Friday, December 30, 2011

Vegetable Gardening - 2011 Year in Review

Here is our Vegetable Gardening Year in Review video. Happy New Year! Here’s to a successful 2012 Vegetable Gardening season.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

7 Ways Vegetable Gardeners Can Beat the Winter Blues

This is the time of year when those of us in the Northern hemisphere become envious of those in the southern part of the world. They are in full vegetable gardening mode, growing great tasting fruits, vegetables and herbs, from seeds and potted plants. But rest assure, even though old man winter is biting us in the a, er um, I mean rear, there is still plenty of things we vegetable gardeners can do to get us to where we start planting our indoor seeds. Here are seven that I have chosen as some of my favorites.

Organize Your Vegetable Seeds
As the owner of the Seeds of the Month Club, this one is a no-brainer for me. I have to keep our company’s seeds well organized all year round. But for many of our Seeds Club customers, and those that have purchased seeds through catalogues and online, now is a great time to organize those seeds. I find what works best for me, is to organize the seeds by variety first, i.e. tomatoes with tomatoes, cucumbers with cucumbers, etc., then organize them by date. Members of our vegetable gardening page on Facebook, take it a step further and organize by companion planting, rotations and so much more.

The weather outside might be frightful but the delightful comforts of your home is a perfect setting to research and read up on vegetable gardening topics that can enhance your skills. Want to learn more about composting? Pick up a good book on the topic and learn as much as you can. A favorite of mine that I read, is Chris McLaughlin’s book The Complete Idiot`s Guide to Composting. Chris’ book keeps composting simple yet introduces you to variety of composting styles and techniques.

Maybe you are already a compost expert and want to learn more about specific vegetable gardening techniques, tips and tricks. There are books for that as well. A search on will yield you plenty to choose from.

Plan the Garden
My garden plans will change more than the weather before I finalize it and start actually planting, but now would be a great time to at least put down on paper a list of vegetables you would like to grow from seed this year. A garden plan is a great way to organize your space and thoughts. As a side note I always recommend adding at least one new item to the garden that has not been tried before. I believe it keeps vegetable gardening, fun, exciting and challenging. Hopefully it will for you as well.

Soil Sample
As as long as you can still dig up your soil, now would be a perfect time to take a soil sample. Sure, it may fluctuate based on certain weather conditions but you will have a basic idea of what is in your soil, what it needs and so on. A low cost soil test kit can be found online for anywhere from $3.00 (US) up through $21.00 (US). However, if you are lucky enough to have a co-op in your area, for a small fee, you can take them some of your soil and they will run the tests for you.

Gardening Mentor
Whether you are talking to a neighbor about getting them to start a vegetable garden or you need some helpful advice yourself, the winter is a perfect time to talk about vegetable gardening. If you are a vegetable gardening enthusiast like me be sure to strike up a conversation about it with a friend or loved one who may not have a garden at all and convince them it is worth the time and effort. If everyone you know already has a garden but you had some issues last season, talk to someone in your area to see if they experienced the same thing and if they did, what did they do to fix it.

Up to this point everything has been about what you can do indoors that requires absolutely no growing or getting your hands dirty (for the most part). Is there any gardening you can do? Yes, as you will see below.

Cold Frame Gardening
Not too long ago I wrote an entire article on vegetable gardening with a cold frame. I was fortunate enough to get some professional input from the author of How to Build Your Own Greenhouse, Roger Marhsall. Roger was nice enough to share photos of his own cold frames and give us some great advice as to which vegetables you can grow. A cold frame protects vegetables from the elements and is an excellent way to do some home gardening in the colder months. You can read that article, here.

Window Sill
This one is an oldy but a goody and one of my favorites. I have been successful in the past growing such things as basil (pretty much any herb), spinach, and lettuce on my window sill. I choose a spot that receives sunlight first thing in the morning. Even if you grow only 1 or 2 items this way, it at least scratches that vegetable gardening itch you might have.

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

#92:Vegetable Gardening the New Prescription

More doctors and nutritionists are prescribing vegetable gardening as a means to a healthier lifestyle. Listen in as Mike gives you some more in depth information into this new trend. For more information on how vegetable gardening can help you, visit or be sure to join the vegetable gardening page on Facebook.

The Pollination Process in your Vegetable Garden

Recently I have written some vegetable gardening articles that have taken a turn towards more of a scientific approach, albeit entry level plant science as opposed to advanced horticulture, but very important, I believe, none the less. I wanted to touch on the process of pollination and what this process means for your vegetable garden.

As you may remember from science classes past, pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred, which then enables the fertilization process. Pollen is a fine yet coarse powder, which in essence, contains the male portion of what is needed during the pollination process.

Pollination occurs when pollen lands on a compatible pistil or female cone. The pistil or cone will then germinate and produce a pollen tube which then allows the transfer of the male portion to the ovule.

There are two types of pollination processes, Abiotic and Biotic. Abiotic pollination is when the pollination process occurs due to a non-living organism, such as wind. This is more common in grasses, most conifers and trees. According to the US Forest Department, roughly 10% of flowering plants are pollinated without the assistance of animals (and other living creatures). Which brings us to the next type of pollination, Biotic.

Biotic is the most common form of pollination and requires pollinators, i.e., some living thing to carry the pollen from one plant to the next. From birds, bees, and bats to moths and butterflies, they all play an important and crucial part to make this process happen.

Pollination can be accomplished either through self-pollination or cross-pollination. As you can imagine self-pollination occurs when pollen from one flower pollinates the same flower or other flowers of the same individual. Cross-pollination occurs when pollen is delivered to a flower from a different plant.

Now that you know how pollination works, you can then gather it is an important part of your vegetable garden. Most vegetable gardeners rarely think about the pollination process, that is unless, their zucchini plants produce flowers and then nothing happens, meaning pollination is not occurring. A good trick would be to manually “do” the pollination process yourself by using a cotton swab or small brush (as shown in the photo). Of course, planting flowers nearby that attract bees or butterflies would help as well.

Tomatoes self pollinate rather easily which is why they are far and way the number one item grown in the home vegetable garden in America. They require very little maintenance. Corn, however, cross pollinates, and can be difficult if not done properly, producing very little yield.

Most home vegetable gardeners want to plant seeds and forget about it. That is fine, but you should learn some of the basics about plant science so that if a problem arises, you can diagnose it and come up with a solution.

About the Author

Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Did Santa bring you a Kindle?

If you were good this year and Santa brought you a Kindle, don't forget you can subscribe to our Vegetable Gardening blog. Visit our website or for details.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

3 Cool Gardening Things to Learn About this Holiday Weekend

This weekend my family and I will be busy in the festivities of Christmas and even though this time of the year here in NJ means it’s cold, neither the holiday nor the weather deters me from wanting to know and learn more about vegetable gardening. I put together three things that I find fascinating and hopefully you will too.

This should take you back to 3rd grade plant science class. Cytokinins are a class of plant growth substances (phytohormones, chemicals that regulate plant growth) that promote cell division, or cytokinesis, in plant roots and shoots. When a plant’s stem is moved back and forth, cytokinin is created. This helps create stronger thicker stems in plants. If you grow your plants indoors, once a day give them a light back and forth brush to help promote this process. If your plants are outdoors, you won’t have to do anything as this will occur naturally when the wind blows.

If you are like me then you enjoy growing your own pumpkins for display during the cooler autumn months and of course Halloween. But did you know that the larger varieties of pumpkins, 5 pounds and over, are very durable during their growth? So durable that you can actually personalize each pumpkin you grow. I would like to say I came up with this idea, but I learned about it in “The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible” by Edward C. Smith. Using a finger nail or another sharp object, carve your name (not too deep though), into your pumpkin. For me, with two young sons, we carve their names into each of their pumpkin. As the pumpkin grows so will their carved name and the child gets a thrill watching their personalized pumpkin.

Pepper Heat
Not too long ago I watched a show on Food TV which was for a Buffalo Hot Wing contest somewhere in Texas. When one of the judges was asked about the eventual winner of the contest, he said, the wings were so hot that his lips began to ache as he brought it up to his mouth. The winner’s sauce was made from a pepper seed extract similar to how pepper spray is made...OUCH! As you know, pepper varieties will vary in the amount of heat you feel when you bite into it and in 1912 a man by the name of Wilbur Scoville discovered how to measure the levels of heat a pepper contains. Although we now measure the heat of peppers by the amount of capsaicin it has, you can still measure the heat in a pepper with his Scoville Units.

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Turnips for your Home Vegetable Garden

Whether you grow them for their greens or the root they are best when harvested in cooler temperatures. You can plant turnips in the midsummer time and have them ready in the autumn months. Turnips also make for a great spring crop in your home vegetable garden.

Turnip seeds are a small to medium sized seed and should be planted no deeper than ½”. A ¼” will suffice as it will not be too much soil on top so it can produce enough energy to break through. It is not recommended that you start turnip seeds indoors. In fact you really don’t have to. When the fear of frost in your area subsides, start planting.

The soil temperature range for turnips is very wide. Although many experts believe that 85 degrees Fahrenheit is the best temperature for the seeds to germinate, some studies have shown the soil can be as low as fifty degrees Fahrenheit. If you are planting in the early spring where the soil will still be a bit cold, you can heat up the soil by laying a clear plastic tarp over it which allows the sun to warm it up, but prevents the cool winds from hitting it.

Turnips germinate quickly under optimal conditions. What are optimal conditions? Good soil, temperatures in a range that the seeds can tolerate and a pH level, discussed in the next section, that is slightly acidic, and good spacing. When you can meet these conditions you can get your turnip seeds to germinate in as little as 2 days, however for most of us, 5 is more likely.

This is the measurement of how acidic or alkaline your soil is. The scale ranges from zero up to fourteen. Anything below seven is considered acidic and anything above seven is considered alkaline. Seven is neutral. Your turnips like the soil to be a bit more acidic. They will do best in the 5.5 to 6.5 range. Invest in a good pH soil tester. It will help you out immensely.

You will find spacing requirements for your turnip seeds on the back of your seed packets. We only sell one type and those are the purple top white globe variety. They like to be spaced out at least four inches for optimal room to grow.

Turnips do best with a moderate watering that is more even and steady. In other words do not over or underwater. And although they can tolerate light shade, they grow best in full sun.

If you are like me and practice crop rotation and companion planting, avoid following all crops in the cabbage family in a rotation. Turnips grow well next to onions and peas, however avoid potatoes.

So the time has come to harvest the turnips. If you are growing them for the greens, you can start when the plants are still young, although you do not want to take too many of the greens as the root of the turnip will suffer. The greens are great in salads and soups. If you are harvesting the turnip for the root, anytime it is one to three inches in diameter you are ready. If you let them get too big they may develop too strong of a flavor.

If you are a fan of turnips or their greens, and have not grown any for yourself…what are you waiting for! They are easy to grow and because they are a cooler weather crop you can grow them in the early spring and again for the fall.

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Monday, December 19, 2011

#91:Pest Free Vegetable Gardening

You are not alone when you see your vegetable garden get ravaged by pests, many of which are unseen. Listen in as Mike gives you some tips and tricks you can implement to get your pest problem under control. For information on pest free vegetable gardening, be sure to visit or join our vegetable gardening Facebook page.

About the Author

Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How to Deter Deer from your Vegetable Garden

We recently asked this question to our 33,000 members on Vegetable Gardening Facebook page. How do you deter deer from destroying the crops in your vegetable garden? Here is a listing of the ideas from members that tackle this issue every gardening season.

Aimee Hall deer great

Carolynn Smelley When you cut your hair, put the trimmings around the garden, they don't like it.

Organic Gardening Beginner With Ted Begnoche Predator urine used to work pretty well for me, but lately, human hair seems to work just as well. Just need to be consistent with whatever method you choose.

Kathy Hawkins Baldassare Fence

Dilli Gaff pee, dogs on patrol and in the furthest away garden where we have the most trouble, 9 foot fencing..

Erin Burke Edwards We tried all the 'tricks' and had to go to electric fencing.

Morgan Carroll Ross We put up a fence this year, but sadly that still wasn't enough. They jumped it. Definitely putting up something taller next year. I did take left over boiled egg water and put that around my lilies and they didn't bother them this year. Might try that around the garden as well. Only problem there is you have to stay on top of it and do it after it rains.

Robin Gravis Plant some lavender around. I used it around hibiscus and roses last year and they still leave them alone this year--and the lavender is gone. Other pungent herbs also work. Clip the lavender and lay a few sprigs in the plant beds and the deer graze elsewhere.

Christy LaPrairie We have lots of clover that grows in the unmowed parts of our backyard- they would rather eat that, plus our dogs help them keep their distance.

Leslie Vaughn Burckard ‎10' we have deer antelope and elk

Carole O'Reilly I dont have a problem with deer but I do have a problem with Kangaroos comming in at night so i set up some solar powered light around the garden & so far it has kept them away

Kristina Masci Target practice...hahaha..just kidding. I use deer away product and it works well..added bonus,keeps people away also..smells God awful

Julie Batch I've taught my dogs to keep the deer and fox just out of reach but not chase them , and also to keep the Herons off of our pond

Debbie Beeler ‎2 big dogs! The square foot garden are just past the invisible fence line so the dogs cant get to it .... but the deer dont know that! :)

Ciocia Karolina A large dog.

Ej Kerr i just plant a little more so i can have some too

Raphia Trenkle SULPHUR granuals! BLOODMEAL! Sprinkle lightly in the garden, under evergreens, and acid loving plants like Hydrangeas.. pepper plants and veggie plants love a taste too. It keeps rabbits and deer away. . and they are awesome for your garden. We live near water and nature parks so our area is full of all kinds of wildlife animals, fox, rabbits, wild turkeys, deer, squirrels and the sulphur and bloodmeal keeps them away. I can almost hear them scream "OH GROSS PU .. PU!!" :)

David Lester I hang bars of soap out in the garden , that works for me ....

Helen Bowens Rosemary! I also hung shiny foil ornaments and a dollar store silver garland around certain plants and they didn't touch them this year. I think the appearance of movement disturbs them.

Jacqueline Witz i bought a mannequin & dressed her in flowing clothes & shiny jewelry. i also moved her aroung periodically. an old man driving by came to my door to see if there was anything wrong with the lady in the garden......heeheehee also used the christmas tinsel. the deer went to my neighbor's garden right next to mine.

Linda Oman An eight foot fence. Not making the financial commitment to put up a fence always led to disappointment during the growing season. Start looking in discard piles for fence parts. We love the deer, but we eat them too!

Vicki Davis we share - but nothign in my garden except some beets and onions (maybe the garlic is still hanging in there?) the deer out here can nibble on what I have - we share well!

Kristine Vreugdenhil I plant the hot peppers on the border a week ahead of everything else and try to plant extra so there is enough for everyone!

Louise Holcomb Nivison we have cougars. deer scarce

Linda Younglove deer have been nibbling on our newly planted apple trees (and we live in the chicago suburbs!)--they definitely don't like bird netting, though. when we wrap them in the bird netting, they leave them alone. i read somewhere that they don't like the feel of netting against their nose.

Anna Thompson helpful thread, since we are nearly INFESTED with deer. so far the smelly 'deer-away' spray has helped....some....but we're going to have to go with fencing / netting and ALL of the 'tricks'....and maybe a dog.... to deal with it in years to come.

BuffaLoam A fence and deer netting.

A Seed To Success Shiny things, Things that make noise and things that move work well. Windmills & wind chimes. We also dry and grind every hot pepper we have and spread it around our garden spaces often.

About the Author

Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Combining Vegetable Gardening with School Curriculum

Do you have school aged children? Are you a vegetable gardener? Imagine if you were able to combine the fun and reward of vegetable gardening with the education your child receives in school? I was thinking about this the other day and wanted to do some research on the topic. As a father of two and an avid vegetable gardener, to me the possibilities of combining the two, seemed like a no brainer.

However, I wanted to find out from teachers in the classroom if this is something that they do. After putting out some feelers I was fortunate enough to get in touch with 5th grade science teacher from High Shoals Elementary School, Linda Cooper.

According to Linda she incorporates a garden in the teachings of different types of plants. Linda, who also taught 1st and 3rd grade, (I teach 1st & 2nd graders part time, so I know how difficult that age group can be at times with the amount of energy they have), says, that in the lower grades, lessons include learning about the parts of the plant, seed sprouting, the plants basic needs, plant life cycles and the effects that over population or scarcity of plants has on communities. “A vegetable garden can give students more experience when taught these items,” says Linda.

As well as teaching science, Linda also runs the 5th grade environment club which currently has 20 students that have built raised beds for the purpose of growing fruits and vegetables. “Our students are also getting ready to start up a greenhouse that was purchased for our school.”

In her program, students get a chance to learn about farming and agriculture, where our food comes from and vegetables the students may not be familiar with. All great teachings that could lead our youth toward a path of understanding the importance of growing at least some of their own food.

Beyond getting the students excited about growing their fruits and veggies, her hopes are that the older 5th grade students become as passionate about vegetable gardening as she is and they assist with teaching the younger students their new learned skills.

Linda also believes she can incorporate the economic impact a vegetable garden can have and has laid out future plans to teach students vegetable gardening combined with math as it relates to purchasing equipment, supplies and being able to either sell what you grow, or calculate what you can save by avoiding paying for the grown vegetables in stores. Yet another valuable lesson combined with vegetable gardening.

About the Author

Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Podcast Episode #90: Vertical Gardening

Short on space?  Try vertical gardening.  Listen in as Mike talks about some creative ways to maximize your limited area.  For information on vertical gardening, be sure to visit

Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

4 Gardening Items to Ask Santa for this Christmas

For many of us, old man winter has moved in, putting a damper on our outdoor vegetable gardening efforts. While many still continue to grow some herbs, lettuce, spinach and other cooler crops in either outdoor cold frames or on indoor window sills, colder weather also means the Christmas season is upon us.

And while, falling snow may not spark an immediate thought of harvesting ripe tomatoes, Christmas is a great time to put some gardening gifts on your want list for Santa. So here are some items you may want to jot down.

Garden Cart/Wheelbarrow
I received a garden cart two years ago. It can carry up to 600 pounds, and the type I have has 4 wheels as opposed to the traditional 1 wheel, wheelbarrow (of which I have one of those also). They vary in cost based on features. They can cost as low as $20 up through $200. Mine is in the $60 to $70 range. It’s great for when I am moving lots of items at one time or moving mounds of compost around.

Most gardeners have one or even two of these. They are a great help when turning over soil or your compost pile. They are available at any home or garden center for $10 to $40. My dad gave me one of his older ones, and my family gave me a second one as a gift last year. It’s nice to have a backup in case one of them decides to retire (my tools don’t break, they just decide to stop working).

Small Garden Tools
From a basic trowel to a hand cultivator the smaller tools are a must for every gardener. They are small enough to help you work in tight spots but large enough to complete tasks fairly easily. Again these range in price. You can pick them up at your dollar store (although quality is not the greatest) and at your local home or garden center for a few bucks more. Walmart and Target have them, but they will be tough to find at those stores this time of year, so your best bet are places like Tractor Supply, Home Depot and/or Lowes.

While I will be the first to plug our Seeds of the Month Club here, I will also say that vegetable seed packets make for great stocking stuffers. Tie a ribbon around a dozen or so packs and put them in the stocking of your family vegetable gardener and they are sure to love the gift. Besides, what is a vegetable gardener without any vegetable seeds?

I could go on for hours as to what could be or should be on your gift list to Santa, but the above list marks the items I get the most use out of in my own vegetable gardening efforts. What would you like to see on your list?

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

We Vegetable Gardeners Know What to do with those Keurig Cups

It seems as if every one of our neighbors and relatives received one of those Keurig individual coffee makers. If you are not familiar with them they are pretty neat, especially if you want to enjoy a quick, fresh cup of coffee. They give you the flexibility of making an individual cup of coffee in a wide range of flavors (over 200 the last time I checked their website) without having to make a whole pot, measuring the grounds and so on.

With the convenience of making your own cup of specialized coffee though comes the added waste of the cup itself. They are made out of a thin plastic, that can be recycled if you live in a part of the world that accepts <1> or <2> grade plastics, but us vegetable gardeners can put them to better use and better yet they can serve us two fold as I will show you in a moment.

First let us diagnose the evidence in question, in this case the cup. There are a number of cup manufacturers, however the cup is made from the same material and are all the same size. The top will be either foil or a thick paper. The top is strong enough to keep the contents of the cup in (i.e. the grounds), but pliable enough so the machine can puncture a hole into it.

Inside the cup, the contents if you will, are coffee grinds and a filter. The machine punctures a hole into the top and one in the bottom of the cup. Water is then sent through the top hole where it is mixed with the grounds of the cup and eventually comes out of the bottom hole and into your waiting coffee cup.

Now that you have the basics of how it operates, how can it actually help vegetable gardeners? Well very simply, let’s start with the obvious and that is the coffee grinds and filter sitting inside the cup. Both make for a great addition to any compost pile. To get the grinds and filter out, first remove the top foil or paper covering on the cup. Then dump the coffee grinds into a separate bowl (or whatever you use to collect your kitchen waste).

The next step is to remove the filter. It is attached fairly well to the cup so I used a knife and simply cut it and then put the filter into the same bowl with the grinds. We have the grinds and filter ready to go into our compost pile but we still have the cup. Do not throw that cup away!

You now have in your hands the makings of a great seed starter. And although the cup is small, it works perfect for starting such things indoors as celery or oregano and thyme, the small seeded variety vegetable and herb plants.

What makes the cup a perfect fit as a seed starter is your coffee machine has done a portion of the work for you already; it punctured the drainage hole on the bottom, so all the cup needs now is some soil and seeds!

There you have it. Using your Keurig coffee make as a means to add to the compost pile and create seed starters all while you get to enjoy a nice cup of hot joe!


About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Maximize the Germination of your Vegetable Seeds

Nothing is more frustrating then when you can not seem to get your vegetable seeds to germinate. You get excited for gardening season to roll around, have your vegetable seeds ready to go, plant them in some soil, wait, and nothing happens. There could be a number of factors as to why this could be. Here are some suggestions to help with maximizing the germination of your Vegetable Seeds.

It all starts with the soil. Well, actually it starts with the seed but we already know that . While I like to use soil from my own garden to start my seeds (more on that in a moment), there is nothing wrong with using a good quality seed starting soil. This type of soil, which can be found at any home or garden center for just a few bucks, is specially formulated to give your seeds everything they need to grow. If you are big on organic growing techniques there are plenty of organic seed starting soils as well and those expanding seed pods work great also.

As I noted earlier I like to use the soil from my own garden to start my seeds. Here is why. For starters, my plants will eventually end up there anyway, and I believe, although I have not conducted any official scientific testing, that the young plants will acclimate much better if they are already growing in the soil in which they will spend their entire growing season. Next, I work hard at making sure my soil gets a good supply of nutrients through various composting techniques. I would hate to do all that work and not be able to use it on day one. Finally, when I do use my own garden soil, since I start most of my seeds indoors, I like to have my soil be inside for a couple of days to warm up. It does the seeds a world of good.

For most seed varieties you will want to start them indoors. This gives you a head start in the colder months so that when it does eventually warm up outside you can move grown plants outdoors. This becomes especially helpful to those with shorter growing seasons. While I would not classify New Jersey as having a short growing season, it is nice to put ten to twelve inch tomato plants in the ground on May first. The only types of seeds I do not start indoors are root crops, i.e. radish, carrots, turnips etc.

Now that we have our soil and are starting our seeds indoors, we need to create an environment that is suitable for growth. There are two challenges. The first is light and the second is heat. Both of which can be handled very easily.

Let’s start with light. For me it is fairly easy. By the time February rolls around we receive plenty of sunlight. This makes it easy to simply put my newly planted seeds in front of a window that receives sunlight first thing in the morning. If you can get 6 to 8 hours that should be plenty. If not, consider supplementing with a grow light. You can pick them up at pet stores in the fish isle. They sell them to help aquatic plant life grow and can cost anywhere from a couple of dollars to nearly a hundred dollars, depending on how fancy you want to get. You can also find them at garden centers and of course online. Make sure you select the lights that are U/V and rated for plant growth.

Next, heat. You could invest in growing heat pads and plant heaters if you live in very cold climates but for most of us, simply covering your seedlings with a propagation dome, a constant temperate condition will be created which is optimal for your seeds. Your propagation dome can be purchased in a store, or you can simply make one out of any clear plastic container such as a used 2 liter soda bottle. A propagation dome is nothing more than a small version of a greenhouse. When the enclosed space heats up the heat is absorbed by the soil which helps the seed and at night when the enclosed space starts to cool, the heat from the soil is released. This process helps keep a constant temperature.

Of course none of the above will do you any good if the seeds you buy, suck. Buy your seeds from reputable companies. Reputable companies will ensure that the seeds you receive are all within a year of age and have been tested for germination rates exceeding 95%. Meaning 95 out of every 100 seeds germinated in their testing conditions.

Now go out and get some seeds and start growing some of your own food!

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

5 Home Grown Vegetables for Thanksgiving

The holiday season is upon us which for our family kicks off with Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is that one day out of the year where we recognize how lucky we are to have our health, family and friends around our dinner table and of course the gratefulness that even in these tough economic times we can still put a nice meal on the table to enjoy the day.

One thing I am personally thankful for is for the day my dad taught me how to vegetable garden, how you can grow your own food and that it is easier then you think. It is a skill that I can pass along to my two sons and hopefully they pass along to their children one day.

Being able to grow our own food not only puts healthy, fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs on our table but we are able to donate a lot of food to local food pantries and needy families, so my family is very thankful that we can do that as well.

What I wanted to do is give you a list of the fresh items that I will be serving on my Thanksgiving table this year.

Green Beans
A fellow vegetable gardening member on our Facebook page recently sent me a message about the green beans he grew this past season. To make sure he grew enough he had ten Kentucky Wonder pole bean plants growing up on a home made trellis. Of course if you know anything about pole beans in general you immediately say to yourself, “Good Lord, 10!” That is because they produce and produce and produce and keep going. They make the energizer bunny look inferior once they start growing. He even said, “my neighbors stopped answering their doors because they didn’t want anymore.” That is how many ten plants will yield. Beyond that, for my family, the Thanksgiving dinner table would be incomplete without the green bean casserole. With home grown green beans the casserole tastes so much better (at least it does to me).

I will be the first to admit that celery is not the easiest item to grow. The seeds are so tiny that they are nearly impossible to work with. Most of the time when I start my celery seeds I end up planting a lot per each starter cup, which I then I have to trim back. However, once you are able to get the celery going, fresh celery mixed in with the stuffing is fantastic. Also, I have inherited a family recipe from my mom called stuffed celery. Not sure if she got it from somewhere or made it up herself, but it’s nothing more than cream cheese mixed with chopped up gerkin pickles and green olives. Take that mix and fill the celery. Something about the crunch of the celery with that mix is such a great taste.

Salad Greens
This is my generalized category for all items such as lettuce and spinach that would be included in my salad. I will be literally having the freshest salad come Thanksgiving day. That is because greens such as lettuce and spinach will grow well into the cooler months of November and with a well built cold frame you can easily get fresh greens all winter long. Imagine being able to pick your Thanksgiving day salad 10 to 20 minutes before you serve it.

Pumpkin Pie
Ok we aren’t actually growing pumpkin pies here, but we can grow the main ingredient in a pumpkin pie recipe and that is the pulp to be used. Everyone has their favorite pumpkin and/or squash they grow for this purpose and I am no different. I like the Blue Hubbard Squash. The pulp inside, once cooked and pureed, makes for a nice sweet addition to any pumpkin pie recipe. Sugar Pie Pumpkin is another good one as well.

What would be Thanksgiving day dinner without the different varieties of potatoes that will be served. From sweet to my wife’s garlic mashed red recipe, home grown potatoes are an excellent way of bringing what you grow at home to your dinner table. I would not consider potatoes a difficult crop to grow in my area, and they can be left in the ground until you plan on harvesting them for consumption (in many cases).

I can list a lot of other items that I have served in the past as well as I am sure you and your family have your favorites as well. Enjoy your home grown Thanksgiving!

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vegetable Gardeners, Black Friday is for You Too

Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC Confirms a 70% off Black Friday Sale

Burlington, NJ: Continuing their commitment to making vegetable gardening, fun and affordable for all through their Seeds of the Month Club (, Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC has announced they will issue a referral code that will give new Seeds Club members 70% off any club membership of 1 year or longer on Black Friday, 11/25/2011.

“With the economy still lagging, and more people looking to save money, we wanted to extend a Black Friday offer that will help consumers during these tough times,” said Mike the Gardener owner Michael C. Podlesny.

With the referral code that will be released on their blog at 5am EST 11/25/2011, seeds club members receive 8 packs of vegetable, fruit and/or herb seeds their first month and then 4 packs every month thereafter for 70% off the retail price. The seeds club has been featured on ABC, NBC and Fox as a great way for consumers to save money on the food they buy.

In addition to the special referral code, that can be used starting at 5:00AM EST on Black Friday, Podlesny says staff members will be on hand to answer customer questions about the club and vegetable gardening in general.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Four Easy Vegetables to Start from Seed

I love to start all of my fruits, vegetables and herbs from seeds, and although I do very well, I can sit here and honestly say that all of my efforts are not successful. In fact, this past season my cantaloupe did not fair as well as I had hoped, but my eggplant on the other hand were the best crop I have had in my life. That’s just the nature of vegetable gardening. Just when you think you have one crop mastered, you have a bad season with it. Maybe that is par for the course.

Regardless of the ups and downs of different crops I seem to do extremely well with the same crops every year when I start them from seeds.

One of the fastest growing vegetables that I start from seeds, radishes will yield two crops in the late-winter to early spring and again late-summer to early winter. Many varieties produce in as little as 45 days, and make a great addition to a salad. I do not start radishes indoors as I don’t see the need since they produce so quickly.

What would a list be without tomatoes on it, especially when I am from the garden state and all the bragging we do here about Jersey tomatoes. I will say that some years I do great and less often I do just ok, but I have never had a season where I did not get an ample crop of tomatoes. I always start my seeds indoors around the beginning of March, then will move them to the outdoor greenhouse in bigger pots until the weather warms up enough at night so that I eventually put them in their final spot in the garden. Top advice? Pick a spot in your yard that receives direct sunlight from morning until night time for best results. That’s what works well for me.

A neighbor once told me, zucchini grows so fast that you literally watch it grow before your eyes. I can not disagree. I have had plants where on one day a new zucchini growth is about an inch long and the next day (ok maybe two) it was ready to be picked. I will start zucchini indoors just like tomatoes. Unless you either have a large family, plan on feeding the neighborhood or donating a lot to local food pantries, just a couple of zucchini plants will suffice. They produce so much so quickly that many, especially new gardeners, put in about 6 plants and then harvesting zucchini becomes a full time job. I always grow 3, which for me, seems to be plenty.

Last season I had the best cucumber crop in my life. I was literally giving away about a dozen to two dozen per week. I had 9 plants going which is more than what I normally do, but in previous years my surplus was around a few every week. Just like my tomatoes and zucchini I start cucumbers indoors. For me personally I always grow vining types such as the straight eight. For best results use a trellis. I built my own out of some left over wood pieces and some netting. It took about 20 minutes to throw it together. This gives the cucumbers a chance to climb and spread out. I start my cucumber seeds indoors, and like tomatoes, won’t move them outdoors until the temperatures at night have warmed up enough.

Every gardener has their favorites, these happen to be the ones I have had the easiest time with and the most success. I’ll cover herbs in a future article. They are very fun and easy to grow as well.

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us, the moderator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook and creator of the Seeds Club.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Compost from the Sky?

As many of you know from reading the various articles on our website and blog as well as the podcasts we conduct, composting is a major part of our vegetable gardening efforts. I am a believer that you really can not have a successful vegetable garden without implementing even a minor effort of composting. I am sure some of our readers will disagree and I would love to hear your thoughts.

However, I am big believer in compost because the benefits far outweigh any amount of work one would have to conduct to “make it happen”. There are various types of composting methods, from piles and vermicompost, to trench composting. One thing struck me as interesting as I was sitting at my kitchen table this morning looking out the window of my garden area.

I had noticed that the leaves of the tree in my neighbor’s yard were beginning to fall and as luck would have it (only a gardener would consider leaves falling in their yard as luck), they were falling directly into my garden. It got me thinking. `How about this? Compost from the sky!`

Leaves and leaf mulch make for great compost to be added to any garden. Many composting purists will say that you should add equal parts green (such as grass) with equal parts brown (such as leaves) to ensure that your compost has all of the nutrients it is supposed to have. I will save that debate for a future article and podcast.

I looked at the leaves falling into my garden from a different angle. That is, less work for me! Let’s face it. Each year I do my best to reduce the amount of “extra” work I have to do in the garden, such as laying down newspaper as a weed barrier, or setting up automatic sprinklers to do the watering for me. I am sure many of you do the same.

Without even trying I found another way to reduce some of my composting work. I am going to simply “leave” the leaves there and in the spring I will turn them into the ground with additional compost from my pile that I currently have on the other side of my shed.

My neighbor is nice enough to give me such a great gift and yet, he probably doesn’t even know it. Hopefully he is not an avid vegetable gardening enthusiast such as me to the point where he comes over and asks for his leaves back :-)

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us and the administrator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Monday, November 14, 2011

What's Crazy in your Vegetable Garden?

Last Friday we asked our Vegetable Gardening Facebook page members to post the funniest and/or the craziest question or comment they have ever received about their vegetable garden. There were some fantastic responses and we wanted to share them with you.

‎"EWWWW, you eat food from the GROUND??" - little neighbour kids (who were promptly educated about where food comes from)

‎"so, do you like...actually eat it?"

Where's your money tree?

when you companion plant, which herbs and flowers keep rabbits out?

We're looking at the strawberry beds and my friend asks, "are you gonna have strawberries?"

‎"you know Dandelions are weeds"

‎"You are soooo crazy." (from an ADULT on food stamps.)

Why do you have marigolds around your garden? You know that is the "Dead people flower" At Mexican funerals we bury our dead with Marigolds and call them the Dead People I think of dead people every time I go to my garden!

you can grow peanuts and popcorn??????

why do you grow it?

‎"Isn't the gardening season over?" (In October in Vermont.) Nope, it's not!

How do I know when I can pick the stuff and what do I do with it afterwards? From a first time gardener. She didn't know what she was planting, why or how to use/cook it. She also didn't know what homegrown Swiss Chard looked like although she purchases it from the grocery store and "loves it".

I teach school & grow pumpkins for my students to paint each Halloween. I had an abundance and let them paint again for Thanksgiving. From a 7th grade student, "You should let us paint again for Christmas!" Me, "I don't have any more pumpkins." Student, "Can't you grow some more?" Me, "Pumpkins don't grow in the winter with all this snow." Student (totally bewildered), "They don't?"

My Contribution
when I was standing next to my corn and someone came up and are you growing corn?


‎"Wouldn't it be easier to just go to the grocery store?"

I asked my 7 year old grandson what he had learned about gardening after a month with me this summer "helping" in the garden. he said he learned that if you throw the rotten tomatoes under a tree an animal might eat them.

While removing caterpillars from my plants one day, a neighbor asked me, "You're growing bugs, too? How do you do that?"...and she was serious. :)

I asked my daughter and her friend to go out and get some carrots from the garden. Her friend came in a few minutes later and said, " I couldn't find them, but [daughter] found them under these green things!" Haha! She did not know that they grew in the ground. You should have seen her face when we collected eggs from the hen-house!

how do ya smoke that stuff?

I won't go in there after dark!

"so let me get this straight you put poop in there to "fertilizes" it and then you really eat the vegetable????" me- "yes!" them- "that us soooo gross you eating food grown in animal poop. Don't they make a chemical fertilizer?.... That would not be as disgusting! "

Is your garden on steroids?

Are you really going to eat that?

A coworker, on comparing rhe sizes of our tomato plants in the worker's garden: "You must feed your tomatoes crack."

One of my great-grandkids watched me put vegetable scraps from the kitchen, leaves and grass clippings in my compost tumbler and asked me - "After you put that stuff in there, does it get less stinky?"

I wish my garden looked that good. But my reply will always be "yes it can be".

when we were selling our California property, a prospective buyer looked up at my 12 foot tall cornstalks and asked what I had used. When I said "compost and water" she, well, was pretty speechless.

I've been asked a few times "Did you grow these"? Well lets see... they are in my yard, in my veggie patch, and I always talk about gardening. Chances are I did.

You growin vegetables?

Standing beside my blueberry plants (she and I) eating the berries -- she said, "Are you sure you grew these?" I didn't even answer-- I just looked at her.

‎"what r u goin to do with all your fruit ?" a neighbor asked, " it's easier to buy them on the store. My thought was "it's none of your business "

‎"Who do you have buried under there?"

So what is something that you heard that you can add to this great list?

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vermicomposting for Better Soil

Vermicompost is merely nothing more than worm castings after you have fed them a diet of organic material. It is one of the best forms of fertilizer you can add to your garden. So good that many home vegetable gardeners have created worm farms and vermicompost bins in their own back yards, sheds, garages and basements. It is easy to do and fairly inexpensive. As with anything, the more work you put into it the less it will cost.

To get a better understanding of vermicomposting and what it could mean for your home vegetable garden I turned to Justen Garrity, the President of Veteran Compost. Justen operates a commercial worm composting facility in Maryland with over a half million worms.

Just like with other forms of composting, vermicompost is an easy, environmentally friendly, and in many cases, a fun way to create much needed nutrients for your soil. Justen says, “Instead of sending your fruit/vegetable scraps, shredded paper and newspapers to landfills, you can use worms to recycle that material into worm castings.” Worm castings are a great way to help reduce the affect of diseases on plants, rejuvenates the soil by adding nutrients and assists with plant growth.

Worm Species
If you were to look into a science book specifically on worms, you will see that there are literally thousands to choose from, although many are more than likely, not available in your area. “The best worms are the red wigglers,” says Justen. “ They have evolved over millions of years to become nature’s best worm for eating organic waste.”

So how much does it cost to run a worm farm at home? Depends really on how much you want to spend. “Expect to pay about $20 to $30 for a pound of worms,” Says Justen. As for housing you can spend $80 for the Worm Factory DS3GT 3-Tray Worm Composter or build your own for under $15 with nothing more than a plastic bin, a drill and some time.

Worm Population
If you feed your worms a nice healthy diet of organic material, i.e. your food leftovers, leaves, grass etc., you can expect your worm population to double about every 90 days. So what do you do with all of those worms? “Red Wigglers will self-regulate their population based on the size of the bin, the amount of food, the moisture level and temperature,” says Justen. “You don’t have to worry about a rapidly growing population taking over your house.” However, if you do feel like you have too many worms, Justen recommends that you simply remove them and share with some friends, other gardeners and fisherman.

Happy Vermicomposting!

About the Author
Mike Podlesny is the author of Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the rest of us and the administrator for the largest vegetable gardening page on Facebook.

Watch the video below to learn more about Mike`s Seeds of the Month Club: