We've shared about Using Coconut Coir in the Garden here in several articles but we've had quite a bit of questions. Today we're going a bit more in-depth.
First, Why do we use Coconut Coir instead of Peat?
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.
Unlike peat moss, which is highly acidic, coconut coir has a neutral pH level. Most garden vegetables and flowers grow best in neutral to slightly alkaline conditions. When you use peat to amend a garden bed, an addition of agricultural lime is often necessary to combat the higher acidity. With coconut coir, limestone isn't necessary unless the soil naturally has a higher pH level. Coir use results in both a monetary and a labor savings, since you don't need to purchase further pH amendments nor work them into the soil.
-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.
-Peat moss, which coir replaces as a soil amendment, takes centuries to regrow once harvested. Coir is completely sustainable since it is a natural byproduct of coconut harvests, and coconut trees produce new coconuts every year. Using the coir in the garden keeps it out of the landfill where it would otherwise go. Coir can take a century or longer to fully break down in these landfills, so it's more sustainable to use it to improve your garden soil.
Step 1: Take out your Coconut Coir Pellets. I like to use a large tray
Step 2: Add water to tray and Coconut Coir Pellets. Using warm water might help them "grow" faster.
Step 3: Add seeds to the hole and gently cover or "squish" coconut coir.
Step 4: Place in a warm sunny place and keep moist. This is where the real growing happens!
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.
MOLD or ROTTING
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.
Take the entire pellet and plant into the garden. For healthier root growth and to give plants a boost, I add a tablespoon of Azomite into each hole and mix into the dirt before transplanting the coconut coir pellet with growing seedling. I also water with a diluted version of our DIY Kelp Meal Tea when I transplant to help with shock.
We hope you have enjoyed our in-depth article about Seed Starting with Coconut Coir. If you have additional questions, feel free to comment below or send an email to email@example.com
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I've shared previous "best of" articles from Mary's Heirloom Seeds such as Mary's Top 10 with Companions and Heat Tolerant Veggies.
But how about homesteaders? Some of you, myself included, are growing to become more self-sufficient. We're also working on a soil-prep article so stay tuned for that
What are the Best Veggies for Homestead Gardens?
I'm starting with Radish because it's one of the first crops to mature in our garden. As long as your soil has balanced organic matter, Radish is an easy crop to grow and usually pest resistant. The Early Scarlet Globe Radish is heat tolerant and matures in as little as 22 days. The German Giant Radish matures in as little as 29 days and can be harvested small and early or let them grow as large as a tennis ball (no joke. I've done it)
If you're looking for a good dual-purpose crop, Beans are your go-to homestead crop. Some varieties can be picked early as a snap bean or left on the plant to mature for a nice dry bean (for soups, etc).
While it's listed as a GREEN on our site, we're separating Swiss Chard from lettuce because it's a MUST on our homestead.
-We use Swiss Chard fresh in our salads
-We give some away for my sister's goats and chickens
-We sautee swiss chard with garlic and onions as a meal or snack AND use sauteed swiss chard in crustless quiche. YUM!!!
Here's another dual purpose for your homestead. Glass Gem corn for example is a great popping corn and can also be ground to make cornmeal. Floriani Red Flint Corn is a very unique, strong variety for cornmeal. Blue Clarage Dent Corn can be picked and eaten in the earlier stages or grown longer to use as a cornmeal OR chicken treat. Sweet Corn varieties can be used right away, frozen or canned. So many possibilities!
Even the pickiest of eaters might enjoy a nice beet green salad. We grow beets almost year round here on our homestead. The tops make a great salad. Beets can be eaten fresh, roasted or canned. Most Beets mature in 50-60 days, and are somewhat pest resistant. Even if bugs eat the tops, the bulb usually survives. Detroit Dark Red, Chioggio and Golden Beets have been our best producers so far. The Early Wonder is a great early maturing variety.
Onions take about 5 – 8 months to mature from the time the seeds are planted, so you’ll want to begin them early in January or February. If you are in an area that gets frost in winter, plant them indoors in pots or in a greenhouse to give them protection. Bunching onions are a faster maturing option.
Determinate VS. Indeterminate Tomatoes
Determinate varieties of tomatoes, also called "bush" tomatoes, are varieties that are bred to grow to a compact height (approx. 4 feet). They stop growing when fruit sets on the terminal or top bud, ripen all their crop at or near the same time (usually over a 2 week period).
Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes are also called "vining" tomatoes. They will grow and produce fruit until killed by frost and can reach heights of up to 10 feet although 6 feet is considered the norm. They will bloom, set new fruit and ripen fruit all at the same time throughout the growing season.
HOT peppers are tougher to pick. We grow as much as possible for hot sauce, pickling and our Organic bug spray.
Corbaci is a new, mild-hot pepper that we're growing this year.
Ghost Peppers are the hottest pepper we carry and they are not to be taken lightly. They can cause severe reactions/discomfort if you're not careful.
Summer squash are usually a faster maturing option. Summer Squash take longer to mature but usually store for longer than summer varieties. Squash is a great addition to your homestead garden since they are heavy-producers and make seed saving a bit easier IF you are mindful of cross-pollination. Black Beauty Zucchini and Golden Crookneck are our homestead favorites. Spaghetti Squash and Butternut Squash are Winter Squash favorites.
Give Peas a chance! But first, decide what type of pea you'd like. Southern Peas, also called Crowder Peas are not your garden variety peas. Southern Peas are used like you would a dry bean. Our homestead favorite is the Whippoorwill Southern Pea. Then you have Garden Peas, also called Shelling Peas, and these are great for canning and soups. Sugar, Snow and Snap Peas are useful for homesteaders as well.
There are so many unique veggies available, too many to list in a single article. We've gone over a few of our favorites. We'd love to hear from YOU about your favorite homestead crops.
Does the thought of sweet and Juicy summertime Watermelon get your mouth watering? We love watermelon! Mary's Heirloom Seeds offers several varieties of Watermelon.
Planting Watermelon Seeds
If you have a short growing season or want to get a head start, plant watermelon seeds indoors in individual containers or pots. We recommend using coconut coir pellets, which can be planted directly in the garden with minimal transplant shock. Plant one to two seeds per pot.
Sow watermelon seeds in hills or rows. For regular watermelons, sow three to four seeds per hill, spacing the hills eight to ten feet apart. Space the rows ten feet apart or more, if you have room. Thin watermelon seedlings in each hill, to two seedlings one week after they have germinated. When planting in rows, space the seeds four to six inches apart and thin seedlings to ten to twelve inches apart. For bush varieties, final spacing can be cut in half or even more if you are tight for space.
Days to Germinate: 3-5 days
Days to Harvest: 65-85 days
Growing Conditions for Watermelon
Watermelon prefers full sun for healthy, strong vines.
Companion plants for Watermelon
Planting corn with your watermelon will provide shade for the plants during the hottest time of the day. Allow about a foot between the corn plants so the watermelon plants still receive enough sun. Young melon plants are susceptible to insect invasion, especially cucumber beetles. Once the plants mature, they can tolerate some leaf loss due to insects, but keeping companion plants nearby helps control swarms of pests. Cass County Master Gardeners recommend marigold, oregano and nasturtium as companion plants for melons. Diatomaceous Earth is a great organic tool to kill and deter pests. Fertilize Watermelon as the vines begin to spread out and then again in a month. Use Mary's Organic Plant food and Organic Alfalfa Meal Tea for all-around, organic nutrients.
, Dr. Bill Rhodes, professor of horticulture at Clemson University, offers the following advice on how to tell if watermelons are ripe:
- Thump it. If the watermelon sounds hollow, it's ripe.
- Look at the color on the top. The watermelon is ripe when there is little contrast between the stripes.
- Look at the color on the bottom. A green watermelon will have a white bottom; a ripe melon will have a cream- or yellow-colored bottom.
- Press on it. If the watermelon sounds like it gives a little, it's ripe. (Rhodes doesn't like this method because it can ruin the quality of the fruit.)
- Check the tendril. If it's green, wait. If it’s half-dead, the watermelon is nearly ripe or ripe. If the tendril is fully dead, it's ripe or overripe; it’s not going to get any riper, so you might as well pick!
- Stems should be cut with a sharp knife close to the fruit.
- Watermelons can be stored uncut for about 10 days. If cut, they can last in the refrigerator for about 4 days. Wrap tightly in plastic.
Garden Huckleberries produce fruit the first year which is why they are a great berry to try in your home garden.
I grow everything from seed! It's not that difficult and that way I know exactly what I'm getting from start to finish. All of the seeds I plant (from Mary's Heirloom Seeds) are untreated, organic, non-gmo heirloom seeds.
Starting Garden Huckleberry from Seed Plant seeds in moist soil and cover with approx 1/4 inch of soil. Seeds should germinate within 2 weeks. Seedlings should receive at least five hours of sun every day. I start seeds in my laundry room where I have large windows and plenty of space. Once the seedlings grow about 2 inches tall they will be transplanted to large pots.
Growing Conditions for Garden Huckleberry Garden Huckleberries like rich soil and partial shade. Adding compost or chicken manure will increase the plant yield. I plant my Huckleberry when I plant my tomatoes and fertilize the same as well. Growing Huckleberries are very easy and not much bothers the plant. The plants have some cold tolerance and fruit may continue to ripen after light frosts.
|Plants should be bushy. This one needed more fertilizer or compost.
Green fruit are mildly poisonous, just like potato leaves or green potatoes. The fruits do not taste like much when picked, sometimes they can can be bitter. A pleasing berry taste does come through surprising well when it is cooked with sugar. It can be used as a viable substitute for blueberries in pies, jams and syrup.
|Small basket of berries from 1 bush
Pests This year I have found several tomato hornworms on my huckleberry plants. I recommend planting Borage (an edible herb) around your Tomatoes AND Huckleberry plants to deter hornworms.
Diatomaceous Earth will help with any aphid issues you might have in the garden.
|THESE are Tomato Hornworms and they get even bigger!
Garden huckleberry can be mistaken for deadly nightshade, which is poisonous, so make sure of its identity before eating. I grow mine from a trusted seed source. • Garden huckleberry's self-sown seedlings will provide you with new plants. Pull out all unwanted seedlings each year or they'll be everywhere.
Harvesting Garden Huckleberries Pick the berries when they are no longer shiny; ripe berries are usually a dull black or blue-black. Cook the fully ripe berries before eating; they may need a pinch of baking soda to remove bitterness. Add sugar to taste and some freshly grated lemon zest and lemon juice to brighten the flavor.
You can purchase heirloom Garden Huckleberry seeds
Although the Cauliflower
is part of the Cabbage family, Cauliflower usually require more
attention. Cauliflower takes up quite a bit of space in the garden.
are a cool weather crop. Hot temperatures can reduce head development.
In summer you can cover the head with the plants leaves.
growing Cauliflower, 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. The soil should
have been dug deep. Cauliflower grows well in loamy, well drained soils.
the seeds at 1/4-1/2 inch deep. About 6 weeks after sowing the seedlings
they should be ready to harden off before planting out. Harden the
seedlings off a week before planting out by gradually increasing the
amount of time the plants are left outside and the amount of sun the
Companions for Cauliflower
Peas, beans, celery, oregano
(Peas and beans help fix nitrogen to supply to cauliflowers)
Do not plant cauliflower around Nasturtium, potato, strawberry and tomatoes
My favorite cauliflower recipe:
"In the Garden" Recipes
DIATOMACEOUS EARTH (DE)
BONUS...Since I made a mistake in the original email, I am EXTENDING THE OFFERS thru JANUARY 10TH (not December! OOPS)
Oops! Didn't mean to send 2 emails in one day.
THIS was supposed to go out this morning...
It's been an amazing year at Mary's Heirloom Seeds
. We've added so many new, rare heirloom seed varieties and had so much fun sharing new growing tips and articles.
YOU have made this year even more special.
Now we have a special gift from Mary
(Yes, there really is a Mary)
I'm giving away more seeds and organic plant food than ever before.
Every single order between NOW and January 10, 2017 will be entered into a drawing for a $25 SHOPPING SPREE at
We will choose TWO different winners
BONUS, we have a bunch of free goodies to offer NOW thru *January 10*
FREE *extra* SEEDS with all orders over $10
3 FREE *extra* SEED PACKS on all orders over $50
**Shopping spree offer available for US residents and is applicable to all seeds currently available at Mary's Heirloom Seeds. No rain checks**
NEW SEEDS added this month:
NEW HEIRLOOM SEEDS ADDED TODAY
HEIRLOOM PEPPER SEEDS
NEW Necklaces added over the weekend
VAN GOGH "STARRY NIGHT"