Day 10 & 11 Using Coconut Coir in the Garden Posted on 23 May 07:30 , 0 comments

Unfortunately, We were not able to post yesterday so today we're sharing our Coconut Coir info for day 10 & 11.  Thank you for joining us for another post in our series, Grow Your Own Food in 100 days or less with Mary's Heirloom Seeds  

We've mentioned a few times about using coconut coir in the garden so today we;re sharing about the WHY and the HOW.  Here's our video we posted yesterday

We use Coconut Coir Pellets sometimes when we start seeds.

We use Coconut Coir Bricks when we plant in containers or seed-starter pots.

From Using Coconut Coir in the Garden
"Coconut coir growing medium comes from the coconut's fibrous husk (known as coir) that is bound together by lignin (known as pith). After the husk is immersed in water for 6 weeks, the fiber is extracted mechanically, and the pith is left behind as a waste product and stored in heaps to age. Since the pith comes from the fruit, it is quite naturally rich in nutrients. Coconut coir growing mediums are dehydrated and compressed into a compact form for easy handling. With the addition of water, coir expands to an easy to work with growing medium. 

The addition of water increases the volume 3 to 9 times, depending on the packaging of products. This process results in a 100% organic, biodegradable growing medium, making it a natural and safe growth medium of choice for growers.
1.5 pounds compressed brick
Add water to increase volume 3 to 9 times!
"  Use Coconut Coir in compost or worm bins About Coconut Coir


-Coir improves soil drainage in the bed while also helping to retain moisture in quick-draining soils. Since coir breaks down slowly, much like peat, it creates air pockets in the soil that allow excess moisture to drain away from plant roots. The coir itself holds onto some moisture so the drainage doesn't occur too quickly and the soil doesn't dry out completely. These dual drainage and retention properties allow coir to improve moisture management in both heavy clay soils and dry, sandy beds.  


From Seed Starting With Coconut Coir

Common Seed-Starting Issues


-Incorrect Temperature. Different seeds have different needs.

-Old Seeds. When properly stored seeds can have a very long shelf life. But the older they get, your germination rate will begin to reduce

-Incorrect Watering. Water in a necessity for all plants. In the germination stage you need to make sure you keep the soil evenly moist. If you water too much, you run the risk of your seeds rotting before they germinate. If you let them dry out, they will either never germinate or die trying!

-Planting Depth/Light. When you plant your seeds pay attention to your planting depth. This is important because if planted too deep you plants could run out of energy before reaching sunlight. Planting too shallow can lead to drying out. Some seeds actually need some light to germinate, so instead of digging them down you just press them into your soil.

Dampening off, is probably the most common disease when starting seeds. It’s a fungus that can attack the seeds as soon as they germinate or after the seedling has emerged. You will know this is what killed your seedlings when you notice dark spots on the stem right at the soil level and the seedling topples over and withers away.

-Don't over water

-Provide air movement. A small fan will work

-Nutrients: Use a half-strength, organic fertilizer with tiny seedling. Our DIY Kelp Meal Tea is a great option for tiny seedling. You can use this as a foliar feed as well.


For coconut coir pellets, plant no more than 2 seeds per pellet for small seeds and only one per pellet for larger seeds. If both seeds germinate, do not pull one out.

Pinch off one of the seedlings at the base to remove. This will give the remaining seedling a chance to survive and thrive.

Once your seedlings are strong and roots start to grow out of the mesh, it's time to transplant them into the garden or into your containers.


Thank you for joining us for another day of Grow Your Own Food in 100 Days or Less.  If you have additional questions please send an email to

Happy Planting!

Sign up for our E-Newsletter

Day 9: Nitrogen in the Garden Posted on 21 May 16:27 , 0 comments

Welcome to another day of our series Grow Your own Food in 100 Days or Less at Mary's Heirloom Seeds.

On DAY 5 we discussed basic Nutrient Requirements for veggie garden.  Nitrogen was the first macronutrient we mentioned and is the "N" in fertilizer NPK listings.

Nitrogen deficiency in plants can be easy to detect.  Symptoms of nitrogen deficiency are yellowing, pale leaves and/or stunted growth.

Here's our Day 9 Video making Mountain Flower Compost Tea

Before planting or re-planting, it's a good idea to amend your soil.  Homemade compost and aged manure are both great options for free amendments.  We have several videos to help you get started.


There is no homemade way how to test nitrogen of soil. If your want to test your soil, you can take a sample to be tested or purchase an at-home tester.
If you don't have access to compost or manure, we have a few organic approved options.
*NEW FORMULA* this month Mary's Organic Plant Food 4-6-2
A well-balanced organic fertilizer and a good all-around blend. It is easy to use and ready to apply. pH balanced to counteract acidic soil conditions and formulated to deliver a steady supply of organic nutrients to enhance soil fertility and produce vigorous plants.
  • Use at any stage of plant's life.
  • Boosts Microbial Activity
  • Contains Fish Bone Meal, Blood Meal, Rock Phosphate, Greensand, Langbeinite, Kelp Meal, and Humic Shale Ore
For transplants add 1-2 Tbs. per hole

Derived from leguminous perennial alfalfa plant used for pasture and cover crop. Primary benefit of this pleasant smelling meal is increasing organic matter, although it is also a valuable plant-derived fertilizer.

  • NPK analysis is 2.8-0.29-2.4
  • Contains trace minerals and triaconatol
  • Excellent addition to the compost pile for nitrogen content and absorbency
As a garden fertilizer, alfalfa meal is used to increase organic matter in the soil and makes an excellent fast and effective soil conditioner. The high amounts of carbohydrates and protein encourage beneficial soil microbes and earthworms that are responsible for quickly breaking down the nutrients and making them available for use by the plants.  For more info, read
Benefits of Using Alfalfa Meal

Kelp is derived from sea plants and is sustainable.  Kelp Meal contains only small amount of N, P, and K (highest in Potash) but adds valuable micronutrients.  Kelp Meal also contains vitamins that help increase yields, improve soil structure, reduce plant stress from drought, and increase frost tolerance.

From our website,
Organic Kelp Meal (1-0-2) is dried and ground Rock Weed (Ascophyllum Nodosum), which grows in the cold clean waters along the New England coast, and is known as the best marine plant available for agriculture today

Full of trace Minerals, Carbohydrates and Amino Acids, helping create a strong root systems and makes a very healthy plant

It should be tilled in the soil before planting or can be top dressed, incorporated into potting soils, seed beds and composting material.
Organic kelp meal is ascophyllum nodosum, which is widely recognized as one of the finest marine plants available for agriculture today
It is a natural and cost effective enhancement to any soil fertilization and conditioning program
It is suitable for all crops and applications, and can be mixed with most soil conditioners and fertilizers

BONUS:  Sprinkle a small handful of kelp meal early in the growing season around and on the base of squash plants to help deter squash bugs.  Do this every 10 days where squash bugs are a problem.

Organic Blood Meal 12-0-0
Depending upon the crops you grow, soil that has been too often planted can start to lose its growing potential. Over time, the minerals and nutrients that plants need to grow and stay healthy become depleted. Blood meal helps restore these lost nutrients and revitalize depleted gardening beds.
Blood meal is an all natural powdered fertilizer that contains one of the highest, non-synthetic nitrogen counts (12-0-0) available.

  • Easy to use  
  • Works in gardens, yards, lawns, and soil beds
  • Perfect for revitalizing soils that have been heavily worked
  • Scent serves as a deterrent to common garden pests such as rabbits and deer
  • Also helps accelerate composting breakdown of carbon based composts such as leaves and straw

Easy to use instant Compost Tea.
Each packet of powdered mix makes a gallon of full strength compost tea or 2 gallons of diluted compost tea
Foliar feed
All purpose fertilizer
Pre-Soak for seeds
NPK is 6-5-5 plus Calcium and Trace Minerals.
Sourced from organic material. Contains no synthetic ingredients

5-4-2 Fertilizer
Ideal for all plant types, use Mountain Flower Root Boost to encourage expansive root systems, increased crop yields and superior quality flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables.
Boosts Microbial Activity
Vegetable and Flowers -  1-2 Tbs per planting hole for new transplants
Ingredients: Fish Bone Meal, Fish Meal, Alfalfa Meal, Crab Meal, Shrimp Meal, Langbeinite, Basalt, Kelp Meal, Humic Acid, Mycorrhizal Fungi, and Beneficial Bacteria

Thank you for joining us for another day of Grow Your Own Food in 100 Days or Less.  If you have additional questions please send an email to

Happy Planting!

Sign up for our E-Newsletter

Day 8 Transplanting Seedlings Posted on 20 May 08:20 , 0 comments

We're so excited to be Transplanting Seedlings today into our garden. 

Thank you for joining us for Day 8 of our series Grow Your Own Food in 100 Days or Less at Mary's Heirloom Seeds.

Today we have a 4x8 raised bed that has already been filled with aged manure and soil.  We're transplanting Dakota Black Popcorn, Blue Lake Bush Beans and Yellow Scallop Squash.  **Once we finished filming we also planted Genovese basil**

Here's our video to get started

Transplanting Seedlings
Since our seedlings were grown outside 100% of the time, we did not need to harden off before transplanting.  If you are transplanting seedlings that were grown indoors, I recommend starting with our article Day 7 Hardening Off Seedlings

First, whether you're planting in-ground, in containers or raised beds,water the garden area BEFORE you transplant seedlings.  I like to give it a good soaking.

Plan out what seedlings you want to transplant and where they're going.

When we transplant I use 2 soil amendments, Mountain Flower Root Boost (5-4-2) and Micronized Azomite.  Another option would be to feed and Organic Liquid fertilizer or Kelp Tea.  We do this to cut down on shock to the plants.

For this, I used approximately 1 tablespoon Mountain Flower Root Boost and 2 tablespoons Azomite in each hole before transplanting.  Prior to transplanting I did not add fertilizer to the bed.  You'll need to adjust your own garden accordingly

Gently squeeze the bottom of the cup/container to loosen soil and roots.

Do not pull on the stem to remove the seedling from the container.  I prefer to tip over in my hand and loosen the seedling from the base of the container

If you are transplanting seedlings in Coconut Coir Pellets, do not remove the outer mesh.  Transplant the entire pellet into the soil and cover completely.

Once you've placed the seedling in the hole, gently cover with soil and water very well.

All of our starter cups and containers are washed and re-used for our next planting.  You can use almost any recycled container to start seedlings.

Stay tuned for more info on growing your own food!
Thank you for joining us for another day of Grow Your Own Food in 100 Days or Less.  If you have additional questions please send an email to

Happy Planting!

Sign up for our E-Newsletter

Day 7: Hardening Off Seedlings Posted on 20 May 07:34 , 0 comments

Welcome to Day 7 of our series Grow Your Own Food in 100 days or Less at Mary's Heirloom Seeds!

These are the extra Heirloom Corn seedlings that didn't make it into our Mother's Day Garden

So far we have planted heirloom seeds in our raised bed, planned out our garden, watered our seeds and applied cayenne pepper to deter gophers.  If you start seeds indoors and plan to transplant seedling into the garden, it is important to harden off your seedlings.

No video today but we have pictures!

What does it mean to "Harden Off" seedlings?
From our article Hardening Off Seedlings before Transplanting

Hardening off gradually exposes the tender plants to wind, sun and rain and toughens them up by thickening the cuticle on the leaves so that the leaves lose less water. This helps prevent transplant shock; seedlings that languish, become stunted or die from sudden changes in temperature.

Hardening off times depend on the type of plants you are growing and the temperature and temperature fluctuations. So be flexible when hardening off your seedlings and be prepared to whisk them indoors if there's a late freeze and snow.

Jarrhadale Pumpkin Seedlings happily growing outside

If you're growing seedlings indoors, they might have been pampered all winter/spring.  Aside from the random cat attack or possibly too much watering, they have been relatively safe compared to the dangers that await them in the great outdoors.


This was taken at one of our school garden volunteer days
How to Harden Off Seedlings
Start by putting your seedlings outside 7-10 days prior to transplanting.  In the beginning, give them shelter and plenty of water.  You can strengthen stem of indoor seedling by adding a fan while they're indoor.  This will help to prepare them for windy days outside.

Start by leaving them outdoors for 3 - 4 hours and gradually increase the time spent outside by 1 - 2 hours per day.  Bring the plants back indoors, or somewhere warm like a heated garage or porch, each night.
If temperatures remain warm both day and night,  the plants should be able to handle the sun all day and stay out at night after about 7 days, Keep an eye out that the soil doesn't dry in their small pots and bake the plants if the weather should suddenly turn warmer.
If you've planted in Cococut Coir pellets, pay extra attention to moisture levels.  Coconut coir can dry out faster and might need to be watered daily when outdoors.
If you opt to gradually expose your plants to longer periods of time outdoors, the moving in and out process can be made easier by putting your plants on a wagon or wheelbarrow and simply wheel them into the garage for the night.
Hardening off is an important step is you choose to grow seedlings indoors.  It's a bit of work but can be worth it if you want to get a head start on planting if you live in cool/cold climates.
All of my seedling this year are grown outside on a covered patio.  That means I don't have to harden them off before transplanting. Unfortunately, we lost a few to earwigs.  Fortunately, I planned a head and planted more than I thought I would need so there are extras to make up for any eaten seedlings.

Thank you for joining us for another day of Grow Your Own Food in 100 Days or Less.  If you have additional questions please send an email to

Happy Planting!

Sign up for our E-Newsletter

Day 5-Basic Nutrient Requirements Posted on 17 May 13:24 , 0 comments

Welcome to Day 5 of our series Grow Your Own Food in 100 Days or Less.


Actually, we had germination of the Early Scarlet Globe radish on Day 4 (3 days to germinate) but I'm sharing the update today.  Here's our video update for the day.  Today topic is Basic Nutrient Requirements to Grow Veggies

Basic Nutrient Requirements to Grow Veggies

Well-balanced soil in the vegetable garden will contain a mix of several important nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  I call those the basics.  However, there are 12 essential nutrients that all plants require to grow.  Six of these are needed in larger amounts and are called macronutrients.  These include Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Calcium (K), Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg) and Sulfur (S).  The other six are called micronutrients and they are iron, copper, zinc, boron, manganese and molybdenum.  While these are considered minor, there is nothing unimportant about them.

From an older post "Feeding Your Plants"

What does each nutrient do? 
In addition to other properties, Nitrogen helps plant foliage to grow strong. Phosphorous helps roots and flowers grow and develop. Potassium (Potash) is important for overall plant health.

We've grown HUGE, organic zucchini using our own recipe for Liquid Fertilizer!

Liquid Fertilizers are favored by most gardeners, regardless of what they are growing. We use our own DIY Liquid Fertilizer mix.  Most liquid fertilizers can be applied as a foliar feeding directly to the leaves, hand applied to secondary roots, and included in the water supply of drip or other irrigation systems.

Aside from cost(and it is not that much), liquid fertilizers have almost no downside. They include all the macronutrients  and micronutrients needed for good growth. In addition, because they are in a water soluble state, they can easily be absorbed by the plant.

Here's our video for our DIY Organic Liquid Fertilizer recipe

What do the Macronutrients do for plants?

Nitrogen (N)
Nitrogen is the fuel that makes plants go. It’s used to synthesize amino acids, proteins, chlorophyll, nucleic acids, and enzymes. Plants need more nitrogen than any other element. It’s the nutrient we most often have to apply.  Compost and manure are "free" ways to add nitrogen to your soil

Phosphorus (P)
Phosphorus is the nutrient responsible for plant rooting, flowering and fruiting.  Bone meal is one form of Phosporus that can be added to your garden soil.

Potassium (K)
Potassium is important to plant growth and development. Potassium helps: Plants grow faster, Use water better and be more drought resistant, Fight off disease, Grow stronger and even Produce more crops

Calcium (Ca)
Calcium helps to retain and transport other nutrients by providing strength and structure through its cell walls.  Oyster Shell is an easy option to add to your soil to increase calcium

Magnesium (Mg)
Helps activate plants enzymes and part of chlorophyll and photosynthesis. Magnesium works in conjunction with calcium

Sulfur (S)

Sulfur is essential for the production of protein and chlorophyll.


A great "all-in-one" is our Mary's Organic Plant Food or our Vegan Plant Food. From there, you can choose any "extras" you'd like to add such as Endo-Mycorrhizae, Micronized Azomite or Mountain Flower Root Boost.

Thank you for joining us for another day of Grow Your Own Food in 100 Days or Less.  If you have additional questions please send an email to

Happy Planting!

Sign up for our E-Newsletter

Growing Sunflowers from Seed to Harvest Posted on 23 Mar 04:59 , 1 comment

Sunflowers add so much color to the garden.  They're so bright and beautiful, naturally attracting bird and beneficial pollinators.

An annual plant, sunflowers have big, daisy-like flower faces of bright yellow (or red) petals.

Sunflowers grow best in locations with full sun. They are hardy flowers and will grow in any kind of soil as long as it is not waterlogged.

Sunflower seeds, leaves and stems emit substances that inhibit the growth of certain other plants. They should be separated from potatoes and pole beans.

It’s best to sow sunflower seeds directly into the soil after the danger of spring frost is past. Ideally, the soil temperature has reached 55 to 60 degrees F.

Space seeds about 6 inches apart in a shallow trench and sow 1/4 inch to and 1 inch deep depending on the seed size.  Smaller seeds don't need to be planted very deep while larger seeds should be planted 1 inch deep.  Make rows about 30 inches apart. (For very small varieties, plant closer together.)

Cover and keep watered until seeds sprout in 7 to 10 days.  When first true leaves appear (the second set of leaves); thin plants to about 2 feet apart.


Feed plants sparingly; overfertilization can cause stems to break in the fall. You can add diluted fertilizer into the water, though avoid getting the fertilizer near the plant’s base; it may help to build a moat in a circle around the plant about 18 inches out.

Harvesting for flowers:

Cut stems early in the morning. Harvesting flowers during middle of the day may lead to flower wilting

Handle sunflowers gently. The flowers should last at least a week in water at room temperature

Harvesting for Seeds:

To harvest seeds, keep an eye out for ripeness. The back of the flower head will turn from green to yellow and the bracts will begin to dry and turn brown; this happens about 30 to 45 days after bloom and seed moisture is about 35%. Generally, when the head turns brown on the back, seeds are ready for harvest.

To protect the seeds from birds, you can cover the flowers with a light fabric (such as cheesecloth) and a rubber band.

Cut the head off the plant (about 4 inches below the flower head) and remove the seeds with your fingers or a fork.


I hope you have enjoyed another educational article.  If you have additional questions, please leave a comment below or send an email to

Sign up for our E-Newsletter

Grow MORE Spend Less Posted on 15 Mar 06:41 , 0 comments

We hope you have enjoyed all of the "growing" and plant spacing articles so far.  We are frugal people and I love a good DIY project in the garden that doesn't require spending a bunch of money.  A few examples from previous articles include Start A Bucket Garden or our videos about Using Manure in the Garden and Composting Basics with Mary.

So how do we Grow MORE and Spend Less?

As we mentioned above, recycling in the garden is a GREAT place to start.

-Food scraps and yard "waste" can be composted to use as "free" nutrients for your plants

-Recycled containers can be used for seed starting and growing

-If you have livestock or know someone with animals (rabbit, chicken, goat, cow, pig, horse, alpaca) then you might ask them for their manure.  Rabbit manure can be used immediately but the rest should be composted for 3-12 months depending on the animal.

-Collect & save water. Rain water, grey water systems and "shower buckets" are great ways to save


99 Cent Seed packs to help you grow more!

Our unique selection of sale seeds and every-day 99 cent packs are another great way to grow more and save.  Some of these varieties will grow large, delicious veggies.

Black Beauty Zucchini

We don't always let them grow this large but these were great as zoodles.  Some of these are over 14 inches long


Hubbard Blue Squash

From a single seed we grew several Hubbard Blue Squash.  This one was 16 1/2 pounds


Japanese Giant Red Mustard

This truly lives up to it's name as a giant mustard green.  It's a bit spicy but delicious!


Red Mammoth Mangel Beet

The smaller beet on the left is an early Wonder heirloom beet and on the right is Red Mammoth Mangel beet. The Red Mammoth Mangel Beet is known as a "fodder beet" and was picked small at only 3 1/8 lb
Fodder beets have been around since the 1400s if not earlier. These beets were prized as nutritious animal feed that was easy to store. Fodder beets are hardy, adaptable and palatable. They are ideal for planting in late summer for use as a winter and spring crop.
Red Mammoth Mangel Beets produce an incredible mass of edible beet leaves and a large root up to 20 pounds or more in size


NJ Wakefield Cabbage is another great option as each pack contains 200 seeds for only 99 Cents!


The outer leaves of the Swiss Chard can be harvested as needed and it will continue to produce.  We have had plants that lasted for a year so you can see why Swiss Chard made the list



Homegrown heirloom tomatoes are so flavorful.  There are so many unique varieties to choose from that you cannot purchase from the store


These are just a few example of how to grow more & spend less.


I hope you have enjoyed another educational article.  If you have additional questions, please leave a comment below or send an email to

Sign up for our E-Newsletter

GIVE PEAS A CHANCE Posted on 2 Feb 05:51 , 0 comments

Mary's Heirloom Seeds Newsletter
Give PEAS A Chance

Seed Combo Packs
 Like us on Facebook  Follow us on Twitter 
SPRING is almost here and we can feel it!
have you enjoyed our planting tutorials so far?

As a bonus this weekend, we've added a few of our
Heirloom Pea seeds to our
99 Cent Seed Pack Collection

If you have additional questions we're happy to help!
Give PEAS A Chance!
 From our blog
Most PEAS are a cool weather crop.  Sweet Peas (garden peas), Snap Peas and Snow Peas are cool weather crops.  Southern Peas are heat tolerant and grow well in HOT climates. 
PEAS, in my opinion, are one of the most under rated crops.  
-They are SO EASY to grow
-Seed saving is simple
-High Yield Crops in smaller spaces
-Some varieties are more pest resistant than others


Are you ready to grow PEAS?
From the Old Farmer's Almanac
  • To get the best head start, turn over your pea planting beds in the fall, add manure to the soil, and mulch well.
  • As with other legumes, pea roots will fix nitrogen in the soil, making it available for other plants.
  • Peas will appreciate a good sprinkling of wood ashes to the soil before planting.
  • Sow seeds outdoors 4 to 6 weeks before last spring frost, when soil temperatures reach 45 degrees F.
  • Plant 1 inch deep (deeper if soil is dry) and 2 inches apart.
  • Get them in the ground while the soil is still cool but do not have them sit too long in wet soil. It's a delicate balance of proper timing and weather conditions. For soil that stays wet longer, invest in raised beds.
  • A blanket of snow won't hurt emerging pea plants, but several days with temperatures in the teens could. Be prepared to plant again.
  • Peas are best grown in temperatures below 70 degrees F.

Wondering WHEN to plant peas in your area?   
See Mary's 2018 Planting Guide for your region-specific planting info


Intercrop peas with fast-growing cool-season crops such as spinach or radishes. After final harvest, follow with late squash plantings or fall-harvested cool-season crops such as broccoli, leeks or potatoes. 
Sow fall crops about 8 to 10 weeks before first frost date. Fall crops can be disappointing if hot weather persists. Powdery-mildew-resistant varieties are best for fall crops.

Do not use high-nitrogen fertilizers. Too much nitrogen will result in lush foliage but poor flowering and fruiting. Inoculation with Mycorrhizae may be beneficial if peas have not been grown in the past.

Do not plant peas in the same place more than once in every 4 years. Avoid planting where in places where peas have suffered before from root rot. 

Peas:  Plant with Beans, carrot, corn, cucumber, radish, turnips, SAGE, spinach, mint and potatoes.  Avoid planting with Onions and Garlic.


From Mother Earth News 
To avoid mangling the vines, use two hands to harvest peas. When green peas are ripe, harvest them daily, preferably in the morning. Pick snow peas when the pods reach full size and the peas inside are just beginning to swell. For best flavor and yields, allow snap peas to change from flat to plump before picking them. Gather sweet green shell peas when the pods begin to show a waxy sheen, but before their color fades.  

Immediately refrigerate picked peas to stop the conversion of sugar to starches and maintain the peas' crisp texture. Promptly blanch and freeze your extra peas.
If you have additional questions please feel free to ask.  We are happy to help!
The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest her or his patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.
Thomas A. Edison 

 "The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway."
Michael Pollan 

Mary's Heirloom Seeds, P. O. Box 3763, Ramona, CA 92065


Growing Pak Choy Cabbage from Seed to Harvest Posted on 11 Jan 16:39 , 0 comments

There are so many unique varieties of heirloom cabbage to grow in your garden.  Pak Choy is one of our favorite varieties of Chinese cabbage.



From our article Growing Cabbage from Seed to Harvest

"Chinese cabbage, often called Chinese leaves in supermarkets are the odd one out in the cabbage family. They look more like a cos lettuce than a cabbage for starters.

The cultivation method is completely different than conventional cabbage as well, they do not like root disturbance and usually would be sown in situ rather than being transplanted.

Cultivation of Chinese Cabbage

Like the other brassicas they like a rich soil with a high pH - neutral at least..

Sow about 3 or 4 seeds at 30cm spacing each way, usually in May although some fast growing varieties can go in as late as early August and thin to the strongest seedling. Harvest is from late September to min-November."  Allotment Vegetable Growing


Cabbage is best grown in a temperate climate, and should be planted in an open and sunny spot that can either be in full sun or partial shade.

Soil Conditions

Most types of cabbage require a well-draining, light - medium soil with a neutral pH of about 6.5 - 7.0.

When growing cabbage, the soil should be prepared well in advance, especially if you are enriching the soil with organic matter. If you are sowing the cabbage seeds in spring, prepare the soil in autumn by digging in plenty of well-rotted compost or manure.


Planting Seeds

Sow the seeds at 1/4 - ½ inch deep.  If you are direct sowing, leave 6 inches between rows. When seedlings reach a height 4 - 6 inches and have 5 or 6 true leaves, they will be ready to transplant.

It is best to water in the evening, the day before you are due to transplant, and then plant the seedlings 12-18 inches apart for spring cabbage. Allow approximately 1 foot between rows. Make sure that you firm down the soil around the plants.

Hoe around the plants to remove all weeds and apply a mulch to suppress weeds from appearing. Mulch will also retain moisture, which is extremely important during the hot weather. The cabbage plants must not be allowed to dry out, as it will affect their growth. 



Practice crop rotation with cabbage year to year to avoid a buildup of soil borne diseases.

Although cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are closely related, and require similar nutrients, it’s best not to plant them together. They are all heavy feeders, depleting the soil faster of required nutrients; plus, they will attract the same pests and diseases.


Companion Plants for Cabbage

Celery, dill, onions and potatoes are good companion plants. Celery improves growth and health. Clover interplanted with cabbage has been shown to reduce the native cabbage aphid and cabbageworm populations by interfering with the colonization of the pests and increasing the number of predatory ground beetles. Plant Chamomile with cabbage as it Improves growth and flavor. Cabbage does not get along with strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, rue, grapes, lettuce and pole beans.


Organic Pest Control for Cabbage

DIY Organic Pest Control Recipes

Diatomaceous Earth is one option. No preparations necessary!   DE kills aphids, white flies, beetles, loopers, mites, snails, slugs, leaf hoppers, and harmful pests. Use DE inside your greenhouse or outdoors on fruits, vegetables, flowers, grains and grass. Apply Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth up to and including day of harvest. Check out Using Diatomaceous Earth for Non-Toxic, Natural Pest control 


Harvesting Cabbage is easy.  Simply lift the whole vegetable from the ground with a garden fork or spade, or cut the stem, just above the lowest leaves of the plant.

I hope you have enjoyed another educational article.  If you have additional questions, please leave a comment below or send an email to

Sign up for our E-Newsletter

How to Grow Luffa from Seed Posted on 10 Jan 18:28 , 3 comments

You've probably heard of a luffa sponge and you might have even used them.  Did you know that a luffa sponge is actually a gourd?  Luffa is one of our favorite crops to grow.


What is a Luffa?

Luffa (Luffa aegyptiaca and Luffa acutangula), also known as loofah, vegetable sponge or dishcloth gourds, are grown mainly for their useful fibrous tissue skeleton. Young fruits can be eaten as squash, used in stews or even used in place of cucumbers.

Growing luffa is really fun but it definitely takes patience. Luffa is cold sensitive and takes a long time to mature into a dried sponge.  From seed, Luffa takes 120-200 days to fully mature.


Growing Luffa from Seed

Soak Luffa seeds for 24 hours before planting.

Sow luffa seeds 8 to 12 inches apart along a fence as soon as the ground is warm enough to work and all danger of frost has passed in spring.

In more northern areas of the country most gardeners start seeds in pots (at least 4", but 5" or 6" are even better, so roots can expand) inside a few weeks before planting time and then transplant them outdoors once the weather is warm and settled.

Luffa vines can grow to around 30 feet long and need a strong trellis to grow on so be prepared to give them a sturdy support such as a fence or trellis.


Taking Care of Luffa Plants

Increase your success at germination by starting your seeds in coconut coir.

When the weather is right (warm soil and air) start hardening off your seedlings.  This is more important than with most other plants because Luffa are so prone to transplant shock.

After a week or so of hardening off, plant your seedlings in an area that gets FULL sun.

Keep the Luffa watered.  During summer, I water daily.

Feed your luffa plants every 4 to 6 weeks with a diluted liquid fertilizer or compost tea.



Harvesting Luffa

The very first fruits that appear on the vine should be allowed to mature into sponges.

Luffa sponges are mature and ready to pick when the green skin has turned dark yellow or brown and starts to separate from the fiber inside, and the fruit feels lightweight. Leave fruit hanging on the vine as long as possible for maximum sponge fiber development, but be sure to pick and peel the fruit immediately if they get hit by frost.

First, peel off the tough outer skin: If it is already cracked you can pull it off in pieces, if it is intact try squashing the fruit gently until cracks appear and then extending the cracks by squeezing the fruit and pulling at the torn edges of the skin with your thumbs. If the skin is very dry, soaking the fruit in water for a few minutes may make it easier to dislodge the skin. 

Once the skin has been removed, shake out the seeds.  Next, wash the sap out of the sponge with a strong jet of water or in a bucket of water with a little dishwashing.

Finally, dry the washed sponges in the sun, turning them frequently, until completely dry. Store in a cloth bag to prevent them from getting dusty and they will keep for years.


I hope you have enjoyed another educational article.  If you have additional questions, please leave a comment below or send an email to

Sign up for our E-Newsletter