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Toad Pumpkins Add Whimsy and Warts to Fall Decor

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Painted pumpkins are an easy and popular alternative to carving the traditional jack-o-lanterns. And the Toad pumpkins, with their small shape and interesting “warts” will add even more whimsy to your designs. Toad pumpkins are easy to grow from seed, have a bright orange color and will need approximately 85 days to grow to maturity. They weigh between 1.5 to 2.5 lbs., which is the perfect size for a project with children. The more water you give it, the more warts it will produce! You can purchase Toad pumpkin seeds from my Home Grown Seed Collection.

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Garden Harvest Given to At-Risk Children

The cafeteria at Centers for Youth and Families overflows with organically grown tomatoes, peppers and more, and the staff barely has room for the harvest donation from Moss Mountain Farm. In the coming weeks, they’ll see even more produce arrive to provide nutritious meals for children in treatment and summer programs at Centers.

IMG_5208Moss Mountain Farm, owned by P. Allen Smith, has been fortunate enough to share its bounty with neighboring outreach programs. These hundreds of pounds of summer vegetables have been given to nonprofits in Little Rock and Conway. The Centers for Youth and Families was one location chosen to receive a donation because of a shared project to install a therapy garden on the campus. Centers for Youth and Families provides treatment for family issues and emotionally disturbed or at-risk youth in a residential setting, and studies have shown therapeutic gardening, sometimes called horticulture therapy, provides relief for stress and mental and developmental disabilities.

“On behalf of The Centers Foundation, it’s always an honor to receive donations from corporate and community partners like this, that will go on to benefit our children and youth. What makes this donation even more special is that it’s also symbolic of Centers for Youth & Families roots,” said Doug Stadter, president and CEO of Centers.  In 1884, Elizabeth Mitchell couldn’t bear the thought of children in need and began to taken them into her home. She quickly inspired others to do the same. Her actions led to the formation of the organization now known as Centers for Youth & Families. “More than 130 Years later, this is a great reminder of the importance of helping children and youth who need it the most,” Stadter added.

IMG_5200Centers believes the garden project would greatly benefit its patients, and while planning for that project continues, the Acre Garden at Moss Mountain Farm overflowed with a summer harvest of Bonnie Plants and those grown from Sakata Seeds. The farm produced crates and crates of Juliet, Yellow Jubilee and Sungold tomatoes as well as Banana and Yes to Yellow peppers, among others. The cafeteria at Centers proved to be the ideal landing spot for the farm’s harvest. And this donation will have the dual purpose of prepping the staff at Centers for an influx of fresh produce from its on-site gardens once the project is completed.  Smith and his farm plan to continue weekly donations as long as the harvest allows.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Moss Mountain Farm Foundation, children in our residential treatment program, emergency shelter and summer program are enjoying farm fresh, organic produce this summer,” said Stadter. “Providing a nutritious diet and teaching our kids the importance and fun of healthy eating is an essential part of our work at Centers for Youth & Families. We’re grateful to P. Allen Smith and the Moss Mountain Farm Foundation for being such a great partner in our efforts to build happier and healthier children, families, and communities across Arkansas.”

In addition to Centers, Moss Mountain Farm’s Acre Garden also supplied 125 lbs of fresh tomatoes, peppers and okra to St. Peters Food Pantry in Conway.

What’s the Fig Idea? Find out in the summer e-mag

The summer issue of our Naturally magazine is full of recipes, architecture, DIYs and more. Be inspired to party with sweet figgy bourbon cocktails, spicy green beans and sunny, heat-hardy flowers that will brighten up your home all summer.

In this issue, learn how easy it is to grow and harvest your own baby broccoli, get a peek into an historic piece of architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and learn how to make the most of your water feature. Click below to start reading!

Health Benefits of Five Fav Vegetables

This is the perfect time to plant vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash and more, for a big summer harvest. There’s nothing more gratifying that walking out to your garden to pick a ripe, fresh tomato to slice up for that evening’s menu. Homegrown vegetables taste better than anything you’ll find at a supermarket, and are loaded with great vitamins and nutrients. Here are a few of my favorite Sakata vegetables and their amazing health benefits.

 

‘Aspabroc’-Baby-Broccoli

‘Aspabroc’ Baby Broccoli
This early spring or fall crop resembles a broccoli raab with an asparagus stem, and offers a mild taste. Aspabroc is easy to grow and requires little space. It is fat free, cholesterol free, very low sodium, and an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C.

 

 

Tomatoes

Tomatoes
This delicious, savory fruit is always welcome in my vegetable garden. Tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes, from small cherry tomatoes perfect for salads, to big, beefy ones you just want to slice and eat. They are low in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol, and are a good source of vitamin E, Thiamin, Niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin A
and dietary fiber. As an excellent source
of vitamin C and other antioxidants,
tomatoes can help combat the formation
of free radicals known to cause cancer.

 

 

Zucchini

Zucchini
This summer squash is a great addition to salads, pastas, pizza—just about any dish really! It has a versatile flavor and is low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol. It is a good source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, Thiamin, Niacin and dietary fiber.

 

 

Swiss-Chard

Swiss Chard
This colorful greenery packs a powerful nutritional punch. One cup provides more than 700 percent of your daily vitamin K, and more than 200 percent of daily vitamin A. Swiss chard is rich in the antioxidants alpha and beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and choline.

 

 

Winter-Squash

Winter Squash
These hearty vegetables harvested in the fall are nutrient-dense and low in fat. The most popular winter squash, butternut squash, is heart-healthy and delivers tons of dietary fiber. It is super rich in potassium and vitamin B6 for bone health and proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems.

Seed Guide: Start Indoors or Direct Sow

Plant seeds are miraculous things from which great things grow. Soil, sun, and moisture transform the little dry pods into colorful flowers, tasty vegetables and even trees!

Unfortunately it’s because of this magical metamorphosis that many gardeners
shy away from growing plants from seeds. It’s just hard to believe that a
vibrant, living thing can be easily coaxed out of a seemingly lifeless seed.
But this doubt can be cast aside when armed with a little bit of information.

Essentials for Successful Indoor Seed Planting

Light

Newly sown flower and vegetable seeds don’t need much light until they germinate. Once the stems start to emerge, move seeds trays to an area that receives bright light.

Sterile Potting Medium

To prevent seedling diseases always use new soil. Any loose soil mix will do.

Moisture

Thoroughly water your newly planted seeds. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. A spray bottle is a good tool to have on hand to water seedlings.

Temperature

Soil temperature is important. Cool soil slows seed germination. I use an
electric grow mat under my seed trays to make sure the soil is around 75°
or so until seedlings emerge. Provide an air temperature of 70 to
75° during the day and night temperature of at least 60 to 65°.

Containers

Hollyhock Seedlings

You can start seeds in almost any container; it doesn’t have to be fancy.
I’ve used plastic flats, trays, clay pots, compressed peat pellets, and
even a make-yoru-own-paper cup from recycled newspaper with a little
gadget called an N. Viropotter. Cut-off milk cartons or plastic jugs,
and egg cartons can also be used to start seeds. Last season’s flats,
trays, and pots should be cleaned and disinfected before use. Wash the
containers in soapy water, and then disinfect them in a solution of one
part chlorine bleach and nine parts water. Be sure to add holes in the
bottom of the containers to allow for drainage.

Which Plants Grow Best from Seeds

The question of whether to start plants from seeds or purchase potted
plants from a garden center can be confusing. Starting seeds indoors
is inexpensive, allows you to grow unique varieties and gives you a
jump start on spring. This last point is especially important if
you live in an area with a short growing season. However, if the
plant is difficult to grow from seeds it is more advantageous to
purchase a potted plant from the nursery.

Here is a list of common vegetables and herbs along with an explanation of how easy (or difficult) the plant is to grow from seeds.

TypeSeed IndoorsSeed OutdoorsPotted Plant
TomatoesYes for unusual varieties, to get an early start.DifficultYes
PeppersYes for unusual varieties, to get an early start.NoYes
CornNot necessaryYesYes
BroccoliYesNoYes
CabbageYesYesYes
CauliflowerYesNoYes
CucumberNot NecessaryYesYes
RadishesNot NecessaryRadishes grow rapidly from seeds sown directly in the garden.Not Necessary
LettuceYesYesYes
ArugulaNot NecessaryYesYes
SquashYes for unusual varieties, to get an early start.YesYes
RhubarbNoNoYes
TurnipsNot NecessaryYesNo
CarrotsNot NecessaryYesNo
SpinachYesYesYes
Winter SquashNoYesYes
PumpkinsNoYesNo
OkraNoYesYes
EggplantYesNoYes
ChardYesYesYes
MelonsYesYesYes
BasilYesYesYes
RosemaryNoNoYes
ThymeNoNoYes
OreganoNoNoYes

Seedling Diagnosis

Depending on when the last frost date is in your area, by early March you’ve either begun your seeds indoors, or are gearing up to start.  There is a lot of hope in those packets of seeds, but sometimes hopes can be dashed if everything doesn’t go as planned.

Even under the best circumstances, you might run into a few problems. Here’s a list of a common symptoms and the corrective measures you can take to solve them.

Symptom: Spindly or Leggy Growth
Causes: Low light, too much water, excessively warm temperatures, over fertilization, crowded plants.

Corrective Measures:
Some seeds will germinate without much light, but seedlings need bright light.  Use grow lights if a sunny window is not available.  Position the lights 4 inches above the seed tray and leave the lights on for 16 hours a day.  Don’t forget to raise the lights as the seedlings grow taller.

Provide an air temperature of 70 to 75 degrees during the day and night temperature of at least 60 to 65 degrees.

Soil should be kept consistently moist, but not soggy. Mist with a spray bottle or water from the bottom up by placing the containers in a pan filled with 1 inch of warm water.  Once the soil is moist, remove the seed pots from the pan.

Wait until seedlings have produced their first set of true leaves to fertilize.  This is actually the second set of leaves that emerge.  Use a liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength.  Feed once a week.

Sow seeds and thin seedlings according to the packet instructions to prevent overcrowding.

Symptom: Dwarf Plants
Causes: Low fertility.

Corrective Measures: Because there is so little soil, nutrient levels are hard to maintain.  As mentioned above, feed with a liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength after the first set of true leaves emerge. Feed once a week.

Some seed starting soil mixtures contain nutrients such as Mycorrhizae, a naturally occurring fungus that promotes strong root development.

Symptom: Decay or rotting of the stems of young plants near the soil surface.
Causes: Damping-off. Disease organisms attack germinating seeds and young plants, especially during prolonged cloudy weather.

Corrective Measures:
Use a sterile soil-mix designed for seed starting.

Mound the soil in the container so that it is flush with the edge of the pot.  This will allow air flow across the surface of the soil.

Symptom: Wilting followed by death of the seedling.  Tiny insects hovering around soil.
Causes: Fungus gnat larvae will feed on the roots of the seedlings.  Adult fungus gnats are those pesky, small flying insects that hover around potting soil.  They are attracted to moist potting soils that have a high organic content.

Corrective Measures:
Use a well draining potting soil.

If you see the adult gnats, cut back on water to make the soil less attractive to the adult female gnat. You don’t need to stop watering completely, just allow the soil to dry out between watering.

Placing a moist slice of potato on top of the soil will attract the larvae.  Throw out the potato slice to get rid of the larvae .

Seeds for Direct Sowing

I believe that seeds suffer from a case of mistaken identity. They are often described as being difficult or labor intensive. While it might take the right equipment and know how to sow seeds indoors, there are some plants that will spring right from the ground where the seeds are sown. These are “direct sown” seeds or seeds that you can sow in the garden rather than starting in pots or flats.

Some seeds are better suited to direct sowing than others. For example, tomato seeds can be finicky, so it’s a good idea to start them in pots first. Also, if you live in a region where summers are short, starting seeds indoors will give plants the additional weeks they need to mature for flowers or fruits. To check a seed’s disposition toward direct sowing read the back of the package. Look for clues such as “sow directly in the garden,” “volunteer,” “reseeds,” and “does not transplant well.”

Direct Sowing SeedsBecause you are planting outdoors you won’t have as much control over the environment so Mother Nature can throw you some curveballs. Excessively wet or dry weather, insect pests, and birds can reduce your success.

Before you get started read the directions on the seed package. It’s important to how and when to sow individual varieties. You also need an understanding of the mature plant’s requirements – light, water, soil – to know where to sow the seeds.

Sow seeds in soil that drains well and is mixed with amendments such as compost so that it is light. Follow the package instructions. I like to tamp down on the soil after the seeds are planted to make good soil to seed contact. Gently shower the area with water. Use a hose with a spray attachment or a watering can with a rose so you don’t wash away the seeds.

The most important part of seed sowing, whether indoors or out, is keeping the soil consistently moist. Not too wet or dry. Soggy soil invites diseases and dry soil will stop germination.

Once your seeds are sown, you can start the best part – going out every day to check on their progress.

Seeds for Direct Sowing

  • Arugula
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Radish
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Beets
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Chard
  • Okra
  • Corn
  • Nasturtiums
  • Sunflowers
  • Zinnias
  • Bachelor Button
  • Cosmos
  • Poppy
  • Moon Flowers
  • Morning Glories
  • Hyacinth Bean Vine

Sowing Seeds in Containers

I’ve always made space in my garden for sowing seeds of annuals such as larkspur, verbena-on-a-stick and gomphrena, but this year my habit has spread beyond the borders of my flowerbeds and into containers.

Because, truly, what could be easier than filling a pot with soil and sprinkling a few seeds around? That is about all it takes to create a beautiful container overflowing with colorful blooms.

The best varieties are those that can be direct sown and germinate easily. I’ve had luck with cosmos, heirloom petunias and cock’s comb to name a few. For large containers try dwarf sunflowers or cleome. Make sure you keep the soil consistently moist while the seeds are germinating. As they grow into seedlings, you may want to thin them a bit so they don’t get overcrowded.

And as an added bonus you can save seeds from many of these varieties for growing next year.

August is the time that I start collecting seeds from the annuals that are currently flowering in my garden. If you want to try your hand at seed saving just let some of the flowers mature and form seedpods. The pods are ready for harvesting when they are dry and brittle, but before they break open.

On a dry, sunny day, after the dew has evaporated, collect the seeds by shaking them onto a piece of paper. It’s important to make sure the seeds are thoroughly dry before you store them in labeled, airtight, plastic bags or mason jars. Once sealed, store them indoors in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant them in your garden or containers next summer.

Starting Seeds

I’ve been starting plants indoors for several years and I’ve found it’s a great way to get a head start on the growing season. I can gain 4 to 8 weeks by setting out seedlings rather than planting seeds in my garden.

It’s also a way to insure that I will have just the variety and color of the plants I need as well as any unusual or heirloom plants on my list.

Here are some tips to help you get started:
Soil – A key to success is using a loose, fertile, disease-free soil mix. I find the packaged potting soil easy to use.

Containers – You can start seeds in almost any container; it doesn’t have to be fancy. I’ve used plastic flats, trays, clay pots, compressed peat pellets, and even a make-your-own-paper cup from recycled newspaper with a little gadget called an N. Viropotter. Cut-off milk cartons or plastic jugs, and egg cartons can also be used to start seeds. Last season’s flats, trays, and pots should be cleaned and disinfected before use. Wash the containers in soapy water, and then disinfect them in a solution of one part chlorine bleach and nine parts water. Be sure to add holes in the bottom of the containers to allow for drainage.

Timing – Find out when your area is likely to have its last frost. You’ll find this information in gardening books or check with your county cooperative extension service or local garden center.


Next, look on the back of the seed packet and find out how long it will take the seeds to sprout. Mark the last frost date on a calendar then count back the number of weeks needed for sprouting. That’s the date to start the seeds. If you want the seedlings to be larger, start earlier. The time varies from plant to plant. Peppers require 7 to 8 weeks and tomatoes 5 or 6 to grow to transplanting size, while squash and cucumbers require only 2 to 3 weeks. Seedlings are ready to transplant when they have the first set of true leaves.

Seed Size – Usually smaller seeds require less soil to cover them than larger seeds. Check on the back of the seed packet for the proper seed depth. Seed size also determines the size of container and sowing method. Fine seeds, such as begonias and petunias, are typically sown in flats or trays.

After germination, the seedlings are transplanted into individual containers. Large seeds, such as marigolds and tomatoes, can also be germinated in flats. However, they are often sown directly into individual containers, thereby eliminating the need to transplant the seedlings before planting outside.

Temperature – Soil temperature is important. Cool soil retards germination. I use an electric grow mat under my trays to make sure the soil is around 75 degrees or so until seedlings have emerged. Provide an air temperature of 70 to 75 degrees during the day and night temperature of at least 60 to 65 degrees.

Water and Light – After seeding, water the soil gently until water drains out the bottom of the container. Just be careful not to wash seeds away. Place containers in plastic bags or cover the soil surface with plastic film until the first sign of the seeds’ emergence. Then remove the plastic cover and be sure the container gets maximum exposure to light. Most seeds do not require light to germinate, but seedlings need full light exposure as soon as they emerge.