Garden Wisdom Blog

Garden Wisdom is the accumulation of years of tips, tricks, and techniques from West Coast Seeds. It is timeless, and it is cyclical. It follows the calendar year closely as the seasons change. It follows us into the kitchen with recipe ideas and it taps us on the shoulder with gentle reminders. These articles and blog entries cover many subjects, but we hope they help uncover new ideas and solve garden challenges. There is no “correct” way to garden, but there are many wise ways to garden.

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All winter, the northern hemisphere has been tilted slightly away from the sun. As summer approaches, the tilt changes so the north half of the planet tilts slightly towards the sun. The equinox occurs when Earth’s tilt is neither toward nor away from the sun.

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All winter, the northern hemisphere has been tilted slightly away from the sun. As summer approaches, the tilt changes so the north half of the planet tilts slightly towards the sun. The equinox occurs when Earth’s tilt is neither toward nor away from the sun.

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Eggplant seeds are relatively slow to germinate, and will probably take 10 days or longer. Soil heated from beneath is likely to speed germination and help young plants develop. Aim for around 27°C (just over 80°F). Sow indoors as long as 12 weeks before the last frost to give them a really good head start.

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Eggplant seeds are relatively slow to germinate, and will probably take 10 days or longer. Soil heated from beneath is likely to speed germination and help young plants develop. Aim for around 27°C (just over 80°F). Sow indoors as long as 12 weeks before the last frost to give them a really good head start.

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There are some very interesting facts about tomatoes. No one can say for certain, but the ancestor of all modern tomato varieties appears to have...

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There are some very interesting facts about tomatoes. No one can say for certain, but the ancestor of all modern tomato varieties appears to have been a scrambling vine that was native to the highlands of Peru. Archaeological evidence suggests...

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Many varieties of maize are grown for dried, fully mature seed, which is eaten as a grain, but sweet corn is picked before the seeds mature fully, before its sugars convert back into starch. This is why fresh corn must be eaten fairly quickly after harvest, before it degrades and becomes starchy.

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Many varieties of maize are grown for dried, fully mature seed, which is eaten as a grain, but sweet corn is picked before the seeds mature fully, before its sugars convert back into starch. This is why fresh corn must be eaten fairly quickly after harvest, before it degrades and becomes starchy.

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Mason bees are “solitary bees,” meaning that unlike honey bees, they do not form a massive colony. These hard-working native pollinators emerge from their cocoons...

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Mason bees are “solitary bees,” meaning that unlike honey bees, they do not form a massive colony. These hard-working native pollinators emerge from their cocoons in the spring and begin the process of nesting in specialized tubes. In each tube,...

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You’ve selected your seeds, you’ve invested in unfamiliar seed starting equipment, you’ve planted the seeds — and now the damn things are coming up! What to do?!

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You’ve selected your seeds, you’ve invested in unfamiliar seed starting equipment, you’ve planted the seeds — and now the damn things are coming up! What to do?!

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The precursor to the modern Brussels sprout were likely grown in ancient Rome, and today’s vegetable was perfected and popularized as early as the 13th century, in Belgium, which explains their common name. By the mid-16th century, they were being cultivated in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe.

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The precursor to the modern Brussels sprout were likely grown in ancient Rome, and today’s vegetable was perfected and popularized as early as the 13th century, in Belgium, which explains their common name. By the mid-16th century, they were being cultivated in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe.

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Building raised beds for your vegetable (or herb, or flower) garden requires an investment of work plus the cost of materials, but they will reward you in the coming years in a number of ways. Raised beds are usually built out of lumber, but a wide variety of other materials can be used, from bricks and stones to recycled plastic sheets. The premise is simply to contain the soil within some sort of frame that holds the soil above ground level.

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Building raised beds for your vegetable (or herb, or flower) garden requires an investment of work plus the cost of materials, but they will reward you in the coming years in a number of ways. Raised beds are usually built out of lumber, but a wide variety of other materials can be used, from bricks and stones to recycled plastic sheets. The premise is simply to contain the soil within some sort of frame that holds the soil above ground level.

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Broccoli has quite a few close relatives and variations, and these are designated in botany by the use of “cultivar groups.” Kale and collards, Chinese broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi all share the Latin name B. oleracea, but belong to different groups within that single species. Broccoli itself has several varieties: The most common you’re likely to see in grocery stores is called Calabrese in the UK, and just “broccoli” here in North America.

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Broccoli has quite a few close relatives and variations, and these are designated in botany by the use of “cultivar groups.” Kale and collards, Chinese broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi all share the Latin name B. oleracea, but belong to different groups within that single species. Broccoli itself has several varieties: The most common you’re likely to see in grocery stores is called Calabrese in the UK, and just “broccoli” here in North America.

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In our relatively short growing season, we need to grow most food crops in a fairly intense way. We need to select crops that mature...

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In our relatively short growing season, we need to grow most food crops in a fairly intense way. We need to select crops that mature quickly. Some crops, like mescluns and salad greens grow so fast that we can take...

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The wildflower seeds in our Knee High Meadow Blend produce a waist-high field of brilliantly coloured flowers that bloom over a very long period from...

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The wildflower seeds in our Knee High Meadow Blend produce a waist-high field of brilliantly coloured flowers that bloom over a very long period from spring to fall. This blend is best for areas that will be protected from foot...

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All butterflies (including moths), as well as a wide range of bees, flies, beetles, and even hummingbirds, will feed on the nectar-heavy flowers of all milkweed varieties. The Monarch, however, seeks milkweed out on which to lay her eggs. Monarch caterpillars require milkweed to feed on prior to pupating, and they tend not to thrive when presented with alternative food sources. Planting milkweed is thought to be the number one step North American gardeners can do to help the endangered Monarch.

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All butterflies (including moths), as well as a wide range of bees, flies, beetles, and even hummingbirds, will feed on the nectar-heavy flowers of all milkweed varieties. The Monarch, however, seeks milkweed out on which to lay her eggs. Monarch caterpillars require milkweed to feed on prior to pupating, and they tend not to thrive when presented with alternative food sources. Planting milkweed is thought to be the number one step North American gardeners can do to help the endangered Monarch.

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Many people in North America think of kohlrabi as being a distinctly European vegetable, but it is actually a staple ingredient in many international cuisines. It is has been a popular crop, for instance, in Northern India and Kashmir since the 1600s.

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Many people in North America think of kohlrabi as being a distinctly European vegetable, but it is actually a staple ingredient in many international cuisines. It is has been a popular crop, for instance, in Northern India and Kashmir since the 1600s.

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Plant Hardiness Zones offer general guidance to the kinds of plants that will succeed in your area. The warmer your climate, the higher the number...

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Plant Hardiness Zones offer general guidance to the kinds of plants that will succeed in your area. The warmer your climate, the higher the number of the Zone you live in. Zones assume that all plants are receiving adequate water....

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The Heat Mats are fairly thick, with several layers of plastic heat bonded (not glued) over a strong heating wire. Water can't get into the mat so there are no worries when irrigating plant trays. At the end of the seed starting season we just roll them up and store them for next year — and we've been using the same ones for more than five years.

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The Heat Mats are fairly thick, with several layers of plastic heat bonded (not glued) over a strong heating wire. Water can't get into the mat so there are no worries when irrigating plant trays. At the end of the seed starting season we just roll them up and store them for next year — and we've been using the same ones for more than five years.

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Archaeological evidence suggests peas were grown as food crops in Neolithic Turkey, Syria, and Jordan, and in the Nile valley in Egypt as early as 4500 BC. Dried peas remained an important foodstuff in Europe into the Middle Ages, but some time in the late 1600s eating green peas (as we do today) became a culinary fad in France and England.

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Archaeological evidence suggests peas were grown as food crops in Neolithic Turkey, Syria, and Jordan, and in the Nile valley in Egypt as early as 4500 BC. Dried peas remained an important foodstuff in Europe into the Middle Ages, but some time in the late 1600s eating green peas (as we do today) became a culinary fad in France and England.

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Most potting soils have enough nutrients that fertilizers are not necessary for seedlings until they are transplanted to the garden. Generally speaking, you want the fertilizer to go beneath each transplant, but not in direct contact with its roots. In a typical situation (transplanting a tomato plant, for example), you would dig a hole slightly deeper than the root ball of the seedling.

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Most potting soils have enough nutrients that fertilizers are not necessary for seedlings until they are transplanted to the garden. Generally speaking, you want the fertilizer to go beneath each transplant, but not in direct contact with its roots. In a typical situation (transplanting a tomato plant, for example), you would dig a hole slightly deeper than the root ball of the seedling.

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We like to make distinctions that do not exist in the natural world. Bees are descended from wasps and are so closely related we should think of them as wasps with good PR. So, the next time someone says bees are good and wasps are bad please correct them.

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We like to make distinctions that do not exist in the natural world. Bees are descended from wasps and are so closely related we should think of them as wasps with good PR. So, the next time someone says bees are good and wasps are bad please correct them.

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Known since ancient Greece and Rome, the modern cabbage is a descendant of wild mustard. The Roman statesman Cato the Elder wrote of its medicinal...

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Known since ancient Greece and Rome, the modern cabbage is a descendant of wild mustard. The Roman statesman Cato the Elder wrote of its medicinal properties, “It is the cabbage which surpasses all other vegetables.” The seventeenth century English physician...

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Before you venture out to the garden and harvest a bunch of flowers for the dinner table, it’s important to remember that some flowers are...

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Before you venture out to the garden and harvest a bunch of flowers for the dinner table, it’s important to remember that some flowers are poisonous. Make sure you’ve made a positive identification of each variety you’re using. Obviously, you...

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Winter is a gift: it’s nature’s down time, a time when many plants go dormant and many animals have a winter’s rest. However, for those...

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Winter is a gift: it’s nature’s down time, a time when many plants go dormant and many animals have a winter’s rest. However, for those animals that are still active, winter can be a challenge. It’s hard to keep up...

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The holidays are over and the weather outside is still pretty frightful. Here on the coast it is altogether wet — the ground is sodden...

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The holidays are over and the weather outside is still pretty frightful. Here on the coast it is altogether wet — the ground is sodden and squishy. Elsewhere, snow is falling, and the ground is freezing hard. Only the most...

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With over 1,100 seed varieties to choose from, finding a clear path to the checkout can feel overwhelming. There are beginner mistakes to be made - as well as ways for seasoned gardeners to bite off more than they can chew. Here are Mark's top ten pointers to consider when planting a new garden.

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With over 1,100 seed varieties to choose from, finding a clear path to the checkout can feel overwhelming. There are beginner mistakes to be made - as well as ways for seasoned gardeners to bite off more than they can chew. Here are Mark's top ten pointers to consider when planting a new garden.

Continue Reading

The weather outdoors is cold and gloomy. Here on the coast it is altogether wet — the ground is sodden and squishy. Elsewhere, the first...

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The weather outdoors is cold and gloomy. Here on the coast it is altogether wet — the ground is sodden and squishy. Elsewhere, the first blankets of snow are falling, and the ground is freezing hard. Only the most spirited...

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