Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Learning How to Sow Seeds

Guest post by Sarah Renfro, Renee’s Garden Business Manager

sowing seedsThe office staff at Renee's Garden spent an afternoon in the garden last week learning how to sow seeds from our Lindsay and Mila, our Trial Gardeners, (with horse Ruby keeping us company in the background). Since our business office is located about 2 miles away from the trial garden, we here at the office don’t get as much “dirt” time as the trial garden staff.

sowing pepper and tomato seedsLindsay is organizing a series of educational sessions for our staff so we can be more confident and familiar with growing our seeds. Everyone in the office, including bookkeeper Cheri, order entry manager Calley, administrative assistant Heidi, customer service Susan and sales associate Kathy will be coming to the trial garden regularly. This week we learned more about the best techniques for seed starting. Some staff members are already experienced with starting seeds inside (Cheri’s husband is a chile pepper freak so she is very familiar!) but others are newbies.

This summer the trial garden will be evaluating many different types of tomatoes and peppers so this was the perfect opportunity for us to help out!

Mid-March is the time to start seeds of tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse. First we prepared trays with seed starting mix and watered the soil so it is damp but still fluffy. Then we laid out the seeds on top of the soil, about ¼” apart in a grid pattern. Finally we covered the seeds with a thin layer of vermiculite (being careful not to inhale this clay by-product) and gave the trays a gentle watering.

sowing seedsBetween all of us we sowed over 500 tomato and pepper seeds! After they germinate and grow a couple of inches, we’ll head back to the greenhouse to transfer the seedlings into individual pots. In another month or so, it’s time to get dirty and plant everything into the ground.

raised vegetable bedsWe’ll all be taking home extra seedlings to try in our various home gardens. I am building brand new raised vegetables beds in my front yard this year (more on this in another blog post). Our newest staff member, Heidi will be growing the plants in containers on her deck. One thing is certain – we will all be enjoying the fruits of our labors later this summer!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Vegetables Rule!

planting your own vegetable garden
Seed sales, particularly of vegetables and herbs, are up very sharply this season. After years of declining veggie seed sales the whole cycle has reversed and we are experiencing tremendous interest from a new generation of gardeners who want to, for the first time, start a garden to grow food.
What I hear about from customers is a combination of factors:
-with layoffs, and worry about job loss being out of the individual's control, the positive act of making a garden gives you the sense of taking some positive action to manage economic uncertainty and control your own future.
-starting a food garden is a way of dealing with the high price of food and the need to watch spending carefully, given the bleak economic outlook and the reality of many having less cash to spend at the market.
-Many new gardeners have a real interest in eating more nutritious food and an interest in having organic produce without having to spend a lot of money to do it. I also think The Food Network has had influenced its viewers to be interested in where their food comes from; TV personalities like Jamie Oliver, "The Naked Chef", are very successful media advocates of cooking from the garden. What a treat!
-there is growing interest in knowing where your food comes from and not having to worry about if it is safe and healthy, especially given recent food safety scares about peanuts, spinach, salad etc.
-I see a trend for younger families wanting to become more self-reliant and to live simpler lives. I think young mothers have new interest in seeing nutritious food as an important part of raising healthy kids. My "30 to 40 something" customers view gardening at a healthy low-cost way to spend good quality family time together.

homegrown tomatoesI'm thrilled to see a new generation of gardeners get involved and get their hands dirty! We are an online catalog which gives us the opportunity to provide updated and interactive help on how to grow from seed, which is another area where these new gardeners want assistance.

The Renee's Garden Monthly E-newsletter we sent out in February included a good how-to article I wrote on Container Gardening from Seed and I hope it will be helpful for those who aren't sure how to go about getting great harvests from containers and small space gardens. Container growing is another trend that has increased almost exponentially in popularity

fragrant sweetpeas are a cool season flowerFor March I've decided to feature sweetpeas, since we have two new ones this season and flowers are, after all, food for the soul! I've given three talks on sweetpeas lately up in the Northwest -- I'm so pleased at the interest in my favorite flower. Nothing matches the scent of sweetpeas nor has their perfume ever been replicated. A bouquet of fragrant sweet peas really does perfume an entire room. Mbeautiful sweetpea flowersy mission is to convince gardeners who think they can't grow them to try them again -- or for the first time. It's a hard sell in some parts of the country, mostly because people don't realize they are cool season flower and need to be started extra early. I've been corresponding recently with great pleasure with Richard Parsons, head the British Royal Sweet Pea Society and it is such fun to chat with such a knowledgeable and respected font of knowledge on all things Sweet Pea. At his request, I sent him some of our newest variety, Zinfandel, and will look forward to hearing if he liked it as much is we have here.
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