds.

Step Three: Water consistently

Potatoes grown above ground will require more water than if they are grown in the ground. You can check if your plants need water by sticking a finger in the soil. If the top two inches feel dry your plants need water. Water until you see a small amount of water leaking out of the bottom of the container (if the bottom of your container has holes in it).

Step Four: Hill the stems

Just like growing potatoes in the ground, potatoes in a container will need their stems covered. For every 8 inches that the stems are out of the ground, cover 4 inches with extra soil or mulch. This will lead to a greater harvest and prevent the tubers from developing green skin which will happen if they are exposed to the sun. The green skin is toxic and to be safe green potatoes should be thrown out.

Step Five: Place the Containers in Full Sun

Potatoes do best when they are receiving full sunlight which at least 6 hours a day of direct sunlight. They are a vegetable that grows in partial shade (4-5 hours of sunlight per day) but they will not be as successful.

Step Six: Harvesting

It is time. The big day has arrived. You get to harvest your potatoes! Wait until the vines have died as this is a sign that the tubers are finished growing. You can expect your plants to reach maturity after about 80-100 days.

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How to Grow Potatoes in a Bag

Step One: Select Your Bag

When planting your favorite tuber in a bag you can use almost anything as long as it is large enough. You could even use a garbage bag! Although I would advise against using a black garbage bag and recommend that you use something like a burlap sack instead. A garbage bag won’t allow excess water to drain which puts your plant roots at risk of rotting,

Step Two: Planting

Planting in a bag is quite similar to planting in a container. You will want to pour 6 inches of soil into the base of the bag and then plant your seed potatoes. After this pour enough soil to cover the tops of the seed potatoes.

Step Three: Water Consistently

Depending on the type of bag you are using for your potatoes you will need to be careful with how much water you give them. If the bag you chose drains well then you shouldn’t be worried about this. To tell if your tubers need more water, stick your fingers in the soil. If the first two inches are fry water your potatoes well. If you see a little water leak out the bottom of your bag it means you have watered the roots of the plant. This is good.

Step Four: Hilling With a Bag

Hilling will be a neat thing while growing tubers in a bag. When you hill (creating a hill of soil around the stems of your potato plants) you will unfurl the bag as you go. At the end of the growing season you might just have yourself a bag filled to the brim with soil and potatoes! Everytime the stems grow by 8 inches cover 4 inches of the stems in soil or heavy mulch.

Step Five: Keep the Bags in Full Sun

Potatoes will be the most productive when they receive full sun (6-8 hours a day). Your tubers will prefer morning sun as they aren’t the biggest fans of very hot weather.

Step Six: Harvesting

I hope you’re excited because this is the best part. You will know that your potatoes are ready to harvest when the vines have died. You can expect the plants to reach this point around 80-100 days after planting them.

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How to Grow Potatoes Indoors

Growing vegetables indoors is entirely possible although there are some big challenges. The first challenge is getting enough sunlight. The second challenge is space. If you are growing potatoes or any other vegetable indoors its because, like myself, you have a tough time waiting for spring to show up. Gardening in the winter is entirely possible. You just need to make sure you have a large enough window that faces in the right direction so your plants can still get all the sunlight they need. If you can’t guarantee that your potatoes or other vegetables will get at least 5 hours of sunlight then you will need to use artificial light (UV lights). You can of course get these at almost any hardware store or order them online. Growing indoors might mean you have a much more limited area to work with. You will have to pick the right plants and limit the amount you grow.

The Best Vegetables That Grow in Shade

The Best Vegetables That Grow in Shade

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Do you have a portion of your garden that is partially shaded and you’re not sure what to do with it? Well look no further because below you will find a comprehensive list of vegetables and other edibles to grow in the shady part of your garden.

Types of Sun and Shade

Knowing how much sun specific areas of your garden receive is very important to knowing what you should plant and where you should plant it.

Full Sun

Full sun is any part of the garden that receives 6 or more hours of sunlight per day between the hours of 10 am to 6 pm. fruits and vegetables that do well in sun include tomatoes, peppers, and melons.

Partial Shade

Partial shade is the same thing as partial sun, that is any part of the garden that receives between 3-6 hours of sunlight per day. This also includes dappled shade, which is sunlight filtered through leaves, tree branches etc.

Full Shade

If a part of your garden is fully shaded you should not attempt to grow anything there. All vegetables require some sunlight so this part of the garden will not be viable.

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Are your Vegetables Shade Tolerant or Shade Loving?

Chances are most of the vegetables you plan to grow are only shade tolerant. This means they can handle less sunlight but not that they prefer it. Plants that receive less than their preferred amount of light may mature more slowly. There are some things you can do to counteract this.

Checklist for your Shady Garden

Soil quality is very important if you are growing plants in a partially shaded area. There is much you can do to improve soil quality including adding used coffee grounds!

Watch out for pests! Shady areas in your garden may be more likely to attract pests. You can add crushed up egg shells around your garden to keep them at bay.

Plan your garden according to the amount of sunlight it will receive. Most plants will grow more slowly in areas that receive less sun. Your best bet is to grow root vegetables and leafy greens because these plants are much more shade tolerant. leafy greens often require cover in the hottest parts of the year so this set up is perfect for them.

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Vegetables That Grow in Shade

Arugula

Arugula requires at least 3-4 hours of sunlight every day. This spicy green is usually grown in the cool season so it will appreciate shade in the summer. If Arugula is too hot it may bolt and become bitter. Sow the seeds directly in the early summer or fall and harvest after 20-40 days.

Beets

Almost all root vegetables will grow in shade relatively well, including beets. Make sure your beets get at least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. The roots will grow more slowly in the shade. Sow in the spring and expect to harvest in 60 days.

Bok Choi

Bok Choi and other Asian greens will do very well in partial shade managing with as little as 3 hours of sun per day. Too much heat and sunlight can actually cause Bok Choi to Bolt. Plant in spring and expect to harvest within 60 days.

Broccoli

Broccoli will appreciate partial shade in the warmer parts of the growing season. It needs 4-6 hours of sunlight and takes about 60-70 days to reach maturity. Make sure to harvest the buds before the plant blooms or the flavor will become bitter. Start seeds indoors and transplant outside in the Spring.

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Brussel Sprouts

Brussels sprouts will not grow as large as they normally would in full sun but it is still possible to grow them in partial shade. 4 to 5 hours of sunlight is the minimum I recommend for Brussel sprouts. They are a slow growing crop; plant in the spring and harvest in late fall. Begin growing indoors and transplant when the final frost has passed. Expect them to take around 100 days to grow to maturity.

Cabbage

Cabbage will do well in partial shade especially when the weather gets warmer. Begin indoors and move outside after the final frost in your area. Harvest time varies wildly depending on the variety you plant, anywhere from 70 to 100 days.

Carrots

Carrots just like the other root vegetables will do well in partial shade. They need at least 4-5 hours of sunlight and should be planted directly. Expect to harvest in 60 to 80 days but this will depend on the variety. Surprise yourself and your guests by growing purple dragon carrots, a spicy purple variety!

Cauliflower

Cauliflower will not grow as large in partial shade but they will reach still reach maturity. I recommend getting them as close to full sunlight as possible but 4-5 hours should be enough. Start seeds inside and move outdoors when frosts have passed. Harvest time is around 55 to 100 days.

Celery

Celery will likely grow smaller, thinner stalks in partial shade but it does generally prefer cooler weather. I recommend 4 to 6 hours of sunlight per day and that you start your seeds indoors. Expect to harvest in 85 to 120 days.

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Kale

Kale is a plant that is usually grown in the cool season. It is a great crop to grow for a fall harvest. It needs 4 to 6 hours of sunlight and should be planted in late summer. Expect to harvest in 60 days.

Lettuce

Lettuce is a plant that is best grown in the cool season as too much heat will cause it to bolt. Growing in shade is advised as it will prevent this from happening in warmer weather. Start seeds indoors or plant directly outdoors. I recommend 3 to 5 hours of sunlight. Harvest in 40 to 70 days depending on the varieties you plant.

Peas

Peas are another plant that will enjoy a little shade during the hot part of the growing season. I recommend 4-6 hours of sunlight and that you direct sow the seeds after that last frost in spring. Expect to harvest in 30 to 65 days depending on the variety grown.

Potatoes

Potatoes are a very durable vegetable and as such they will grow in either full sun or partial shade. If you grow potatoes in partial shade you should expect smaller tubers. Plant the seed tubers as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring. Expect to harvest in 80 to 120 days depending on the variety that you choose to grow.

Radish

Radishes are a great choice to grow in partial shade. They will actually require partial shade to grow in the hotter parts of summer. Make sure they get 4-6 hours of sunlight per day and directly sow the seeds in early spring.

Scallions

Scallions (green onions) will do well in either full sun or partial shade. They can also be harvested at almost any point in the growing process. You can harvest them anywhere in between 30 to 120 days depending on the size and flavor you are looking for. Directly sow the seeds in the spring.

Spinach

Spinach is best grown in the cool season but planting it in an area with partial shade will prevent it from bolting and extend the growing season. Full sun or partial shade will work fine in the spring. Plant spinach in the early spring directly and expect to harvest in 30 to 45 days.

How to Plan Your Vegetable Garden

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Planning your vegetable garden is very important especially if you have a corner that receives partial shade. What plants work best where and knowing how to rotate your crops are vital for a successful garden. Below I will link a YouTube video that will go into depth and provide a more visual learning experience than I could in a blog post.

Understanding What plants Like Coffee Grounds

Understanding What plants Like Coffee Grounds

variety of vegetables
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The Importance of Knowing the Soil pH In Your Garden Before Adding Coffee Grounds

Before we discuss which fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other plants will enjoy coffee grounds it’s vital to talk about the pH of your soil. A neutral pH is 7 while an acidic soil is anything lower than 7 and alkaline anything greater than 7. Not all soils are the same and not all plants enjoy the same pH levels. The level of acidity in used coffee grounds can vary although it is generally low. Are coffee grounds are good for the garden? Well that depends on the pH level of your soil and which plants you plan on growing. If this all seems too complicated I would recommend a great article on the basics of growing a vegetable garden by Money Magpie.

Plants That Love Acidic Soil

Vegetables that prefer a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5

  • Sweet Corn
  • Cucumbers

Vegetables that prefer a pH range of 5.5 to 7.0

  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Turnips
  • Squash
  • Onions

Vegetables that prefer a pH range of 4.5 to 5.5

  • Potatoes
  • Peppers
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Radishes

Fruits That Love Acidic Soil (4.0 to 5.0)

  • Cranberries
  • Blueberries
  • Elderberries
  • Huckleberries
  • Thimble-berries
  • Gooseberries

Flowering Plants That Love Acidic Soil

  • Azaleas
  • Rhododendrons
  • Hydrangeas
  • Camellias
  • Daffodils

Why You Should Test Your Soils pH Levels

Fresh coffee grounds can be quite acidic so you should take this list into account before using them, generally used coffee grounds are safer as much of the acidity has been washed out. Soil pH affects the solubility of minerals in your soil and can alert you to potential deficiencies in vitamins essential to healthy plant growth. Extremely acidic soil ranging from 4.0 to 5.0 may contain certain minerals that are toxic to certain plants, these minerals include iron, manganese, and aluminum. Soils with a pH below 5.5 likely lack phosphorus, magnesium and calcium. Soils with a pH level of 7.8 or greater likely have a wealth of magnesium and calcium but can how a low availability of copper, zinc, phosphorus, and iron.

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Common Nutrient Deficiencies Prevalent in Low pH Soils (below 5.5 pH)

Highly acidic soils generally do not have enough phosphorous, magnesium, and calcium. One of the uses of coffee grounds in your garden can be to increase the phosphorus level as coffee grounds contain a fairly high level.

Common Nutrient Deficiencies Prevalent in High pH soils (7.8 or Higher)

Soils with a high pH tend to lack important nutrients such as copper, zinc, phosphorous, boron, iron, and manganese. It is important to test the soil in your garden so you can make more informed decisions about improving the health and yield of your garden. This applies to everyone whether you are a hobby gardener or a homesteader.

man doing a sample test in the laboratory
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How to Test pH Levels in Your Soil

If testing the pH levels in your garden yourself is something you want to do I would recommend buying a pH meter. This is a great idea to determine whether or not your plants will like coffee grounds. A pH meter is the best option for a DIY approach. In my experience, the testing strips you might find at your local gardening center are less reliable (and not reusable). I will link a video below that will show you how to test the pH levels in your soil.

A Quick Overview of Using Coffee Grounds in Your Garden

There are two options for using fresh or used coffee grounds in your garden. The first is using it as a fertilizer. This method is the simpler of the two. Grab your used coffee grounds and sprinkle them lightly onto your garden and mix them in with the dirt. The second is to add the coffee grounds to your compost pile which is a much more complicated process. Generally speaking, coffee grounds are good for your garden.

Are Coffee Grounds Good for the Garden?

Are Coffee Grounds Good for the Garden?

young salad

It’s a Tuesday morning and you could have used a couple extra hours of sleep. What’s your first move? Probably to brew a pot of coffee. A wonderful choice truly, but what to do with those leftover coffee grounds? Are coffee grounds good for the garden? Let’s find out.

Coffee Grounds as a Fertilizer

Used coffee grounds can make for great fertilizer in your garden if used correctly. There are ways to use coffee grounds correctly and incorrectly. Grounds may be harmful or helpful depending on the plant and whether or not the grounds are used or fresh. Certain plants can actually be fertilized by fresh coffee grounds because they thrive on the acidity. Below I will list the do’s and don’ts of using coffee grounds, used or otherwise, in your garden as a fertilizer.

Do’s

  • Sprinkle the coffee grounds onto the top layer of soil and leave them. Scratching them into the top couple inches of soil works wonders as well.
  • Do this in small amounts because this way the grounds will release their nitrogen. Especially when mixed with dry materials.
  • Fresh coffee grounds may suppress weeds from growing in your soil, but be cautious as the acidity can harm some plants.

Don’ts

  • Do not use fresh coffee grounds unless you are certain about what plants like coffee grounds and their acidity.
  • Do not use large amounts of coffee grounds for fertilizer as it can clump up much like clay and stop your garden from getting the water that it needs.
  • Be very careful using coffee grounds as a fertilizer if you have an inquisitive dog as caffeine is a harmful substance for our furry friends.
  • Do not use coffee grounds on seeds or seedlings as it could potentially slow or halt the growth of your new plants.

Using Coffee Grounds in Compost

If you came to this page looking for the question “are coffee grounds good for the garden?” The answer is a resounding yes! Coffee contains a promising amount of nitrogen as well as potassium and phosphorus as well as other nutrients. Coffee may also repel some animals and pests from disrupting you garden such as cats and slugs. But there are dangers associated with its usage. For starters fresh coffee can be quite acidic so it should not be used around plants like broccoli, radish and leeks. It can also clump up in your garden much like clay, restricting the water that your plants need. For these reasons it is best to employ used coffee grounds mixed in with other helpful ingredients into a mulch or compost before implementing in your garden.

person touching cup of coffee and plate with food

How to Create Compost at Home

Despite their color coffee grounds are actually a green material. Meaning coffee grounds will add nitrogen to your soil. Nitrogen is vital for your plants growth. Coffee grounds aren’t the only household material that can be added to your compost. Nitrogen is not the only important nutrient in a compost. Below i will list the basics of creating a mulch at home and link to a YouTube video that goes into more depth.

The Basics

  • A ratio of 4 to 1 brown materials to green materials is essential (brown materials release carbon into the compost) or the pile will not heat up and may smell unpleasant.
  • To make things easier on yourself you can also purchase a composting starter kit
  • Brown materials can be household items such as newspaper or dry leaves
  • Insects that munch and mix your materials is important to your compost’s success
A great guide to creating your own compost at home!

Coffee Grounds as a Liquid Fertilizer

Another use for coffee grounds in your garden is to make them into a sort of “tea”. Add 2 cups of used coffee grounds to a 4 or 5 gallon bucket of water. Let the grounds soak in the water overnight, and boom you have yourself a little homemade fertilizer! You can also use the liquid as a foliar spray.

How to Garden in the Winter

How to Garden in the Winter

green and red plants inside greenhouse
Photo by Brianna Martinez

Don’t want to say goodbye to gardening for the winter? Well with these tips you won’t have to! It is entirely possible to garden in the winter months of the year. Whether you want to grow indoors or out there are many plants that will keep delivering fresh food to your table throughout the winter.

The Basics for your Garden in the Winter

Light and Warmth in the Winter

The lack of light and warmth in the fall and winter will limit the variety of plants you can grow. Because of this that means no more melons, tomatoes, squash or peppers outdoors. If temperatures in your area fall below 25 degrees (-4 C) your plants will require protection. The best forms of protection are greenhouses and cloches. You can purchase a cloche for a reasonable price or you can make your own at home.

Plant Enough Crops in Late Summer or Early Fall

If planted at the right time these plants will reach maturity before the growing season stops. They will be well preserved in your garden when winter hits so you can harvest as you need them. These plants won’t grow during the winter but they will stay fresh. This also means that you will need to plant enough to make do without regrowth. Plants that work well for this include root vegetables, spinach, kale and winter lettuces.

Plant Crops That Grow Quickly in the Late Growing Season

After you harvest your regular crop you can plant new plants that grow in 4 to 6 weeks. Some great options for this type of planting are radishes, turnips arugula and mustard greens.

Tools to Protect your Plants while Gardening in the Winter

If you make use of a greenhouse, cloche or row covers you can extend the growing season for many plants we have previously listed.

Slow Growing Crops That Will Remain Dormant in the Winter for a Spring Harvest

Another option is to plant crops that grow slowly in late summer or early fall. These plants won’t reach their full maturity before winter hits but will become dormant and finishing growing in the spring. What you should plant: Onion, cauliflower, garlic and broccoli.

Approach your garden in the winter with a variety of strategies. Plant fast growing plants to harvest before winter, slow growing plants to harvest in the spring and plants that will reach maturity before winter that you can leave in the ground to harvest as you need.

black and white cold fog forest
Photo by Pixabay

What to Plant for your Garden in the Winter

Growing these plants to the point where they can be harvested before winter temperatures strike means you can harvest whenever you like as long you can get to them under the snow (if you get snow in your region). Some may be viable for overwintering.

Beets

Make sure to plant these 6 weeks before you expect your first frost. You can harvest them as greens or let them grow into the wonderful root vegetables we all love. They can be overwintered as long as you cover them in mulch when winter weather arrives.

Garlic

Garlic is very commonly grown as an overwinter food. Plant in mid to late fall and harvest in midsummer. Make sure to add mulch to protect from weather damage.

Cabbage

Sow cabbage seeds in July or August (you can do this late if you live in a warm area) to overwinter. Harvest in the spring. If growth is slowed or halted add compost or other materials to give it a boost. You can even use used coffee grounds!

assorted vegetable lot
Photo by Magda Ehlers

Carrots

For a winter harvest of carrots make sure to plant in early August. They should reach a size that is large enough to eat before temperatures plummet. They won’t grow while its cold but will stay fresh in the frozen ground for many months.

Kale

Kale is an extremely versatile plant that grows very well in the winter. The cold weather may also sweeten it’s flavor! To harvest in the winter plant lots in slightly basic (alkaline) soil in mid august. It will likely survive freezing temperatures but you may want to protect it from heavy snowfall.

Onions

Not all onion varieties are equal. Some will do better over winter than others But the overwinter varieties do very well. Transplant seedlings into your garden by late august and you can harvest in late spring or early summer. protect with mulch or row covers if temperatures reach below -10 F (-23 C).

Spinach

Spinach generally prefers cooler temperatures so it is a perfect plant for the late growing season. Plant in August or September and make sure to cover it with mulch or row covers before the first frost hits.

Build your own Greenhouse

If you are interested in building your own greenhouse at home I recommend watching the video below.

Garden in the Winter Indoors

If you live in a cold climate or just want an easier option for growing vegetables during the winter, indoor gardening is the go to solution for you. A great variety of vegetables and herbs can be grown indoor especially if your home has a sunny south facing window. If you have them growing in a pot outdoors all you need to do is bring them inside, make sure they receive adequate sunlight, and continue to fertilize and feed as you normally would.

Herbs

Herbs are some of the easiest edibles you can grow indoors. Mint is fairly shade tolerant but it still needs a couple of hours of direct sunlight every day, while basil and dill have the highest heat requirements needing to be at least 60 degrees F (16 C) overnight. The best to grow inside are basil, oregano, sage, lavender, mint, thyme, rosemary and dill.

Greens

Greens are generally quite easy to grow indoors although you will have better luck harvesting them as baby greens. Make sure you plant a new batch every few weeks to maintain a constant supply. Greens do not need artificial lighting if they are getting plenty of sun naturally, otherwise provide 10-12 hours of artificial lighting a day. The best greens for growing indoors are lettuces, arugula, kale, and spinach.

Chilli Peppers

Some chilli peppers are easier to grown indoors than others. Cayenne is by far the easiest to ripen. Other kinds that you can grow inside include Jalapenos and habaneros.

Sprouts

Sprouts are the easiest and fastest of all the edibles I have listed to grow indoors in the winter. You can buy sprouting kits to make things even easier on yourself. To grow sprouts all you need to do is soak the seeds for a day or two and then place them in a jar to germinate. Make sure to rinse them at least 2 times a day. You don’t need direct sunlight for sprouts.