Seed Starting From An Expert!

Learn how to keep seeds from your favorite plants! Saving Seeds is in stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, OH.

Learn how to keep seeds from your favorite plants! Saving Seeds is in stock now at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, OH.

There is still snow on the ground but visions of a green garden are swirling in my head. It will be several weeks till the ground is fit for working outdoors but I can get a head start by planting some seeds indoors.

Planting indoors is helpful in many ways, it fulfills my urge to start digging in the soil, saves dollars at the greenhouse plus allows me to start varieties that are not available at the greenhouse.

Indoor seed starting can work with simple recycled supplies or you can go with a convenient purchased system.

Start seeds easily with Natural Peat Pots; transplant later without shock. Order from Lehmans.com.

Start seeds easily with Natural Peat Pots; transplant later without shock. Order from Lehmans.com.

Plastic take-out containers make wonderful mini greenhouses for seed starting and you can make use of your collection of used yogurt cups and cottage cheese containers.

My mother always cut waxed half gallon milk or juice containers in half length wise for her tomato seedlings. Another green option is to use a soil block maker which I am hoping to experiment with this season.

For the planting medium, I use a soil-less seed starter composed of peat moss and perlite and I’ll mix in a scoop of finished compost for an extra nutritional boost. Garden soil can work also but it is wise to sterilize it first in the oven so you don’t invite unwanted fungus or disease to attack your tender seedlings.

Our market garden seedlings do well under light.

Our market garden seedlings do well under light.

For just a few seedlings, a good south facing window will do the trick but if you will be growing a large quantity, you will want fluorescent lights as your substitute sunshine. Since I’m growing for a market garden, I have a four tiered stand with fluorescent lights on each level but I also have a couple containers in my south window so I can enjoy watching my plants during the day.

My seed starting calendar begins in mid-February when I plant a small batch of my earliest tomatoes and peppers, some slow growing flowers like snapdragons, parsley and several alliums like onions and leeks.

In March I start lettuce, kale, broccoli, cabbage, basil, marigolds and other flowers plus my main crop of peppers and tomatoes. In April: more lettuce, summer broccoli, celery and others.

Plant and transplant fast! Get the Soil Cube Tool at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, OH.

If you have lots of plants to start, the Soil Cube is the best tool you can use.  At Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, OH.

In May, it is time to plant any squash, cukes or melons that only need a three week head start before going outdoors.

Read your seed packets for how long before frost you want to get your seeds started. It may be a temptation to start your cucumbers when you do your tomatoes but they will be far too large before it is time to put them out in the ground–cukes and other vine veggies grow very quickly!

Seedling Care
Most seeds are sprinkled on the growing medium, covered lightly and gently watered (I like to use a spray bottle) but always read the seed packages since some flowers require light to germinate and don’t get covered. To germinate, I always put the containers in a warm place, next to the radiator or on top of the fridge. Peppers and tomatoes especially need the warmth to emerge.

Keep a close eye on your plants and when you first see glimpses of green, move them quickly to your light source. Without adequate light, your plants will quickly become leggy. In the window, you may need to turn them regularly to get adequate light. With the fluorescent lights, I have them on a timer to receive 16 hours of light and keep the plants about an inch away from the bulbs.

Add color to your crops--get seed for Velvet Queen Sunflowers at Lehmans.com.

Add color to your crops–get seed for Velvet Queen Sunflowers at Lehmans.com.

It is better to water thoroughly every couple days than to flood them daily which can lead to damping off disease. I also make sure to feed my plants once a week by adding fish emulsion or other plant food to their water. The seedlings quickly use up the nutrients in their small soil region and to look lush and healthy, your plants need extra nutrients. In one of my frugal years, I ran out of fish emulsion and didn’t purchase more and ended up with very wimpy looking seedlings. We wouldn’t think of forgetting to feed our children, so don’t neglect your plants either.

When your seedlings show their “true leaves”, the second set of leaves to appear, it is time to transplant them to larger living quarters. I save four and six packs from the greenhouse and sterilize them in dilute bleach water to use for repotting. You can go to your stash of used plastic cups too. When handling seedlings, avoid grabbing the tender stems and instead, lift them by their leaves. A baby’s spoon is handy for lifting them from the soil and a pencil is a helpful for making transplanting holes. To label plants, pieces of old window blinds make great markers.

Solid advice for all gardeners! Available now at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, OH.

Solid advice for all gardeners! Available now at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, OH.

Hardening Off
The next step to getting your plants to the garden is one that is tempting to skip but after all your hard work and nurturing, you don’t want to shock your plants to their death. Hardening off simply means getting them used to the real world. After living in posh circumstances for their first weeks, gently introduce your seedling to the outdoors by setting them outside on a mild day for a couple hours. Continue increasing their outdoor time on days that aren’t overly windy or harsh. If you have a greenhouse or cold frame, this is an ideal place as long as you are careful to ventilate on warm days and cover on cold nights.

Finally, move your seedlings to their new home in the garden. You can continue to give them a bit of protection with milk jugs or water walls as they adjust to the outdoors. If all has gone well in your seed starting, there might be the bonus of extra seedlings to share with friends. If something went awry, be grateful for your local greenhouse and get a copy of The Garden Primer so you’re ready for next season.

Recipe of the Week: Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

I know, I know. It’s the Wednesday before Easter, and I’m talking about dying eggs with natural colors–but it doesn’t take as much time as you might think! Like many of you, I don’t like the chemical dyes, but I still want fun colors for my Easter eggs. So I had a little time this weekend, and tried out natural dyes. Continue reading

The Philosophy of Time, Down East Style

Snow looks beautiful...until you need to get from point A to point B.

Snow looks beautiful…until you need to get from point A to point B.

I set off for a trip to town recently–it had rained a bit overnight and then we got snow. It took several minutes for me to sweep the dry snow from my car and several more to scrape the undercoat of ice away.

As I drove down the street I noticed that most drivers had done the same but two had not bothered. They had scratched off a space no larger than a folded newspaper and were attempting to navigate by peering through that small, clear space. I can only hope they managed to reach their destination without causing an accident that harmed another driver or a pedestrian. Continue reading

Take Care of Yourself As Spring Roars In!

The calendar may say it’s spring, but it’s still downright cold in many areas of the country. Winter can be hard on your skin, and the spring transition isn’t much fun either.  The combined drying effects of heaters, wind and sun can pull the moisture out of your skin.

Keep your home comfortable! Cast Iron Teakettle Steamers are in stock now at Lehmans.com and Lehman's in Kidron, OH.

Keep your home comfortable! Cast Iron Teakettle Steamers are in stock now at Lehmans.com and Lehman’s in Kidron, OH.

Rehydrate your home to add moisture to the air.  If you heat with a wood stove, for instance, put a kettle on to add steam to the air. This will help fight dry skin, and keep moisture in the air in your home, keeping static shock down–something people and pets appreciate!

Re-moisturizing is important on the inside too.  Drinking plenty of fluids in is just as important in the fall and winter as in the spring and summer. Staying hydrated is especially important when working outdoors.  Continue reading

Remembering Grandma’s Kitchen

Learn about Ohio's Amish and Mennonite community! In stock now at Lehman's in Kidron, or Lehmans.com.

Learn about Ohio’s Amish and Mennonite community! In stock now at Lehman’s in Kidron, or Lehmans.com.

My grandmother would have been bewildered if someone had suggested she was a homesteader, radical homemaker, or foodie. She certainly didn’t know she was ‘living the Lehman’s lifestyle.’ This Mennonite farmer’s wife was just living the way she always had. Yet her life centered around food in a way that is utterly alien to most modern cooks.

Grandma’s way of life was evident the moment you set foot in her home. A boxy, olive-green food dehydrator perched just inside the entryway, source of the much-anticipated pear leather that arrived at our doorstep each Christmas in neat, plastic-wrapped bundles.

Next to that was the marble slab where Grandma ladled out steaming sugar syrup that hardened into cinnamon-flavored hardtack candy. Continue reading

Plan To Join Us At Spring Events!

Although it’s still chilly here in Kidron today, the calendar promises us that spring is indeed on the way! So we thought this was a great time to share details about some of our spring events so you can come join us!

Grilling Demonstrations Begin April 6
Every Saturday at our Kidron retail store, we’ll be grilling out back on the patio! See how our grills work, and get a chance to talk to the experts. Continue reading

Recipe of the Week: “Plain” Pudding Is Foundation For Super Treats

Over 1,000 recipes will keep menus fresh! In stock now at Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio, or Lehmans.com.

Over 1,000 recipes will keep menus fresh! In stock now at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio, or Lehmans.com.

A ‘plain vanilla’ choice isn’t supposed to be very exciting. But this classic pudding is–because once you’ve mastered it, you’re only a step away from Amish Country delacies: banana pudding, banana cream pie and peanut butter pie!

You’ll find this versatile recipe on page 231 of our 55th Anniversary Cookbook.

(Blanc Mange, by the way, is an ancient term for similar custard-type recipes that date back to the Middle Ages. The literal translation from ancient French is ‘white food.’)

Continue reading

In Praise Of The Potato

If I could grow only one food plant in my garden, one plant to ensure that my family would eat, even if I lost my job or the food trucks stopped running, that one plant would be the lowly potato.

Ball's Stainless Steel Stockpot/Canner is ideal for fat rendering. Boil bushels of potatoes fast! In stock at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Ball’s Stainless Steel Stockpot/Canner is ideal for fat rendering. Boil bushels of potatoes fast! In stock at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

In terms of calories and nutrition, it’s hard to beat a spud. It’s such a versatile food: I can serve potatoes every night of the week and have them be completely different at each meal. I can fry, mash, scallop or boil them. I can add them to soup or knead them into bread. A side of potatoes often accompanies our breakfast as hash browns and our lunch as thick, homemade chips.

Potatoes serve as the base for a number of soups and chowders, stretching expensive meat into a filling meal that is easy on the pocketbook. Potatoes go with meat and cheese and a multitude of seasonings. Continue reading