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How to Harden Off Seedlings

This time of year a lot of gardeners are beginning to harden off seedlings. If you’ve never done it before you may be wondering how to harden off plants and why you need to do it. Let’s start with defining hardening-off.

 

What is Hardening-Off?

 

If you started plants indoors or you bought some little plants at the store, these plants have been grown in a very sheltered environment. It was neither too warm nor too cold. They had just enough water and plenty of gentle light.

 

But when you put them outside, everything will change for these small plants. It will get much warmer and much colder outside than it did inside. The sun will shine more brightly and the wind will blow. Rains may pelt down or it may go days with no rain at all.

 

Plants need a gradual introduction to these extremes and a chance to toughen up. Easing your plants into this new environment is commonly called “hardening-off.”

seedling tomatoes and garden tools on a wooden background

Tomato seedlings need temperatures to be over 65 F before they go outside

When Should you Harden Off Plants?

 

The timing for hardening off plants depends on 3 things–the type of plants, the size of the seedlings and the local weather.  Gardeners should wait until their plants have at least 3-4 true leaves, but not so long that their roots become cramped and in danger of getting pot bound. Gardeners also need to wait until nighttime temperatures are warm enough for the plants.

 

  • Cold Hardy Crops, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cabbage, onions, leeks and parsley can be hardened off when nighttime temperatures are above 40℉. Tender
  • Crops, such as cucumber and melon should wait until temperatures are above 50℉.
  • Warm Weather Crops, such as basil, tomatoes, peppers will need to wait until temperatures are consistently above 65℉.

 

How To Harden Off Plants

 

The key is to hardening-off is to make all changes gradually. Pick a mild day, without much wind. For a few hours, when the sun is not too intense, put your little plants outside. Whenever the temperature is expected to drop or to increase significantly, bring the plants back indoors. Do the same when strong winds or rain are expected.

 

During this time avoid fertilizing the seedlings. Especially don’t give them extra nitrogen. They need to put their energy into getting stronger and stockier, so don’t encourage leafy growth by increasing nitrogen.

 

Over the course of a week or more, gradually increase the amount of time outdoors and the extremes you expose your plants to. After 7-10 days you should be ready to plant out your seedlings.


Transplanting Seedlings

 

If you can, pick a mild cloudy day, after the heat of the sun is gone from your garden area. After you have planted your seedlings, give them a drink of diluted fertilizer to help them get going after the move. It is common for plants to undergo some degree of “transplant shock” at this time. But a gradual transition and a little extra care can keep this to a minimum and get your garden growing as quickly as possible!

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Dynaweed Natural “Weed and Feed” is on Sale!

What is Dynaweed?

Dynaweed is a natural weed and feed alternative. It provides pre-emergent weed control for lawn, landscape and garden.

What does that mean?

It means that you use Dynaweed BEFORE you see weeds. Used properly, Dynaweed dehydrates weed seeds before they germinate so that roots never form and weeds never grow.

Is Dynaweed safe?

As a chemical-free alternative to other herbicides, Dynaweed is safe and effective. It can be used on sensitive lawns and ornamentals to prevent the growth of persistent weeds. Remarkably, Dynaweed is so gentle on the  environment that it is exempt from residue tolerance requirements.

After applying Dynaweed, humans and animals can use the landscape immediately. Because Dynaweed is 60% protein, we recommend reducing or eliminating other fertilizers, especially those high in nitrogen, for six to eight weeks.

What kind of weeds does Dynaweed work on?

  • Barnyard grass
  • Bermuda grass
  • Buckhorn plantain
  • Crabgrass
  • Creeping bentgrass
  • Curly dock
  • Dandelions
  • Foxtail
  • Lamb’s-quarters
  • Purslane
  • Redroot pigweed
  • Smart weed
blooming yellow forsythia against the blue sky

When forsythia bloom, it is time to apply Dynaweed.

How do I know when to apply Dynaweed?

Spring and fall are the best times to use Dynaweed, and timing is important.

For spring application, use Dynaweed when forsythia, daffodils, or jonquil begin to bloom in your area. For fall application, the ideal time is between August 15 and September 20 in most regions of the United States.

How do you use Dynaweed?

Dynaweed is easy to use because it doesn’t require any special handling, application, or protective clothing. Use Dynaweed on perennial crops such as turfgrass, herbs, ornamentals, or berries. Apply with a standard fertilizer spreader. For a spring or fall application of Dynaweed, use 15-20 pounds per 1000 square feet. If you are only applying once a year, use the higher rate of application.

If you water your crop after application, allow the soil surface to dry completely between watering. Dynaweed requires this drying period for best results. You will find the benefits of Dynaweed are cumulative over the years. Each year you will have fewer unwanted weeds and even stronger plants and grass!

Now is the ideal time to buy Dynaweed and it is on sale for a limited time! See our product pages for our special sale prices.

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How to Garden Above the Ground

People most often think of gardening as something done on the surface of the ground. But there are many reasons someone might want to raise their garden above the ground. Depending on the method, a raised garden may enable a person to:

  • Give their back and knees a break
  • Make their garden handicapped accessible
  • Bypass unsuitable soil
  • Avoid altering a rented property

Just as there are many reasons to raise up a garden, there are many methods to accomplish it. If you are looking for ways to garden above ground, here’s a few ideas.

A table raises a garden to a comfortable height for wheel chair bound gardeners.

A table raises a garden to a comfortable height for wheel chair bound gardeners.

Raised Bed Gardening

In traditional raised beds, planting areas are generally permanent and several inches to a foot higher than surrounding soil. This can easily be accomplished by digging out the designated pathways and piling the loosened soil in the planting areas. The resulting planting beds can be edged with some type of barrier or simply firmed into a gentle slope. Or, if you prefer a more manicured look, you might build open bottom boxes and fill those with soil.

  • Pros: Low startup cost, few supplies required, can use local soil.
  • Cons: Heavy digging and/or modest construction skills required.

Container Gardening

Container gardens just may be the most versatile way to garden. Anything from discarded yogurt containers to straw bales, to specially made garden tables can serve as containers for your plants.

  • Pros: No permanent change to the property, easily brings gardening to a suitable height for those who can’t bend and crouch.
  • Cons: Need to make or purchase container blend potting soil and/or fertilizer (Of course, if your native soil is contaminated or otherwise unsuitable, this may actually be a “pro.”)

Keyhole Garden

In this gardening system a circular raised bed, 6 feet across is made with a keyhole shaped indentation on one side. In the center of the bed there is a column shaped compost basket where food scraps and greywater can go. The indentation allows the gardener access to this central basket. Keyhole gardens can be a very efficient way to fertilize and water a large number of plants in a small space.

  • Pros: Efficient use of space, composting constantly feeds the garden
  • Cons: Initial construction can be labor intensive

Have you raised all or part of your garden up off the ground? Send pictures to us on Facebook so we can see what you’re doing!

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Getting Rid of Moles Naturally

One of the questions we hear a lot at Americanatural.com is, “How can I get rid of moles in my yard?” Moles can be annoying pests and cause a lot of damage to lawns and gardens. Their tunnels destroy the appearance of lawns and make it hazardous to walk.

There are 5 main ways to get rid of moles in the ground: Trap them, poison them, starve them, hunt them, or repel them. Read on to learn why we think repelling is the best way to eliminate moles and other digging pests (such as gophers, voles and armadillos) from your yard. Or click over to our product page to read about Chase Mole and Gopher Repellent.

mole-damage

Trapping Moles

Trapping can be very effective, but they must be checked regularly and moles relocated (in the case of live traps) or disposed of (in the case of kill traps). Additionally, you will need to make sure that children and pets are not harmed by the traps.

Poisoning Moles

Poisoning also works, but again, you will need to make sure children and pets don’t encounter the poison. Also, you may be left with dead moles on your property which will need to be disposed of. If another animal eats enough of the poisoned pests, they can get what is called “secondary poisoning.”

Starving Moles

Starving does not work as well as trapping and poisoning because moles eat a variety of underground insects. They are known for eating white lawn grubs, which you can kill with Bt. However, they also eat earthworms, and most gardeners value their earthworms and don’t want to kill them.

Animals That Hunt Moles

Killing is perhaps best hired out to a friendly dog or a wild owl. But if you are bothered by moles digging up your yard, a digging dog is hardly an improvement! Barn owls will happily hunt moles and other rodents, at the rate of 10 per night. That sounds like a great thing, and it is. However, you will need someplace for the owls to nest and enough wild areas to provide habitat for lots of rodents because unless you keep supplying “your” owls with dinner, they will move on.

Repelling Moles

Repelling moles, voles, gophers and armadillos is surprisingly easy, it won’t harm your yard or your pets, and yes, it really does work! You may have heard that castor oil can repel moles naturally and it’s true, it can. But of course you don’t want to just pour oil on your garden. You need a way to easily and evenly apply the castor oil.

Our liquid and granule Chase Mole & Gopher Repellent make it easy to use the power of castor oil to get rid of moles and voles and other unwelcome diggers. Chase granules have 20% castor oil in them, providing 50% more coverage than other products. You can use a spreader or simply distribute them by hand.

If you prefer to use a spray, we’ve got that too. And unlike cheap imitations, Chase Mole & Gopher Repellents contain a surfactant to allow for effective distribution. Don’t bother with any castor oil formula that doesn’t have a surfactant; it just won’t work.

You can read customer testimonials and lots of Q&A here.

Have you tried Chase Mole? Let us know about it in the comments below!

 

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DIY Newspaper Pots for Starting Seeds

Newspaper pots are easy to make and one of the least expensive containers you can use for starting seeds. Newspaper is a great pot making material because it is easy to find,  the size is good, and when it is time to plant, the newspaper degrades readily. No need to disturb the roots–just plant the seedlings, pot and all.

By the way, if you’re worried about toxins in newspapers you should know that these days most inks are soy based and don’t use heavy metals in their pigments. You’re more likely to encounter petroleum and heavy metals in glossy colored magazines however, so it’s still best to avoid those. Also, the thicker coated papers don’t break down as easily, making them less suitable for making “plantable pots.”newspaper pots 2

Newspaper Pots: “How To” Videos

 

Here we’ve collected links to 3 videos showing how to make newspaper pots. Although it’s possible to buy cute little gadgets to help with making pots from newspaper, it’s not necessary and none of these videos require them.

Dave shows how to make a cylindrical  or round paper pot. He also explains the best way to water them. (Hint, it’s from the bottom up!) And at the very end he gives an important planting tip that might save your plants from drying out when you put them in the garden.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8qPAV-LDnM

If you prefer square pots, try this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dlGQP81yfo

And this method of folding square pots gives you some little grab handles on two of the sides: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sW8mD-APX78

So that’s it– newspaper pots –an easy solution for starting indoor seedlings.  If you’ve found a video you think we should include in our list, please let us know in the comments section!

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Plan Now for Garden Success!

The best gardens don’t happen by accident. Good planning can make the difference between a garden that delights you with food and flowers and one that becomes an unsightly pile of weeds and debris before the season ends. Read on to discover how to plan for garden success.

Choose the Right Garden Location

 

If your garden is poorly placed you may find yourself struggling with problems that just won’t go away, such as spindly plants, washed out seedlings or a neglected patch of land that is just too much trouble to get to. On the other hand, if your garden is well placed, you may hardly give its location a second thought because everything works so well. Sun, water and access all contribute to a successful garden.

TURN ON IMAGES to see Gardening tools and a straw hat on the grass in the garden

Sun -Most vegetables require at least half a day of sun, so if you plan to grow vegetables, keep that in mind. Remember that nearby buildings may block the sun at different times of the day and that a sunny winter yard may become shady when trees leaf out in summer.

Water– Consider the way water moves on your proposed garden site. Are you on a slope where spring rains might wash seeds downhill? Or are you next to a building where large overhangs keep rain from reaching the soil? Is there a water spigot nearby? Continue reading

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How Can Foliar Feeding and Side Dressing Help Your Garden Grow?

foliar feedingIf you want better growth from your plants, two great plant growth enhancement techniques are side dressing and foliar feeding. Side dressing is the practice of adding nutrients around the base of plants after they have sprouted and begun to grow. Foliar feeding is the practice of spraying nutrients directly onto the leaves of plants, which are then absorbed through the plants’ stomata, the portion of the leaf that can absorb water and nutrients. Read on to learn how to use each method for your decorative garden, vegetable garden, trees and indoor plants.

Side dressing is best done when the plant has established itself and its growth is progressing. There are a variety of superb natural products that can be used for this purpose. Microp will contribute a good quantity of nitrogen and Continue reading

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How to Control Disease in Plants — Naturally

woman tendings to grapes in gardenControlling disease in plants requires a two-pronged approach. First, make the plants strong so they resist disease using their own natural defenses. Second, if disease does set in, diagnose the disease accurately and then take appropriate remediation measures. At American Natural Products, we have natural and organic ways of controlling disease in plants.

The first thing to do is to make your plants as healthy and strong as possible so that they excel at resisting disease on their own. This can be done by minimizing plant stress, which means taking care to make Continue reading

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Controlling Post-Emergent Weeds

hand weeding post-emergentPost-emergent weed control refers to practices to manage weeds once they have sprouted and are growing. Weeds take over naked soil very easily, so they are an annual problem in vegetable gardens, in poorly established lawns and along walkways, driveways and the edges of buildings. Post-emergent weed control techniques are either mechanical or chemical.

Mechanical control techniques include the following:

Weeding – Weeding is the most basic technique. You can weed by hand. Just try and pull weeds up by the root to prevent their resurgence. You can also weed with a hoe and expose the roots of the weeds which will then dehydrate in the sunlight. This is an easier practice if you have a lot of ground to cover. It is best done in soft soil that will give way beneath the hoe. If the soil is very compacted, you can try watering first.

Mulching – Mulching is the practice of covering the ground where weeds will grow in order to prevent sunlight from reaching them. Without sunlight Continue reading

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How Does Microp Improve Garden Plants and Lawns?

micropMicrop is soil superfood. It is a bio-fertilizer that enhances soil fertility, improves soil aeration and aggregation, and enhances soil’s ability to retain moisture. Like a magic sprinkle from a fairytale, plants grow bigger, greener and meaner with Microp.

Microp is composed of cyanophytes, also known as blue-green algae, and chlorophytes, or grass-green algae. Cyanophytes and chlorophytes are single-celled organisms that produce their own food through photosynthesis. In addition to chlorophyll, cyanophytes contain the pigment phycocyanin, which also harvests light energy and Continue reading

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