This week’s installment of Seed Starting Q + A is all about soil and light. If you have a seed starting question, let me know in the comments and your question will be added to future installments (and if you’ve already submitted a question and it’s not here, it’s still coming!).
Q: What are the advantages of mixing your own seed starting mix versus buying it ready to go?
A: There are two big advantages to mixing your own seed starting medium. The first is that you know what is in it. If you are trying to avoid certain ingredients, such as chemical fertilizers or peat, mixing your own can save you the time and hassle of searching around for precisely what you want and ensure that you know exactly what is going into your seed starting mix.
The other big advantage is cost savings. For equal quantities of finished product, you can mix your own for a fraction of the cost of commercial seed starting medium.
Q: What is the best kind of grow light to get for seed starting?
A: Finding the best lights for seed starting comes down to three things: the bulbs, the build, and the budget.
Most important are the bulbs that go in the fixture. The standard for seed starting is two cool white florescent bulbs. This is the most affordable option and is perfectly suited for growing healthy, happy seedlings. If you like, you can take it up a notch with full spectrum bulbs or create “fuller spectrum” light by using one cool and one warm light bulb, but in the end, spectrum doesn’t matter nearly as much as intensity.
The build of the light fixture plays a huge role in maintaining good light intensity. You want to keep your lights about 2 inches directly above the seedlings at all times. Seed starting set ups vary, but in general this means a fixture that hangs from adjustable chains or a fixture that is attached to an adjustable stand. As long as you can adjust the light (or the shelf beneath the light) as the seedlings grow, the fixture is long and wide enough to cover your seed trays, and it can accommodate the right type of bulbs, it’s a good fixture for seed starting (you can find my set up here).
Which brings us to budget: you can purchase a quality light fixture for seed starting for anywhere from under twenty dollars to several hundred dollars. I am of the opinion that you don’t need to break the bank on this one unless you truly want to splurge on the higher end equipment or are growing really large quantities of seedlings. A simple fixture with quality bulbs will provide what you need for almost all home seed starting projects.
Q: Do I really need a grow light?
A: There is a very good reason that most reliable gardening sources will encourage you to use a grow light: it works. Seedlings grown directly under high intensity lights simply do better than seedlings grown in front of a window.
That said, if you are growing a small number of plants and have enough room to get them right up on the windowsill, it can be done. If you want to go this route, be sure to put your seedlings in front of a south-facing window for the best light throughout the day. You will have to rotate your seedlings on a regular basis because they will lean into the light. Using a windowsill will also increase your chances of having longer, leggy seedlings, so be a little more conservative on your seed starting timeline. Also, try to avoid lining up your seedlings too deep in front of the window to prevent the outer rows from trying to grow over the inner rows for more light. Finally, do pay attention to the temperature of the soil for windowsill seedlings. The sunlight may be warm, but cold drafts can inhibit growth and the seedlings ability to take up nutrients.
Q: How often should I replace the bulbs in my grow lights?
A: When you buy bulbs, the life of the bulb should be listed on the packaging. The bulbs I purchased several years ago are 18,000 hour bulbs. On average, I run my lights for about 12 hours a day for 2-3 months, which amounts to somewhere around 1000 hours per season (give or take), so I’m pretty much set for a good number of years. There are gardeners who swear by replacing them every year, but to me that just seems wasteful, particularly given what goes into properly disposing of florescent bulbs. Certainly, if your lights start to flicker, are noticeably dim, or do not fire up reliably, it’s time to change them, but if you are well within the useful life of the bulb, they are emitting enough light for your seedlings.
At the beginning of the year I set a goal for myself of taking at least one photo of my gardening activities every day for an entire year.
It has only been a couple of months, but it has already been a really good challenge. I find myself being more intentional in my photography, focusing on developing the technical aspects and stretching myself creatively – the very things I set out to do. I’ve shared just a few of these photos on Instagram and here on the blog, but I’ve been trying to find a more formal way to share and document this experience. As I was trying to figure out the right format, I found myself really drawn to the “photo a day” challenges on Instagram. It seemed perfect, but all of my searches for a garden-related challenge to join came up empty.
So… I decided to create one. And starting March 1st, I’m formally inviting you to join me!
Here’s how it works:
At the beginning of each month I will post a list of prompts. Save this list somewhere where you can reference it throughout the month (pin it, share it, tweet it, ‘gram it – whatever works best for you).
Use the daily prompts to capture a photo of your garden or gardening activity. The prompts are intentionally open-ended to allow for your own creative interpretation of how it might relate to what’s going on (or not going on) in your garden on that particular day.
Post your photos with the hashtag #garden365. This will help other participants find your photos, lead you to what others are posting, and help you find other gardeners to follow. The challenge is geared towards Instagram, but feel free to post to whichever social networks you use most (just be sure to use #garden365 so we can find you).
There are no requirements for participation. You don’t have to blog, belong to a specific social media site, create a new account, consider yourself an expert gardener or photographer, or even share every single day. Just join in and help cultivate a garden of images that will serve as a source of information and inspiration for other gardeners.
Where you take it from there is up to you. I’m considering a monthly wrap up post with some of my favorite photos and a few reflections (if there is enough interest in this, I might even set up a link up for other bloggers to do the same). I would also encourage you to include other garden-related tags (#gardenchat, etc.) in addition to #garden365 to link up with an even larger online gardening community.
I know starting this challenge in March while many of us are still facing a lot of snow and ice might seem hard, but with spring just around the corner, there really is no better time to start capturing your gardening activity. If you need a little inspiration to get started, check out the Garden Photography 101 series I wrote for MNLocavore last summer for some thoughts on why, how, and what to photograph in your garden. I have also started a Garden Photography board on Pinterest board, where I will be adding resources throughout the challenge.
Are you in? Let me know in the comments below so I can follow along!
‘Tis the season…
…to get ready for seed starting!
As we finally start to close in on spring, many of us are starting to get things in order for seed starting (maybe you’ve even started a few things already) and with that comes a lot of questions. There is no other time of year that generates more question in my inbox, so today I’m answering some of your questions about seed starting. If you’ve submitted a question and don’t see it here, don’t worry–your question will appear in a future installment of Seed Starting Q + A!
Q: Is it too late to start seeds? I see lots of posts about seed starting already and I feel like I’m behind!
A: I know the feeling! It seems as soon as February hits, so does the flood of seed starting chatter in the gardening world and that can make even the most prepared gardener feel a little behind.
Timing really depends on where you are and what you are growing. Seed starting timelines are based on your average last frost date. Once you determine your last frost date, work backwards to determine when to start certain types of seeds indoors. I use this timeline for creating my own seed starting schedule. The nice thing about seed starting is that it is pretty forgiving. If you do miss your target date–even by as much as a week or so–you can still get in the game.
Q: Does starting seeds extra early give the plants an advantage later on?
A: As tempting as it might be to start your seeds extra early in hopes of having larger, more mature transplants and an earlier harvest, be a little cautious in doing so. The reason for starting seeds indoors is that it gives your longer-season crops the head start they need to mature within your growing season. Ideally, you want to grow them out until they have several sets of true leaves, and then get them out and established in the garden as soon as possible. The shorter the time between when a seedling is ready to be transplanted and when it goes into the garden, the easier that transition will be for the plant and the sooner it can get down to the real work of maturing towards a harvest.
Some gardeners might reason that starting with a more mature plant will get there faster, but there are some important things to consider before you rush out and start your tomatoes today:
First, if you are going to try to grow out more mature seedlings, you must have a really good set up. This means an abundance of high intensity light, warmth, and space. Second, you have to be willing to spend a lot of time tending to your seedlings to ensure you are meeting their growing needs and that they are developing strong. This means extra time potting up into fresh seed starting medium and larger pots, diluting fish emulsion or fertilizers to meet the growing demand for nutrients, and time spent constantly adjusting lights and expanding your space to accommodate the growing plants and prevent leggy or stunted growth.
When the time comes, hardening off can be a little more difficult with more mature seedlings. Longer tender stems and more top-heavy plants can be more susceptible to damage when first exposed to wind and rain than their lower-to-the-soil counterparts. Transplanting can also be more stressful on a more mature plant and the transplant can take longer to get established and resume vigorous growth, which might set you back as much as you had hoped to gain by starting with a larger plant. And of course, everything so far is under the assumption that Mother Nature has not thrown a curve ball in the form of a cold, wet spring or late frost that delays getting those transplants into the garden on time, which can even further extend your hard work and put even more stress on the plants.
Will all of that extra work pay off in the form of an earlier harvest or healthier plant? It might, but it’s not likely that come August you will see any difference between an extra early-start tomato plant and an on-time tomato plant (except for the time and energy you put into it). If you are after early harvests, a better alternative is to select early-maturing varieties.
Q: I see you order most of your seeds from seed companies. Is that a better way to go than buying from the store displays?
A: When it comes to deciding between placing a seed order or shopping the seed displays, it really boils down to your personal preferences. One is not intrinsically better than the other, and each has their own advantages and disadvantages. I order most of my seed because I grow heirloom varieties, and it is harder to find a good selection of heirloom varieties in most store displays. If you can find what you want in the seed displays, by all means go that route. It will save you time and money on shipping. If you’re having a harder time finding what you want in the displays, then placing an order is probably the better way to go. Most gardeners (myself included) do a little bit of both. Every year I order a few varieties that are only available by order, and I pick up a few more commonly available packets (like herbs and annual flowers) from in-store displays.
Q: I feel like I could spend a fortune just to start a few plants for my small garden. I would love to see some tips for seed starting without spending a lot of money.
A: Seed starting can definitely get spendy– if you let it. There are tons of things you can do stay on budget and keep costs to a minimum.
The biggest thing you can do is stick to the basics. Check out this post from last year, where I break down what supplies are essential and which ones you can skip. I also include a lot of suggestions for low and no cost options, which is the other big thing you can do: use what you already have. Chances are your recycling bin contains newspaper and a few plastic containers, which can easily be turned into seed starting containers and trays, or you might have a shop light fixture in the basement or garage that could be commandeered for a few weeks and just needs some fresh bulbs. This will leave your budget intact for the things you can’t get around purchasing.
Some other suggestions for keeping seed starting costs down:
- When it comes to purchasing, be a smart consumer. Whenever possible, buy locally to avoid additional shipping costs, keep an eye out for sales and free shipping offers, and plan ahead and hit up end of season clearance sales.
- Pool your resources with a friend or two. Split the cost of a small bag of starter mix or share seeds from the same packets to avoid having to purchase more than you need for a single season. (Added bonus: seed starting party!)
- Swap seed. So you splurged on a packet of beautiful heirloom tomato seed that contains 20 years’ worth of seed (at least in your small garden), now use your surplus to obtain the kale, peppers, and squash seed you’d like to round out your garden.
Do you have seed starting questions? Let me know and I will include it in future installments of Seed Starting Q + A!
Even by Minnesota standards, Tuesday’s weather was a little rough. Freezing rain, sleet, snow, thundersnow… we saw it all and I had more than a double commute to prove it.
The skies were overcast most of the day, but just as the sun was setting, the snow started to pick up again and the light filtering through the clouds changed pretty dramatically. It was bizarre and beautiful at the same. I quickly grabbed my camera and trudged through the snow to take advantage of this most unusual impromptu garden photo op. Everything was bathed in warm, rosy tones, as big white snowflakes fell and gathered on leftover leaves and barren stalks. I didn’t even realize the full extent of the effect until I had pulled the images off the camera to find that every photo looked as if a sepia tone filter had already been applied.
This is my most favorite photo of the set (the one I captured on Instagram is a close second). I love the way the snow is clinging to what’s left of last fall’s raspberries and the bokeh effect of the snowflakes. Leave it to Mother Nature to make a snow day look and feel warm and cozy.
pictured above, from top left: Jalapeno (green), Sweet Banana (yellow), Santa Fe Grande (yellow), Cayenne Long Thin (red), Ckylon (red), Topepo Rosso (red), Habanero (orange), Black Hungarian (black + red), Anahiem (green)
When it comes to garden planning, one of the most common statements I hear from new (and some experienced) gardeners is, I just don’t know which variety to pick! We’ve all been there before: the seed catalogs spread out, everything looks really good, but there is a nagging question in the back of our minds as to which varieties are the best, most practical choice for our gardens.
Peppers in particular are an incredibly diverse group. From sweet and juicy to scorching hot, and everything in between, it can be a daunting task to select the right varieties for your garden. I can’t possibly begin to cover every known variety, but what I can do is provide a good framework for doing your homework and selecting varieties for your garden. Here are a few tips for breaking the pepper code:
pictured above: Habanero
Understanding the Scoville Scale
Peppers get their heat or spicy quality (pungency) from the chemical compound, capsaicin. As you would expect, the higher the concentration of capsaicin, the more pungent the pepper will be. The unit for measuring this concentration is a Scoville Unit, and the Scoville Scale is the tool we have to compare various types of peppers relative to their pungency.
A pepper’s Scoville rating is a bit of a moving target, as there can be a lot of variation even within the same variety. Growing conditions (soil type, available nutrients, humidity, watering frequency, etc.), maturity, and natural variations in genetic expression all factor into the differences you might experience when sampling a particular variety. As a result, you will typically see a range rather than a specific number assigned to a pepper variety.
The scale ranges from 0 to upwards of 2 million Scoville Units. Here is just a sampling of how some of the more common varieties you might grow in your garden rank and a good point of reference for comparing lesser known varieties:
100K – 500K
800K – 2M +
Pepperoncini, Pimento, Paprika
Jalapeno, Fresno, Anahiem, Poblano
Serrano, Cayenne, Tabasco
Bhut Jolokia (Ghost), Trinidad Scorpion
pictured above: Santa Fe Grande (ripens from green to yellow to orange to red)
Almost all peppers start out a shade of green (sometimes green camouflaged in a blackish purple) and as the pepper matures, it will change colors. Some varieties make only one change, from green to red, orange, yellow, white, brown, or purple, while other varieties may go through several color changes as they move through different stages of maturity.
Sweet and hot peppers come in just about every color imaginable, so broad statements about color and flavor/pungency profile don’t really fit. In general, the more mature a pepper gets, the more developed the flavor and the stronger the characteristics of a particular variety come through. Thus, an immature green bell pepper is going to be less sweet than its mature red, yellow, or orange counterpart, and a mature red jalapeno is going to pack a bigger punch than a still-maturing green jalapeno.
pictured above, from the left: Santa Fe Grande (yellow + red), Habanero (orange), Sweet Banana (yellow), Serrano (green + red), Cayenne Long Thin (green + red), Jalapeno (green), Anaheim (green), Topepo Rosso (green + red)
Finding the Right Pepper for the Job
As is always the case, finding the right variety for your garden depends on what you intend to do with the peppers once they are harvested. There are as many culinary applications as there are pepper varieties, but sometimes determining what do with a particular variety can be tricky, especially when recipes that specifically call for Red Mushoom or Fatalii peppers are more challenging to find. But if you know what you want to do with your pepper harvest, or know what you could do with that type of pepper, the decision making process becomes much easier.
Here are some specific recommendations for some of the most common garden to table applications:
pictured above: Topepo Rosso
Fresh Eating: If you are looking for a pepper to slice up and enjoy as a mid-day snack or add to your garden salad, the usual go-to is a bell-type pepper. Bullnose and King of the North are nice choices for larger bell-types. If you like to nibble in the garden or have a little gardener-in-training, consider one of the many mini bell varieties. I personally really enjoy the pimento-type sweet peppers, like Topepo Rosso, which are a little more compact than a traditional bell, but make up for it with a fleshier bite and more intense flavor.
pictured above: Anahiem
Cooking: Looking for a good pepper to throw on the grill, sauté, or stuff ala your favorite Mexican joint? What you are looking for is commonly called a “frying pepper.” These are your Poblano, Anaheim, and Cubanelle peppers. They tend to be somewhere in the middle as far as flesh thickness, elongated, usually (but not always) lean more towards the sweet/mild heat end of the spectrum, and the flavor is often enhanced by cooking.
pictured above: Black Hungarian
Salsa: Jalapeno and Serrano are the traditional standard for salsa making, but there are a lot of similarly-suited varieties that can take your salsa making up a notch. Look for varieties that have a little body (thicker flesh and a good crisp) and heat. Try cherry-types like Joe’s Round, jalapeno look-a-likes such as Santa Fe Grande, and Hungarian Wax peppers.
pictured above: Sweet Banana
Pickling: Banana, Pepperoncini, Jalapeno, and cherry-type peppers are common choices for pickled peppers. Varieties that are well-suited for pickling can be hot or sweet, and tend to have more flesh for that perfect pickled bite. Some varieties will remain firm after processing better than others, so look for varieties that specifically indicate “good for pickling” if you want firmer pickled peppers. Black Hungarian pickles beautifully, and a mix of yellow, orange, and red Santa Fe Grande makes a beautiful pickled sandwich spread (one of those varieties that doesn’t hold up as well, but is still really tasty).
pictured above: Cyklon
Hot Sauce: Any type of hot pepper from the humble Jalapeno to the beastly Bhut Jolokia (the so-called Ghost Pepper), can be transformed into a delicious vinegar-based condiment with endless variations. Hot sauce is a good method to extract flavor from thin-fleshed varieties like Cayenne, Tobasco, or habanero-types. It is also a good application for small ornamental type peppers, which tend to be too fussy to process for other applications and the flavor is often enhanced when combined with vinegar and other aromatics.
pictured above: Cyklon
Drying: From pepper flakes and ground pepper to whole dried chiles, drying is a great way to utilize the pepper harvest. You’re probably already familiar with Cayenne and Paprika, but that is only scratching the surface of the possibilities. Thin-fleshed varieties are particularly well-suited for drying; look for key words such as “seasoning” and “spice” in the descriptions. Some not as common varieties that are great for drying: Fish, Bishop’s Crown, White Habanero, and Cyklon (which I personally think makes the best red chile flakes).
pictured above: Joe’s Round
Days to Maturity: Though peppers are a tropical, heat-loving vegetable, they will grow just about anywhere with a good head start indoors. If you are a northern gardener like me, you’ll get your best yields for your efforts with earlier varieties.
Growth Habitat: Most pepper plants have a very similar growth habitat, though slight differences between varieties or in growing conditions can have an impact in how tall or compact a plant will be and varieties that fall into either extreme are usually designated as such in the variety description. Pepper plants can easily be grown in containers as well as in-ground. Most varieties benefit from some type of plant support as they grow and set fruit.
Seed Saving: If you plan to save seed, make sure you are selecting open pollinated varieties instead of hybrids. Peppers are self-pollinating, so a significant isolation distance is not usually necessary between varieties, but there is always a small chance for cross-pollination in the garden, particularly if there is a lot of pollinator activity.
Local Trials: Sometimes the only way to get a good sense of a variety is to just simply grow it and see. Talk to other gardeners, read reviews, ask questions at farmer’s markets and garden centers, and document your own hits and misses for the benefit of others.
pictured above: Cayenne Long Thin
What are your favorite pepper varieties for eating, cooking, and preserving? Please share in the comments below!
If you’ve been wondering why it’s been so quiet around here lately, I think this photo sums it up pretty well. After spending a wonderful week in the beautiful Dominican Republic sipping mojitos and getting lost in my favorite seed catalogs, I’m struggling to get back into the grove despite feeling rested and re-energized. Scheduling this one little post is my first step; more good stuff to come soon!
One of the most challenging things about garden blogging this time of year is the light–or more accurately, the lack thereof. Most days I leave for work hours before the sun comes up, and return home late in the afternoon with just a small window of opportunity to photograph in natural light. It’s not necessarily always a negative, but there are a lot of days that I just simply cannot capture what I need or want for a new post before the sun sets. These days I’m quite happy to see that window increase ever so slightly as the sun hugs the southern horizon a little less tightly and the daylight linger a little longer every day. The sunny days are also starting to outnumber the overcast days (or at least so it seems). It will definitely be a while before I see golden sunflowers again, but in the meantime, I’m grateful for the gift of a little more light to better see the beauty in what’s left of last season’s blooms.
The garden planning has officially begun!
This weekend I made the leap from casually paging through my favorite seed catalogs, to making some initial lists. At this early stage in planning, I find myself mostly focused on the new-to-me varieties that have potential to fill in around the tried and true varieties that have already earned their place in the garden. Some of these varieties have been on my radar for a while through various avenues, while others are entirely new to me this year and have just caught my attention for one reason or another.
Last year I made a similar list and it was not only fun to share some of the varieties I was really excited about, but it was also very helpful in getting some feedback from other gardeners who are more familiar with some of these new-to-me varieties. So again I welcome you share any first-hand experience you might have with these varieties!
Here are the new-to-me varieties I would like to try in 2015:
- Romanesco Broccoli: I have long been curious about the reported excellent flavor of this remarkable looking brassica.
- Ralph Thompson’s Squash Pepper: A beautiful ribbed sweet pepper that also packs some heat? Yes, I definitely want to try this limited public offering from the Seed Saver’s Exchange Yearbook.
- Isis Candy Tomato: This super sweet bicolor cherry is really beautiful. It is reported to produce slightly less prolific yields than most cherry-types (which appeals to me as the only cherry tomato lover in our household), but the variety gets high praises for flavor.
- German Extra Hardy Garlic: Could this very winter-hardy variety break by current streak of bad luck with garlic? This variety is reported to be one of the best for roasting, so I sure hope so!
- Garbanzo Bean: Because, homegrown hummus – need I say more?
- Strawberry Popcorn: These little ears of red popcorn have a nostalgic place in my childhood garden memories, so I’m playing around with the idea of doing another three sisters planting this year.
- Paradicsom Alaku Sarga Szentes Pepper: It’s a mouthful of a name, but these sweet yellow peppers are simply beautiful. You guys know how much I love deeply ribbed peppers, and it’s an early variety, which is always a bonus here in zone 4b.
- Pink Accordion Tomato: This is a ribbed tomato, very similar in appearance to Gezahnte, a variety I was interested in last year, but I had zero luck in getting even one seed from the packet to germinate. I’m hoping this one is a little less finicky.
- Purple of Sicily Cauliflower: I’ve had excellent luck with brassicas in my garden the past few years, so I’m feeling ready to tackle cauliflower for the first time.
- Cream of Saskatchewan Watermelon: This white-fleshed water watermelon has been on my radar for a number of years because it is well suited for growing in northern climates.
- Mustard Habanero: Last year I used the last of my traditional habanero seed, which means I can finally add this one to the list! The range of colors this unique habanero variety goes through before arriving at the typical bright orange makes this an attractive alternative.
- Brightest Brilliant Rainbow Quinoa: Now that I know I can successfully grow quinoa in Minnesota, I want to give it another try with this colorful mix.
- Buen Gusto Horno Squash: Not that I need more squash seed, but the ribbed texture and beautiful green color make this variety very tempting! It is reported to be excellent for storage and culinary use as well.
- Calypso Bean: Sometimes also called Orca or Yin Yang beans, these striking black and white beans are reported to have amazing texture when cooked.
- Little Gem Lettuce: I really like the compact growth of this pretty green romaine-type lettuce. I also really like that it is reported to be more heat tolerant than most lettuce varieties.
What new-to-you varieties are you hoping to try this year?
- These pages are dedicated to all things home gardening. From planning a garden to preserving the harvest, you'll find practical and creative ideas to satisfy your sense of garden adventure!
- tomatoes recipes peppers seed starting preservation seasons Photo of the Day Salsa Week Grow It Forward rhubarb raspberries garden planning 12 Weeks of Garden Inspiration garden projects photo post heirloom garden plans herbs broccoli lettuce yard projects seeds seed saving onions radishes recipe beans winter canning fall strawberries salsa varieties tomatillo spring seed garlic cucumber squash A Seed Starting Diary kale transplanting pumpkin dry beans frost planting community garden mint guest post scallions basil soil pollinators spinach Garden Planning 101 kohlrabi beets red romaine cucurbits Minnesota Locavore asparagus Garden Photography 101 garden harvest totals vertical gardening sunflowers beneficial insects corn Year in Review pickling gardening with kids winter sowing squirrels variegated tomato zucchini flowers Three Sisters seed starting containers organic gardening seedling care garden potting up cabbage seed starting mix coir fall garden indoor gardening horseradish jelly watermelon resources Holiday Gift Guide Good Garden Reads garden clean up Opalka garden pests house projects Black Hungarian giveaways onion apples carrots gourds mexican sour gherkin photography Seed Starting Q + A vacation blogging zinnia pumpkins rue parsnips ground cherries botanical gardens seedlings San Francisco rainbow chard ground cherry parsnip reader question lemon olive grapes shallots compost dividing rhubarb plant markers sage horseradish root patty pan squash jam Grow It Forwards brussels sprouts overwintering wildlife-friendly garden herb cayenne rosemary seasonal garden quote reader questions aster #garden365 photo challenge #garden365 garden photography preparing for winter harvest brassicas wrens tomato Measuring Up pruning organic pest control tomatillos jalapeno cantaloupe slugs seed starting timeline soil blocker garden organizataion garden inspiration San Marzano quinoa mulch litchi tomatoes watering amaranth tomato blight paste tomatoes Federle Red Romaine Lettuce social media garden beds snow birthday garden musings Big Mama Amish Paste Anna Russian Tomato litchi tomato peas mesclun organic mojito container gardening pests disease soil blocks peat Building Better Soil starter pots Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds oregano trellising rapsberries peanuts pepper Extending the Season seed packet John Denver love yellow pear printable