Harvest to Table https://harvesttotable.com A practical guide to food in the garden and market. Sun, 21 Jan 2018 05:27:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 58211366 How to Make a New Garden Planting Bed https://harvesttotable.com/how-to-make-a-new-garden-planting-bed/ https://harvesttotable.com/how-to-make-a-new-garden-planting-bed/#respond Sun, 21 Jan 2018 05:27:14 +0000 https://harvesttotable.com/?p=65897 A garden planting bed is the home to your vegetables, herbs, and flowers. You want a planting bed in which plants will thrive and you want a planting bed that is easy to make and easy to maintain. Making a new garden planting bed should be a one-time investment in sweat equity. Once a new...

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New Planting Bed

If you give due consideration to location, size, and preparation, the bed should serve you for many years.

A garden planting bed is the home to your vegetables, herbs, and flowers. You want a planting bed in which plants will thrive and you want a planting bed that is easy to make and easy to maintain.

Making a new garden planting bed should be a one-time investment in sweat equity.

Once a new bed is made, if you feed the soil–which in turn will feed your plants, the new bed in short order will become an established bed that will be productive for many years.

Your labor to get the bed established will pay harvest dividends for years to come.

10-step plan to make a new garden planting bed:

1. Measure the area you have available to plant a garden. Use graph paper to conceptualize your garden beds before you make them.

2. Make sure the site you choose for each bed gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sun each day. Make sure that building and tree shadows do not fall across the bed. Be sure the bed is not in the path of steady or prevailing winds. Make sure the area is well drained and that water does not stand on the ground after a rain. Locate the bed close to a hose bib or water source. Locate the bed as close to the house or garden shed as possible.

3. A planting bed should be no wider than the reach of your arm to the center of the bed; this will allow you to work the middle of the bed from either side without standing on cultivated soil. If your bed can be worked from only one side, then its width should be the length of your arm from the edge of the bed to the back of the bed. Most beds should not be more than 48 inches (1.2 m) wide.

4. The length of the bed should not be longer than you want to walk from one side of the bed to the other. If the bed is too long it may be difficult to lug tools, soil amendments, and hoses to the other side. Don’t make the bed so long that you are tempted to jump across it. Again you do not want to step into a cultivated bed.

5. Use wooden or metal stakes as corner markers of the bed. Drive a stake into each corner. Tie garden twine to each stake and check to make sure that each corner is squared.

6. Leave room for a path all around the outside of the planting bed. If you are using a wheelbarrow or garden cart, a path about 72 inches (1.8 m) wide should be wide enough to maneuver the cart. Make the path a least wide enough for you to turn around in comfortably and to set down a basket at harvest time. The path can be scraped bare soil, grass, groundcover bark, stepping stones, or wooden planks. A garden planting bed should be easy to work in all weathers; make sure the path material is suitable for all weathers.

7. A planting bed can be a ground level bed, a mounded bed, or a raised bed. The soil in a mounded or raised bed will warm more quickly in spring and will be well drained. A mounded or raised bed should be at least 4 to 6 inches higher than the surrounding ground. You will need to move garden soil from the paths into the beds or bring soil and planting mix to the raised or mounded bed.

8. If the ground has never been used as a planting bed before, clear away all sod and grass, weeds, rocks and stones. Make sure there are no hidden utility lines beneath the bed.

9. Turn the soil to a depth of a shovel blade—12 inches—and remove any pebbles or rock and old roots. If the soil is heavy with clay, you may want to double-dig the bed to a depth of 24 inches—two shovel blades deep. Pulverize dirt clods, add the compost or planting mix, and rake the bed smooth.

10. Once the planting bed is established you will never deep dig or step into the bed again.You will simply add aged compost and planting amendments across the top of the bed to feed the soil. A good plan is to feed the soil at least twice a year by adding 2 to 3 inches of organic planting mix or a combination of aged steer manure and aged compost.

More tips: How to Prepare an Established Planting Bed for the New Season and Soil: Making the Kitchen Garden.

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10 Things to Know About Vegetable Garden Planning https://harvesttotable.com/10-things-to-know-about-vegetable-garden-planning/ https://harvesttotable.com/10-things-to-know-about-vegetable-garden-planning/#respond Tue, 16 Jan 2018 05:27:51 +0000 https://harvesttotable.com/?p=65914 Growing a vegetable garden is not difficult. If you haven’t grown a vegetable garden before here are ten things you should know as you prepare for the growing season. If you are an experienced gardener, review these tips then pass them along to a neighbor or friend. You can grow vegetables year round no matter...

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Plan a Vegetable Garden

You can start your vegetable garden any time of the year.

Growing a vegetable garden is not difficult. If you haven’t grown a vegetable garden before here are ten things you should know as you prepare for the growing season. If you are an experienced gardener, review these tips then pass them along to a neighbor or friend.

You can grow vegetables year round no matter where you live. And you can start your growing any time of the year. The articles included in this round-up will help you get growing at whatever level of experience you have.

Here are tips to get your vegetable garden growing.

1.  How to Start a Vegetable Garden: Get a good start by visiting nearby vegetable gardens. Make a list of the vegetables you and your family eat. Start growing these crops first. Here’s more: How to Start a Vegetable Garden.

2. Types of Vegetables: There are two basic types of vegetables to grow: cool-season crops and warm-season crops. Cool-season crops are leafy crops for salads and root crops for stews, soups, and munching. Warm-weather crops are fruiting crops—tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans, melons, and squash. You have to plant each crop at the right time of the year. Here’s more Cool-Season and Warm-Season Crops and Vegetables in the Right Season.

3. Growing Season: Know the average date of the last frost in spring and the first frost in autumn. The time in between is the natural growing season. If you grow before the last frost or after the first frost you have to protect most vegetables from the weather. Protecting crops from harmful weather is called season extension—you are extending the natural growing season. You can find the dates of the average first and last frost online—check weather sites, or from the cooperative extension or master gardener group near you. Learn more: Average Date of the Last Frost and Days in the Growing Season.

4. Seed Starting: There are two ways to start growing your vegetable garden: from seeds or from transplants. Some vegetables are easily started from seeds planted directly in the garden; others are best started indoors under optimal conditions you can’t always get outdoors. If you grow from transplants you can start seed in your own kitchen or buy seedlings at the garden center that were started by a grower. More tips on seed starting: Seed-Starting in Three Steps and Seed Starting Schedule for Next Season. Want seed starting tips for specific crops: go to Seed Starting Specific Crops in the Index then scroll down to find the crop you are growing: you will find a seed starting calendar for each crop as well as seed starting tips.

5. How to Grow: Each vegetable crop you grow has preferences—site, sun, soil, planting requirements, watering, and feeding requirements. You can’t go wrong if you give vegetables 8 hours of sun each day, grow in compost-rich soil, keep the soil just moist and feed plants organically—more aged compost will do it. Want to know exactly what the crop you are growing needs? Check out the How to Grow profiles in the How to Grow index.

6. Soil: True garden wisdom says: Don’t plant a 5 dollar plant in 50 cent hole; plant a 50 cent plant in a 5 dollar hole. That means plant in great soil. All of the nutrients and moisture plants require for a generous and flavorful harvest come from the soil. Organic gardeners say: feed the soil, not the plant. If you feed the soil, you will feed the plant. More good soil tips at: Soil: Making the Kitchen Garden and Organic Fertilizers and Soil Amendments.

7. Watering and Feeding: Just about all of the nutrients vegetables require to reach harvest are delivered through the plant’s water conducting capillary system. Plant nutrients come from the soil and are carried throughout the plant by water. Add aged nutrient-rich compost to the soil and the soil will be both well-drained and moisture retentive. Keep nutrient rich soil moist and you will naturally feed your plants. More tips at: Vegetable Watering Tips and Vegetable Critical Watering Times. Also Fertilizer Side-Dressing Vegetable Crops.

8. Pests, Diseases, and Problems: Into nearly every garden sometimes a pest, disease, or environmental related problem will venture. Do not panic; it’s par for the course and you can often curb pests, diseases, or other problems before they spread from a single plant to the whole garden. If you visit your garden every other day or so, you will be able to nip problems in the bud. Check out the Pests and Diseases topic index (more than 50 helpful articles). See also Common Vegetable Garden Problems: Cures and Controls. And the Vegetable Pest Problem Solver and the Vegetable Disease Problem Solver.

9. When to Harvest: The most flavorful vegetables are harvested at or before the peak of maturity. When you plant make a note in your calendar of the crop and its days to maturity, also count the days ahead mark the harvest date on your calendar. Harvest when the crop is nearly mature—you will be amazed at the flavor. Want helpful harvest tips for each crop: type in the search box above How to Harvest and Store plus the name of the crop, e.g. How to Harvest and Store Tomatoes. Also check out Vegetable Harvest Times: When to Pick.

10. Season Extension: Season extension means growing vegetables outside of the natural growing season. Starting seeds indoors in early spring before the soil and weather are warm is one way to extend the season. Keeping crops growing after the first frost and through the winter is another way. That means you can extend the season both early and late. Season extenders to keep crops warm in chilly weather include row covers, plastic tunnels, and coldframes. Read up on season extension: Vegetables to Seed Start Indoors and Extending the Season How to Get More Time Out of Your Vegetable Garden and Plastic Tunnels for Growing Vegetables. If you live where summer are very hot, you can extend the season with shadecloth: see Hoop Tunnels to Shade Vegetables and Dry Vegetable Gardening.

Want more tips on growing all-year long? Check out the Almanac section in the topics index, look up each month in the index or check out the Vegetable Garden 12 Month To-Do Calendar.

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Nature Planting Signals for Vegetables: Phenology https://harvesttotable.com/nature-planting-signals-for-vegetables-phenology/ https://harvesttotable.com/nature-planting-signals-for-vegetables-phenology/#respond Sun, 14 Jan 2018 04:31:59 +0000 https://harvesttotable.com/?p=65905 The flowering of trees, shrubs, and perennial plants is determined by day length and temperature (this also applies to the lifecycle of insects and animals. You can use the bloom time of shrubs and trees to tell you when it is safe to plant vegetables in the garden. Look at blooming trees and shrubs in...

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Planting Phenology

Planting Phenology: Bloom time of the common lilac is one of the most common garden planting indicators.

The flowering of trees, shrubs, and perennial plants is determined by day length and temperature (this also applies to the lifecycle of insects and animals.

You can use the bloom time of shrubs and trees to tell you when it is safe to plant vegetables in the garden. Look at blooming trees and shrubs in your garden or neighborhood as indicators of when it is safe to plant vegetables directly in the garden.

Keep a record of weather conditions in your garden. Note when trees and shrubs leaf out and bloom—record the date and soil temperature (leaf and bloom times are triggered by soil and air temperature). Do this for 3 or 4 years and you can make your own nature planting signals calendar for your garden.

The study of regular events in the lives of plant, animals, and insects is called phenology (from Greek words meaning “science of appearances.”) Plant and animal life cycles are predictors of reoccurring events in nature.

Here is the lilac planting calendar for the vegetable garden:

  • Lilac begins to leaf out: direct sow seed of cool-weather vegetables such as peas, lettuce, and spinach; direct sow cold-tolerant herbs such as parsley and chervil; direct sow hardy annual such as calendula and sweet alyssum.
  • Lilac flower spike is in full bloom: direct sow seed of basil, corn, and tomatoes; direct sow marigolds and geraniums.

Nature Cycles and Vegetable Garden Planting

Here are shrub and tree bloom times that can be used to signal vegetable seed sowing in your garden:

  • Green Bean: direct sow when lilacs bloom.
  • Broad Bean: direct sow when flowering quince, saucer magnolia, grape hyacinth, narcissus in full bloom.
  • Beet: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Broccoli: direct sow when flowering quince, saucer magnolia, grape hyacinth, narcissus in full bloom.
  • Brussels Sprouts: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Carrot: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Cauliflower: direct sow when flowering quince, saucer magnolia, grape hyacinth, narcissus in full bloom.
  • Celeriac: direct sow when flowering quince, saucer magnolia, grape hyacinth, narcissus in full bloom.
  • Celery: direct sow when flowering quince, saucer magnolia, grape hyacinth, narcissus in full bloom.
  • Chervil: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Corn: direct sow when redbuds, flowering dogwoods, flowering crabapple in bloom and lilacs are in full bloom.
  • Corn Salad: direct sow when flowering quince, saucer magnolia, grape hyacinth, narcissus in full bloom.
  • Cucumber: direct sow when redbuds, flowering dogwoods, flowering crabapple in bloom and lilacs are in full bloom.
  • Endive and Escarole: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Eggplant: set out plants when peony, black locust, and goldenchain tree in full bloom.
  • Florence Fennel: direct sow when flowering quince, saucer magnolia, grape hyacinth, narcissus in full bloom.
  • Kohlrabi: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Leek: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
    Lettuce: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Lima Bean, bush: direct sow when Chinese wisteria blooms.
  • Lima Bean, pole: set out plants when peony, black locust, and goldenchain tree in full bloom.
  • Melon: direct sow when redbuds, flowering dogwoods, flowering crabapple in bloom and lilacs are in full bloom.
  • New Zealand Spinach: direct sow when Chinese wisteria blooms.
  • Okra: set out plants when peony, black locust, and goldenchain tree in full bloom.
  • Parsley: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Parsnip: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Pea: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Peppers: set out plants when peony, black locust, and goldenchain tree in full bloom.
  • Onion (sets, seed): direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Potato: plant when daffodils and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Pumpkin: direct sow when redbuds, flowering dogwoods, flowering crabapple in bloom and lilacs are in full bloom.
  • Radish: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Salsify: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Soybean: direct sow when Chinese wisteria in bloom.
  • Spinach: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Squash: direct sow when redbuds, flowering dogwoods, flowering crabapple in bloom and lilacs are in full bloom.
  • Sweet Potato: set out plants when peony, black locust, and goldenchain tree in full bloom.
  • Swiss Chard: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Tomatillo: set out plants when peony, black locust, and goldenchain tree in full bloom.
  • Tomato: set out plants when peony, black locust, and goldenchain tree in full bloom.
  • Turnip: direct sow when forsythia and dandelions begin to bloom.
  • Watermelon: set out plants when peony, black locust, and goldenchain tree in full bloom.
  • Zucchini: direct sow when redbuds, flowering dogwoods, flowering crabapple in bloom and lilacs are in full bloom.

Succession Plantings of Crops: Make succession plantings any time after the first planting dates but keep in mind the number of days for a crop to reach maturity and the increasing or decreasing air temperature as the season progresses; i.e. cool-weather crops must come to harvest before the warm temperatures arrive in late spring or summer and warm-weather crops must mature before cool and chilly temperatures arrive in autumn.

More tips at Spring Outdoor Seed Sowing Schedule and Vegetable Crop Planting and Phenology.

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How to Prepare an Established Planting Bed for the New Season https://harvesttotable.com/prepare-established-planting-bed-new-season/ https://harvesttotable.com/prepare-established-planting-bed-new-season/#respond Tue, 09 Jan 2018 22:44:05 +0000 https://harvesttotable.com/?p=65899 Newly established planting beds and planting beds that have been used in past seasons must be readied for the coming growing season. To prepare an established planting bed for the growing season you must decide what is going to be planted in the bed. While most planting beds are basically prepared in the same way,...

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Prepare Planting Bed

To prepare an established planting bed for the growing season you must decide what is going to be planted in the bed. Some plants have special needs so you will want to be sure the bed is right for the plants you are growing.

Newly established planting beds and planting beds that have been used in past seasons must be readied for the coming growing season. To prepare an established planting bed for the growing season you must decide what is going to be planted in the bed. While most planting beds are basically prepared in the same way, some plants have special needs so you will want to be sure the bed is right for the plants you are growing.

For each new growing season and for new plantings later in the season, make sure the planting bed is friable, fertile, and easy to work.

Friable simply means the soil crumbles easily. If you take up a handful of soil and make a fist then open your hand, friable soil will crumble apart. Friable soil is made of aggregates of humus, organic matter, and minerals. Friable soil is well drained and loose—not sandy and not clay; plant roots easily grow through friable soil.

To make soil friable, add aged compost to the planting bed regularly. Add cow or chicken manure to the bed at least once a year. Soil can also be made friable with the addition of grass clippings, dry leaves, and commercial soil amendments called garden compost, garden soil, or planting mix.

Fertile soil is soil rich in nutrients needed for plant growth. The major plant nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Plants also need micronutrients—namely iron, manganese, copper, zinc, boron, and molybdenum. Humus rich soil will be rich in nutrients plant can readily absorb. Humus is highly decomposed organic matter; organic matter that has been processed by microorganisms.

The best way to encourage the production of humus and fertile soil is to feed your planting beds aged compost on a regular basis. Aged compost will still contain some organic fibers. When aged compost is processed—that is eaten and excreted—by soil microorganisms, soil bacteria, and worms, humus will be added to the soil and fertility increased.

Easy-to-work soil is soil that is fertile and friable.

Adding Compost and Manure

Prepare established beds by adding a layer of aged compost across the top of the bed; this often called sheet composting. A 2-inch layer of aged compost is best added when the bed is cleared at the end of a growing season. That will allow winter rains and snow to carry the compost down into the soil. Sheet composting can also happen in late winter or early spring; then you may want to lightly turn the compost under to encourage further decomposition.

In addition to aged compost, you can add more nutrients and organic matter to a planting bed by also adding an inch of aged cow or chicken manure across the bed. Aged manure is best added in late autumn or early winter to allow for winter elements to work it well into the soil.

More tips at No-Dig, No-Till Gardening

Raking and Tilling

The soil in an established bed that has sat through the winter may have form a crust across the top of the bed. This usually happens as rain and snow compact the soil. Breaking the crust with a garden fork or rake or a small, light-weight garden tiller if planting beds are large is important before seeds are sown or transplants set out.

Turn the soil lightly, not deep but shallow. Do this with your garden fork, a steel rake, or a tiller. Early in the season moist soil microorganisms and worms will be deep in the soil and are unlikely to be turned by a steel rake. Later in the season as the soil warms, worms and microorganisms will be closer to the soil surface and may be easily disturbed or injured by cultivation.

Raking and tilling will further worked compost and amendments into the soil. If aged compost was not added in the fall or winter, do it in early spring during cultivation.

Adding Fertilizer

Aged compost will contain all of the nutrients plants need to grow. If seed sowing or transplanting instructions call for the addition of fertilizers, add them after the soil has been lightly cultivated. Fertilizer can be broadcast across the planting bed or added in pinches to planting holes. Turn fertilizers under lightly with a rake.

More tips at Organic Fertilizers and Soil Amendments.

Weeds

Beds that have been lightly cultivated can be allowed to sit a week or two before planting. That will be enough time for weed seed that has been turned up to germinate. Weeds can be hand picked or turned up with a hoe. Just before planting, lift any weeds that have germinated. Be sure to take up weeds root and all.

Rake Again

The final step before planting is to rake beds and rake them again. A steel rake will turn up pebbles, rocks, or root fragments in the soil. Raking will remove all clods and lumps in the soil. Raking will turn compost, amendments, and fertilizer into the soil. The bed should be finely finished and level and even across the top when you are finished raking.

Soil Tests

If an established planting bed has declined in productivity in the past few years, a soil test can help you figure out what may be the cause. Soil fertility and the work of soil microorganisms and worms are greatly affected by soil chemistry. A soil test can tell you a lot about soil chemistry—it will tell you if the soil is acid or alkaline. Soil too acidic or too alkaline will inhibit the chemical reaction of mineral elements in soil moisture—the result is almost always poor plant growth.

A soil test can tell you if a planting bed needs lime. Lime is primarily used in the garden as an alkalizer—that is to raise the pH factor and lower the acidity of the soil. Conversely a soil test may tell you that the soil is too alkaline and needs calcium sulfate—which will lower the pH.

Acidic soil is found in humid and wet regions where organic matter is slow to decompose. Alkaline soil is commonly found in semiarid regions, near salt marshes, and in areas where the underlying rocks are limestone.

In the United States, the so-called “lime line” which runs from western Minnesota down through eastern Texas to the Gulf of Mexico divides the country into two parts: to the east one commonly finds acidic soil and to the west alkaline soil.

Knowing soil acidity is important. Soil that is too acid or too alkaline can inhibit the availability of mineral nutrients in the soil to plants and can slow-down the work of beneficial microorganisms and soil bacteria—all of which help plants grow.

When mineral elements are unable to mix with soil moisture and soil nutrients are unavailable to plant roots the elements are said to be “locked up.” When the soil pH is right for the plants growing in the planting bed, plants will thrive.

The pH Scale

The pH scale number 1 to 14; 1 is extremely acid and 10 or greater is extremely alkaline. A peat bog can have a pH as low as 3; an arid desert can have a pH as high as 10 or 11. A pH of 7 is neutral. Most plants—not all—find a pH of 6.5 to 7 optimal; the same is true for soil microrganisms.

Vegetables that like slightly alkaline soil—6.5 or slightly higher—include asparagus, beans, beets, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, parsnips, peas, rhubarb, and squash.

Vegetables that like slightly acidic soil—5.5 to 6.5—include pumpkins and turnips. Vegetables that can tolerate acidic soil as low as 4.5 include peanuts, potatoes, radishes, sweet potatoes, and watermelon. Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries also prefer acidic soil.

Old-time gardeners tasted the soil to tell if it needed liming or sulfur. If the soil was sour to the tongue, it was acidic and need liming. If the soil was bitter tasting it was termed “sweet”—the opposite of “sour”; sweet soil is alkaline the opposite of acidic, and benefits from the addition of sulfur.

Adding lime or sulfur to a garden bed will change the soil pH, but only in small increments. You can easily over-apply lime or sulfur so it’s important to follow the directions on package labels. Better than adding lime or sulfur is the addition of aged compost to planting beds. You can never over-apply aged compost to a planting bed.

More tips at Vegetable Crop pH Tolerances

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How to Grow Oregano https://harvesttotable.com/how-to-grow-oregano/ https://harvesttotable.com/how-to-grow-oregano/#respond Sun, 07 Jan 2018 02:42:34 +0000 https://harvesttotable.com/?p=65711 Oregano is a strong flavored herb sometimes called wild marjoram. Oregano leaves are used fresh or dried to flavor many cooked foods including tomatoes, sauces, salad dressings, and marinades for grilled meats. The flavor of oregano is pungent, spicy, and sometimes bitter. Oregano is often used in Spanish and Italian cooking. Oregano should not be...

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Grow Oregano

Grow Oregano: Direct sow oregano seeds or set out transplants on the average date of the last frost in spring.

Oregano is a strong flavored herb sometimes called wild marjoram. Oregano leaves are used fresh or dried to flavor many cooked foods including tomatoes, sauces, salad dressings, and marinades for grilled meats. The flavor of oregano is pungent, spicy, and sometimes bitter. Oregano is often used in Spanish and Italian cooking.

Oregano should not be confused with marjoram, also called sweet marjoram. Marjoram is a subspecies of oregano. Marjoram is delicate flavored when compared to oregano. It has a sweet, floral fragrance. While oregano is used early in the cooking process, marjoram is best added at the end of cooking.

Oregano and marjoram are members of the mint family. Marjoram being a subspecies of oregano, the plants are nearly indistinguishable in appearance, but there are differences. Oregano has oval dark green leaves and stands upright to 2½ feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide; marjoram has oval gray-green leaves and stand 1 to 2 feet tall and wide. Oregano has white or purplish pink flowers from midsummer to early fall; marjoram has inconspicuous white flowers.

Description: Upright growth to 2½ feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide. Oval dark green leaves; white or purplish pink blossoms from midsummer to early fall.

Yield. Grow one oregano plant per household.

Site. Plant oregano in full sun; it will tolerate light shade. Grow oregano in loose, well-drained soil. Oregano prefers a soil pH of 6.7 to 7.0. Oregano can thrives in poor soil that is well drained.

Planting time. Direct sow oregano seeds or set out transplants on the average date of the last frost in spring. To get a head start on the season, sow oregano as early as 4 weeks before the average last frost date indoors for transplanting out after the last frost. Oregano is slow to germinate so sowing indoors at 70°F is optimal. Oregano also can be grown from root divisions taken in fall, over-wintered indoors, and set out in spring.

Planting and spacing. Sow oregano seed ¼ inch deep; thin successful seedlings or set transplants to 6 inches apart. Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart.

Water and feeding. Give oregano regular even water until it is established. Once established, water oregano sparingly allowing the soil to dry between waterings. Moist soil will cause oregano to be less flavorful. Foliar feed oregano by spraying with compost tea or liquid seaweed extract 2 to 3 times during the growing season

Companion plants. Oregano grows well with all vegetables and herbs.

Care. Keep oregano pinched back to induce bushy growth and for best aroma and flavor; flowering will result in a loss of leaf flavor. Mulch oregano in warm weather to protect roots from too much heat. In cold-winter regions, divide plants in fall and over-winter indoors for re-planting out in spring.

Container growing. Oregano grows easily in containers. Select a container 6 inches deep. Potted oregano can be grown indoors in a bright, sunny window.

Pests. Oregano has no serious pest problems. Aphids and spider mites may attack oregano but they can be sprayed away with a strong stream of water.

Diseases. Oregano has no serious disease problems. Oregano grown in wet soil or wet weather may suffer from root rot or damping off.

Harvest. Oregano is ready for harvest 60 days after sowing. Cut fresh leaves as needed once plants are 4 to 6 inches tall. Cut-and-come-again harvesting will renew plants. Flavor is best before the plant flowers.

Varieties: Here are varieties of Origanum vulgare, also called oregano or wild marjoram: ‘Aureum’ is creeping golden marjoram; ‘Aureum Crispum’ has curly golden leaves; ‘Compactum’ is low growing; ‘Thumbles Variety’ is green and gold variegated; ‘Kaliteri’ has silver-gray leaves; ‘White Anniversary’ is green and white variegated.

Storing and preserving: xx

Common name: Oregano, wild marjoram

Botanical name: Origanum vulgare

Origin: Most of Europe and temperate Asia

More tips at How to Start an Herb Garden.  Also of interest How to Grow Marjoram.

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How to Grow Rosemary https://harvesttotable.com/how-to-grow-rosemary/ https://harvesttotable.com/how-to-grow-rosemary/#respond Sat, 30 Dec 2017 03:57:51 +0000 https://harvesttotable.com/?p=65757 Rosemary is a woody, evergreen perennial herb commonly grown as a shrub. It can be grown as an annual. Rosemary grows best in warmer climates; it is a Mediterranean region native. In cold winter regions, grow rosemary as a potted annual. Rosemary is commonly used in the kitchen as a flavoring. The spicy, aromatic leaves...

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How to grow rosemary

Grow Rosemary: To encourage fresh growth, trim rosemary back several inches twice each season.

Rosemary is a woody, evergreen perennial herb commonly grown as a shrub. It can be grown as an annual. Rosemary grows best in warmer climates; it is a Mediterranean region native. In cold winter regions, grow rosemary as a potted annual.

Rosemary is commonly used in the kitchen as a flavoring. The spicy, aromatic leaves can used fresh or dried in many dishes flavoring beef, veal, pork, lamb, stuffings, soups, sauces, and salad dressings.

Description: Rosemary is a woody, evergreen perennial with scaly bark and dark green resinous aromatic needle-like leaves that are gray on the undersides. Leaves are about one inch long. Rosemary grows as a shrub and can vary in growing habit from stiff and upright to 6 feet tall to low-growing, rounded and spreading. Rosemary plants can live for 15 or more years with little care.

Yield: One plant is all you will need for kitchen use.

Site: Grow rosemary in full sun. Add aged compost to the planting bed. Rosemary grows best in light, well-drained soil.

Planting time: Sow seeds in spring. Start cuttings from new growth in spring or late summer. You can start new plants by layering stems during the summer.

Planting and spacing: Sow rosemary seed ¼ inch deep. Seed can take up to 21 days to germinate at 65°F. Rosemary can also be grown from cuttings. Space plant 18 to 36 inches apart in all directions.

Water and feeding: Once established, water rosemary infrequently. Keep planting beds fed with aged compost. Rosemary is a light feeder; apply foliar spray of liquid seaweed or kelp extract two or three times during the growing season.

More helpful herb growing tips at: How to Start an Herb Garden

Companion plants:  All members of the cabbage family, beans, carrots, sage.

Care: To encourage fresh growth, trim rosemary back several inches twice each season. Protect rosemary from harsh, cold winters by moving it into a coldframe or greenhouse when freezing weather threatens.

Propagation: Seed is difficult to germinate. Start cutting in spring or late summer or layer stems in early summer. To start rosemary from cuttings snip a 3-inch cutting from the top of a branch and remove the leaves on the lower third and set firmly in seed starting mix.

Container growing: Rosemary can be container grown as an annual or as a perennial. Protect plants from freezing weather. Choose a container at least 12 inches in diameter and at least 8 inches deep.

Pests: Rosemary commonly has no serious pest problem Mealybugs and scale may be occasional problems where plants are stressed. If growing rosemary indoors watch for scale pest and wipe them from foliage with a cotton ball soaked with rubbing alcohol.

Diseases: Rosemary commonly has no serious disease problems. In humid climates, rosemary can be susceptible to fungal root rot.

Harvest: Rosemary will be ready for leaf harvest about 60 days after planting. Snip fresh foliage as needed all year. Cut individual branches at harvest time and strip the leaves from the stems.

Storing and preserving: Rosemary can be dried for storing by setting the leaves on a screen or paper in a shady warm place. Store dried leaves in an airtight container out of sunlight.

Uses: flavoring, attract bees, insect repellent, medicine, cosmetics

Also see: Rosemary: Kitchen Basics

Common name: Rosemary

Botanical name: Rosmarinus officinalis

Origin: Mediterranean region

More tips at Growing Herbs for Cooking.

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How to Grow Arugula https://harvesttotable.com/how-to-grow-arugula/ https://harvesttotable.com/how-to-grow-arugula/#respond Sat, 23 Dec 2017 04:16:57 +0000 https://harvesttotable.com/?p=65581 Arugula is a cool weather crop. Sow arugula seed in the garden as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average date of the last frost in spring. Grow arugula in temperatures ranging from 45° to 65°F (10-18°C). Plant arugula so that it comes to harvest in cool weather. Sow succession arugula crops every...

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Grow arugula

Arugula is a cool-season leafy crop. Sow seed as early as 3 weeks before the last frost in spring,

Arugula is a cool weather crop. Sow arugula seed in the garden as early as 2 to 3 weeks before the average date of the last frost in spring. Grow arugula in temperatures ranging from 45° to 65°F (10-18°C). Plant arugula so that it comes to harvest in cool weather.

Sow succession arugula crops every 2 to 3 weeks for a continuous harvest. If summers do not get very warm, continue planting until about a month before the average first frost date.

In hot summer regions where winters are mild, plant arugula in late autumn for harvest in winter and spring.

Yield. Grow 5 to 6 arugula plants per household member.

Site to Grow Arugula. Grow arugula in full sun; it will tolerate partial shade. Plant arugula in soil rich in aged compost. Add aged garden compost to planting beds before growing. Arugula prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0.

Arugula Planting Time. Arugula is a hardy, cool-season annual grown best in spring and early summer in cold winter regions and in fall and winter in warm-winter regions. Sow arugula seeds in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked in spring, usually 2 to 3 weeks before the average date of the last frost in spring. Cool temperatures produce the sweetest tasting arugula. Grow arugula in temperatures ranging from 45° to 65°F (10-18°C). For best flavor and to avoid bolting, plant arugula so that it comes to harvest in cool weather. Arugula requires about 40 days to come to harvest depending upon the variety.

Arugula Planting and Spacing. Sow arugula seed ¼ inch (6mm) deep and 1 to 2 inches apart (2.5-5 cm) to start. Later, thin plants to 6 inches (15 cm) apart when the seedlings are 4 inches (10 cm)  tall. You can eat the thinnings. Space rows 12 to 18 inches (30-45 cm) apart. You can also broadcast arugula seed with other greens and harvest leaves when small.

More tips at Arugula Seed Starting Tips.

Water and Feeding Arugula. Keep plants evenly moist. Add aged compost to planting beds before planting and again at midseason.

Companion plants for arugula. Greens. Not peas, beans, or strawberries. Arugula is a good choice for intercropping with larger crops.

Container Growing Arugula. Arugula can be grown in a container. Choose a container at least 6 inches deep to accommodate the roots.

Arugula Pests. Flea beetles can attack arugula. Cover plants with a floating row cover. Use yellow sticky traps to help control pests.

Arugula Diseases. Arugula has no serious disease problems.

Arugula Harvest. Arugula is ready for harvest 40 days after sowing. Pick young, tender leaves when they are when they are 2 to 5 inches (5-7.5 cm) long. Pick new leaves from the bottom of the plant. Clip individual leaves for cut-and-come-again harvest. New leaves will sprout from the center crown. Harvest whole plants by pulling out plants or cutting whole plant just above the root. Older leaves are more bitter flavored than young leaves.

More on arugula harvest and storage at How to Harvest and Store Arugula.

Arugula Varieties. ‘Astro’ and ‘Runway’ are early arugula varieties and very good growers. Also try ‘Rocket’ and ‘Italian Wild Rustic.’

Storing and preserving. Arugula will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Common name. Arugula

Botanical name. Erica sativa

Origin. Southern Europe and Western Asia

More about arugula in the kitchen at Arugula: Kitchen Basics.

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How to Grow Onion Sets https://harvesttotable.com/how-to-grow-onion-sets/ https://harvesttotable.com/how-to-grow-onion-sets/#respond Sat, 16 Dec 2017 00:28:24 +0000 https://harvesttotable.com/?p=65563 Grow your own onion sets from seed. It is not difficult, does not require much time, and can put you ahead in both time and money. Onion sets are small, dry onion bulbs grown the previous season but not allowed to mature. Planted the second season they produce an early crop of bulb onions in...

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How to grow onion sets

Onion sets are small bulbs grown from seed for planting next season.

Grow your own onion sets from seed. It is not difficult, does not require much time, and can put you ahead in both time and money.

Onion sets are small, dry onion bulbs grown the previous season but not allowed to mature. Planted the second season they produce an early crop of bulb onions in long-season regions—well ahead of the main crop, and in short-season regions, they produce larger onions than naturally possible.

There are several advantages to growing your own onion sets rather than buying sets from a nursery or big box garden center. Growing your own onions sets:

  • Gives you a wide range of varieties suited to your region—long-day, short-day, or intermediate day—otherwise not available. Onion sets sold in garden centers are commonly labelled by color not by variety or day length; growing form garden center sets, you often don’t know what you are growing.
  • Saves you money. Onion sets are more expensive that onion seed. A bag of 40 onions sets is more expensive than a packet of 150 onion seeds.
  • Allows you to choose the size of the sets you plant; you can cull out sets that will be poor growers ensuring the crop you grow next year will be successful.

More advantages of growing onions from sets:

  • Onion sets produce the earliest onions—well ahead of seed-started onions.
  • Growing from onion sets saves time—40 to 60 days depending on variety; this is an important consideration if you live in a short-growing season region.
  • Growing from both sets and seed in long-season regions allows for two harvests; one early in summer and the second in late summer and fall.

Growing Onions from Seed and Sets

Onions can be grown from seeds, sets, and plants (transplants). Growing from seed is difficult for many home gardeners because onion germination rates are often poor. Sets purchased at garden centers are commonly sold as red, white, or yellow onions—the cultivar is very often not listed. Growing from plants (seedlings purchased at a nursery or garden center) is easy, but the choice of varieties offered by commercial growers can be limited.

Growing your own sets means growing from seed. But since you are growing sets for planting the following season, poor germination rates or seedling failure when growing to sets does not mean you are risking entire crop failure or poor yield from this year’s crop; rather you are growing for the future. You will plant more seed than sets you need; you can choose the best sets for planting next season.

How to Grow Your Own Onion Sets

  • Set aside a planting bed for growing from seed. Choose a sunny location. The seed-starting bed should be compost rich, well-drained, and free of pebbles and garden debris.
  • A planting bed is a 3-foot-square bed is big enough to grow enough sets for the following season.
  • Time the sowing of sets if you like: the soil should be at least 45°F (7°C)—usually within a couple of weeks of the last frost in spring; if you sow seed for growing sets in late spring (May in the Northern Hemisphere), you can be certain the soil is warm enough and ensure plants will not develop large bulbs too large for planting next season.
  • Sow the seed thickly; broadcast seeds evenly across the planting bed; this is much easier than sowing seed-by-seed. If you sow seed individually, space the seed ½ inch apart in all directions. Cover the seed lightly with ¼ to ½ inch of soil.
  • Let seed germinate and grow on without thinning. Do not fertilize the seedlings; this can lead to green top growth at the expense of bulb formation.
  • Bulb formation will be triggered by day length; be sure you choose a variety suitable for your region.
  • Keep the planting bed just moist; do not let it go dry.
  • Let the plants grow on until most of the developing bulbs are ½ to ¾ inch in diameter (usually in July when the tops start to dry).
  • Cull the bulbs. Do not save sets larger than 1 inch in diameter for planting next season; large sets will likely bolt and flower quickly when replanted next season. (If you do save larger sets, they can be grown as green onions next season.) Do not save sets less than ½ inch in diameter; very small sets will likely not have enough stored energy to produce large onions next season. (Take the sets you are not saving for planting next season to the kitchen.)
  • A set about ¾ inch (2 cm) in diameter is ideal; it will quickly produce green onions when planted next season; if left in the ground until late summer, it will produce a good-size bulb.
  • Cure the sets you are saving in a sunny place for about 10 days–until the tops dry.
  • Remove the tops then store the sets in a mesh bag in a cool, dry place until planting time next spring. Be sure to label each bag.

Planted next season, sets just smaller than a nickel in diameter will develop into mature onions. Sets larger than a nickel often bolt (produce a flower stalk) and do not produce good-sized bulbs; if saved these larger sets are best used to grow green onions.

Plant sets 1 to 1½ inches deep and 2 to 3 inches apart to grow bulb onions; sets grown for green onions can be planted closer.

More on growing onions at How to Grow Onions.

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Growing Bulb Onions: Pick the Right Variety for Your Garden https://harvesttotable.com/growing-bulb-onions-pick-the-right-variety-for-your-garden/ https://harvesttotable.com/growing-bulb-onions-pick-the-right-variety-for-your-garden/#respond Sat, 09 Dec 2017 05:00:22 +0000 https://harvesttotable.com/?p=65570 Bulb onions are particular about where you live. Onion bulb formation is triggered by the number of summer daylight hours. Bulb-forming onions can be divided into three types: Long-day onions which require about 15 hours of summer daylight. Short-day onions which require about 12 hours of summer daylight. Day-neutral (also called intermediate day) onions which...

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Long-day White Sweet onion

You must pick the right type of onion for your region. Pick the wrong type and the onions will not form bulbs.

Bulb onions are particular about where you live.

Onion bulb formation is triggered by the number of summer daylight hours. Bulb-forming onions can be divided into three types:

  • Long-day onions which require about 15 hours of summer daylight.
  • Short-day onions which require about 12 hours of summer daylight.
  • Day-neutral (also called intermediate day) onions which are not affected by the number of daylight hours. (Day-neutral onions are modern hybrids, bred to not be sensitive to day length.)

Which Type to Grow in Your Garden

It’s relatively easy to know which type of onion you should grow in your garden. It depends upon where you live.

Draw an imaginary line across the country from San Francisco to north of the Carolinas. Do you live north or south of this line?

  • Summer daylight north of this line is 14 to 16 hours long or longer: grow long-day onions.
  • Summer daylight south of this line is about 10 to 12 hours: grow short-day onions.
  • Not sure, too-much trouble to figure this out: grow day-neutral onions.

In short: long-day onions grow best north of the 40th parallel; short-day onions grow best south of the 28th parallel; day-neutral onions are the best bet between the 28th and 40th parallel.

What happens if you make a mistake? Long-day varieties grown in the South will never form bulbs because the days are not long enough. Short-day varieties grown in the North will form bulbs early but the bulbs will be small and weak because the plant has not grown strong enough to grow large, mature bulbs.

Onion Bulb Formation Explained

An onion bulb is a short underground stem. From the base of the stem, roots grow down and leaves grow up. The onion plant has a fan of hollow, bluish-green leaves. Each leaf is connected to its own underground stem; the larger the leaf the larger its underground stem. The greater the number of large leaves, the greater the size of the bulb beneath the ground; each leaf corresponds to a ring of the onion bulb; the larger the leaf the larger the ring. (Like all plant stems, the onion stems or leaf bases store nutrient reserves for growing the plant.)

Onions are photothermoperiodic; that means they are sensitive to temperature and also to day light. Onions quit forming leafy tops and begin to enlarge their underground stems (bulbs) when the day light each day reaches a certain length. The amount of day light needed for an onion plant to begin forming a bulb varies by variety; each variety has its own genetically determined bulb formation trigger.

For more detail on this process read: Bulb Onion Growing: Day Length and Temperature.

When to Plant Bulbing Onions in Your Garden

To grow an onion with a mature bulb:

  • Long-day varieties (growing in northern regions) should be started 12-10 weeks before the last frost in spring: direct-sow seed in a plastic tunnel or cold frame, or sow seed indoors for transplanting into the garden 5 to 4 weeks before the last frost in spring. Harvest will come in late summer or early fall depending upon the variety.
  • Short-day varieties (growing in southern regions) should be planted mid-fall to mid-winter either directly sown or started in the garden with onion sets or transplants. Harvest will come in late summer or early fall depending upon the variety.
  • Day-neutral varieties (planted either in northern or southern regions) can be planted in mid-fall to early spring in mild-winter regions and in early spring in cold-winter regions. Harvest will come in late summer or early fall depending upon the variety.

Onion Varieties to Grow

  • Long-day onion varieties include: Walla Walla Sweet, White Sweet Spanish, and Yellow Sweet Spanish.
  • Short-day onion varieties include: Georgia Sweet, Sweet Red, Texas Super Sweet, Texas Sweet White, Yellow Granex (Vidalia), White Granex, and White Bermuda.
  • Day-neutral onion varieties include: Red Candy Apple, Candy, and Superstar. (All of these are hybrids.)

More on onion growing read: How to Grow Onions and Onion Seed Starting Tips.

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Growing Leeks Year-Round in Tubes https://harvesttotable.com/growing-leeks-year-round-in-tubes/ https://harvesttotable.com/growing-leeks-year-round-in-tubes/#respond Sat, 02 Dec 2017 05:55:07 +0000 https://harvesttotable.com/?p=63192 Leeks are nearly a year-round garden grower. Start leeks indoors in winter for planting out in very early spring for an early summer harvest. Set out leeks transplants in late summer for a fall and all-winter harvest. Leeks are a cool-season crop and produce best if the days remain below 75°F. Sow leek seeds indoors...

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Leeks growing in tubes

Leeks can be blanched and kept clean by growing in tubes—paper tubes or tubes made of biodegradable material or in recyclable plastic tubes (shown here).

Leeks are nearly a year-round garden grower.

Start leeks indoors in winter for planting out in very early spring for an early summer harvest. Set out leeks transplants in late summer for a fall and all-winter harvest.

Leeks are a cool-season crop and produce best if the days remain below 75°F.

Sow leek seeds indoors about 12 weeks before the last frost in spring then transplant them into the garden when they are 8 weeks old—about 4 weeks before the last frost.

If you live in a very warm or hot summer region—the South and Southwest—grow leeks in the cool tie of the year: start seeds 8 to 10 weeks before the first expected frost in fall. They will be ready for harvest in late winter and early spring.

Mature leeks can sit in the garden under snow and freezing cold. Just cover them 12 inches of dry leaves or straw and harvest them when you need them through the winter. Leeks don’t store very well (about a week in the refrigerator), so it’s best to harvest them as you need them.

See Planting Leeks and Shallots Autumn and Spring.

Leeks are sweeter and more delicately flavored than onions and garlic—cousins of leeks. Serve leeks steamed or braised, chilled in a salad, or in a hot leek and potato soup.

Leek Varieties

There are several varieties of leeks; some come to harvest in as few as 50 days, others take 140 days to reach full size. As a rule, shorter-days-to-maturity varieties are less cold hardy. Select longer days to harvest varieties for storing in the garden through the winter. Short-season leeks have a thinner stem and don’t keep as well as cold-hardy long season varieties.

Here are a few varieties to consider:

  • American Flag: sweet flavor; 120 days to harvest.
  • Blue Solaise: very cold hardy; matures in 105 days.
  • Falltime: tall shanks—thick stems; harvest before hard freeze; 80 to 90 days to harvest.
  • Kilima: mild flavored; grow to 12 inches tall; 80 to 100 days to harvest.
  • King Richard: flavorful very young or at full maturity; 75 days to harvest.
  • Laura: very cold hardy; good in very cold winter regions; 115 days to harvest.
  • Otina: harvest young or at maturity; very succulent; 120 days to harvest.
  • Poncho: stocky, short shanks at maturity; 100 days to maturity.

Keeping Leeks Clean—Hilling and Growing in Tubes

To grow large, white, succulent leeks you must blanch the lower part of the stem or shank by hilling the soil up around the stalks as they grow or growing them in biodegradable tubes.

Commercially grown leeks are often gritty because soil is pushed up around stalks mechanically. Soil and sand can easily slip between the whorls of overlapping leaves low on the plant. Homegrown leeks can be kept clean with a bit of attention and care during the growing season.

Hill up soil or aged compost around the base of growing leeks by hand; simply mound up the soil with your cupped hands. Avoid sprinkling soil over the tops of plants; soil that falls into the space between leaves will be trapped. If you plant leeks in trenches, gently push the soil in around the stems and firm it in place as the plant grows. Fill soil in around leeks gradually as they develop. Don’t brush soil on the leafstalks. Rinse away soil when the stalks are lifted.

How to Grow Leeks in Tubes

Leeks can be grown, blanched, and kept clean by growing them in tubes—paper tubes or tubes made of biodegradable material (cardboard toilet paper or paper towel tubes will work) or in recyclable plastic tubes such as thin-walled PVC tubing. Tubes will cuff and surround leek stems as they grow; the tubes bock light (and soil) from the stem leaving the shank tender and white at harvest. This is an easy alternative to hilling up leeks.

Place tubes around leeks from the base of the plant at soil level to just below the point where the leaves fork off from the base. You can do this as soon as the plants are well rooted. Simply gather the leaves and fit them into the tube and then work the tube from the top of the plant down into the soil. Alternatively you can cut the tube lengthwise and then open it to fit around the stem and then tape the edges together. Stake the tubes for stability and leave them in place until you are ready to harvest.

More on growing leeks How to Grow Leeks and Leek Seed Starting Tips.

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