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Granite State Gardening

Author: University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension

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Granite State Gardening is a University of New Hampshire podcast for gardeners, landowners and homesteaders in New Hampshire and Northern New England. Hosts Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for your garden and landscape, giving inspiration and research-based knowhow to cultivate confidence and success wherever and whatever you’re growing. Biweekly episodes feature plant recommendations, pest control advice and answers to listener questions, which are encouraged at
20 Episodes
Fall isn’t just for putting the garden to bed, it’s also for investing in next year’s rewards and successes. With thoughtful planting and care, fall-planted bulbs will provide magnificent blooms spring after spring. Likewise, garlic can provide easy rewards come up early summer if they get off to the right start in the fall. And if there’s ever a time to give some attention to your lawn, it’s in the fall when conditions are best for an array of tasks that can really make a difference. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for fall yard & garden efforts with big rewards.  ·         Featured Plant: Glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa species)·         Closing tip: food preservation basics Resources: ·         Naturalizing bulbs·         Protecting bulbs from wildlife·         Growing garlic·         National center for home food preservation·         Using Manure in the Garden event Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook and Instagram and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at Transcript by
There’s been a noticeable increase in interest from landowners in backyard livestock, from laying hens to pigs and sheep. Whether you just have a little bit of outdoor space or a lot, incorporating animals may be a viable option – and undoubtedly many of you already have. While this episode is not a comprehensive how-to guide to raising backyard livestock, this conversation with UNH Extension dairy, livestock and forage field specialist Elaina Enzien weaves together an exciting array of topics relevant for raising animals on a small scale. After listening, you might be inspired to not only learn more and dig deeper, but bring some more animals onto your property.  Featured plant: jimsonweed (Datura stramonium) Join us on Saturday, September 25 at Wagon Hill Community Garden in Durham, NH for a workshop on using manure in the garden. Background reading: ·         UNH Extension resources on backyard livestock·         Teach Cows to Eat Weeds: The Science, the Steps and the Reasons why Cows Shout Eat Weeds·         Manual of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Agriculture in New Hampshire·         Manure Management for Small and Hobby Farms One correction: At one point in the episode, Elaina referred to cattle, goats and sheep as monogastrics. A listener pointed out that ruminants is a more accurate term - and he's absolutely right! So we're issuing this correction.
At any particular time, a vine can be your worst nightmare or can steal the show in your garden. Vines are unruly by nature, growing in ways other plants simply can’t. Vines can serve many purposes, both aesthetically and even functionally such as softening and breathing life into the outside of otherwise pedestrian structures. Yet they’re largely underused in the garden and much maligned outside of cultivation. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz explore the good, bad and always fascinating world of vines, beginning with the bad and transitioning to the oh so good. Enjoy, and brighten up our email inbox with your most beloved vines. And check out the resources below to dig in deeper on some of the topics we touch on. ·         Featured Plant: Cup and saucer vine (Cobaea scandens) Resources: ·         Growing Grapes:·         Fruitless wild grapes:·         Oriental bittersweet:·         Native trees, shrubs and vines with wildlife value:·         Invasive species in NH:·         Poison ivy:·         Growing kiwiberries:·         University of Illinois resource on vines:·         University of Maryland resource on vines: Cover image by Lorianne DiSabato, under used under Creative Commons 2.0 Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at Transcript by 
All gardeners and home owners face challenging conditions and tough situations that require careful plant selection and a thoughtful approach to bring their landscaping vision to life. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for growing in many of those locations, including dry spots, wet spots, slopes, shade, compaction, foundations, driveways and even contaminated soils. Hopefully you don’t have all of these issues, but undoubtedly your property has some. ·         Featured Plant: Sweet-fern (Comptonia peregrina) Resources: ·         What perennial groundcover can I plant on a sunny slope that is difficult to mow?·         What can weeds tell me about my garden soil? Attributions: Cover Art: Sweet Fern  - Porse, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons  Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at Transcript by Otter.aipending
We’ve all heard that bees are in trouble, but you may wonder why, and more importantly what you can do to support bees and other pollinators. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for supporting pollinators on your property. This conversation is very practical, and gets into the kind of detail and nuance gardeners are looking for to go beyond basic concepts. Emma and Nate also cover a wide range of topics, discussing bees and what differentiates them from other insects, and different types of bees including but not at all limited to honeybees. You’ll definitely walk away from this episode with ideas you can put to practice.·         Featured Plant: Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) Resources: ·         Pollinator Week·         Pollinator Plants for Northern New England Gardens·         Establishing a Wildflower Meadow from Seed·         Other UNH Extension resources for creating pollinator habitat·         Protecting Pollinators While Using Pesticides·         Bee Nest Box Guidelines·         Building a Bee Hotel·         Bees and their habitats in four New England states Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at  Cover image by - Robert DurantTranscript by 
While insects are a part of every garden, and an important part at that, there are some insects that cause unacceptable damage to our plants and need to be managed as pests. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz are joined by Anna Wallingford, host of the Overinformed on IPM podcast, to share proven tips and solutions for managing these insect pests with an integrated pest management approach. Anna has an uncanny ability to make pest management fun, and while she focuses on advising farmers, recording this episode was a unique opportunity to bring her expertise to gardeners. Anna shares unexpectedly interesting information about the lives these insects lead, and how understanding their life cycles and peculiarities can give gardeners a leg up in battling these garden foes.  ·         Featured Plant: Ground Cherries (Physalis pruinosa)·         Closing Tip: Choosing your battles with pests in the garden Resources: ·         Over-informed on IPM podcast·         Garden Irrigation Webinar·         Garden IPM·         IPM Resources for NH Growers·         Growing Ground Cherries and Tomatillos Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at  Transcript by 
What to bring home and how to choose – just two of the questions top of mind as gardeners race through their local garden center in late May, snagging plants and supplies left and right after enduring months of shoveling snow and a spring torrent of black flies. But finally it’s time to plant, and in the shopping frenzy many gardeners may throw caution to the wind. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz are joined by their colleague Rachel Maccini to chat about how they strive to be smart garden center shoppers, and how you can do the same. Happy shopping and happy gardening!Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at
Plants need air, water and sunlight, but require sources of essential nutrients too. Fertile soil rich in organic matter provides nutrients to be sure, but fertilizer is typically needed to grow vigorous, healthy plants. Organic or not, slow release or fast acting, specialty products or versatile mainstays – we face a lot of options when choosing fertilizers. And that doesn’t even begin to cover when and how to use the fertilizer for the wide diversity of plants you’re growing.  In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz are joined by Becky Sideman to share proven tips and solutions for using fertilizer to grow healthy and productive plants in the garden and landscape. The conversation brings up topics and questions bound to get gardeners of all experience levels thinking about fertilizing plants in the yard and garden in new ways.  ·         Featured Question: Should I use fertilizer spikes or a granular fertilizer for my trees and shrubs? ·         Featured Plant: Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)·         Closing Tip:   New Hampshire’s Turf Fertilizer Law Resources:  ·         Fertilizing vegetable gardens ·         Fertilizing fruit trees·         Fertilizing trees and shrubs·         New Hampshire’s turf fertilizer law·         Soil testing·         Spring Webinar SeriesUNH Cooperative Extension’s Vegetable & Fruit team, together with a group of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of New Hampshire, conduct research on vegetable and fruit crops. While the team does much of their work at theNH Agricultural Experiment Station in Durham, NH, they are located throughout NH and their research project topics are driven by the needs of NH growers. The team believes that using effective growing practices for our region (including new varieties, new crops, and season extension strategies) can help farmers diversify, improve yields, and improve crop quality. Many of their integrated research and extension projects focus on high-value specialty crop production systems and methods of extending the growing season (e.g. season extension). They offer an up-to-the-minute snapshot of what we're up to on Instagram at unh_sidemanlab. Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at  Transcript by
Soil amendments have the ability to transform soil health by adding organic matter, changing soil properties and ultimately improving plant growth. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz are joined by New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station researcher Becky Sideman to share proven tips and solutions for using soil amendments to build and transform soil to support healthy and productive plants in the garden and landscape. The conversation brings up topics and questions bound to get gardeners of all experience levels thinking about amending soil in new ways.  ·         Featured Question: How to manage ground nesting bees and wasps·         Featured Plant: Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)·         Closing Tip: Determining when compost is finished Resources ·         Purchasing top soil·         Purchasing compost·         Guidelines for using manure·         Soil testing·         Controlling wasps, bees and hornets around the home·         Spring Webinar Series Connect with us Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at
While we often focus on growing fruits and vegetables, flower gardening brings unmatched beauty and life to any yard and is a lifelong passion for many gardeners. It can also be overwhelming: which flowers go together, what should I choose, how to stop weeds. Growing beautiful flower gardens brings its own challenges while offering endless opportunities for your personality and creativity to shine.  In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for creating and maintaining vibrant ornamental flower gardens. We hope you’ll take away new ideas, inspiration and techniques that you can use this year and for years to come. And if you’re so inclined, send us photos of your flower gardens looking their best to ·         Featured Question: Cut Flower Gardens·         Featured Plant: Foam flower (Tiarella cordifolia) Resources: UNH Extension resources on growing annuals and perennials: events:,%20Yard%20&%20Garden Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback (and photos from your garden) at
As much as gardeners love the outdoors and the diversity of wildlife that call our region home, there are some parts of the yard and garden where we have to draw the line. With as much effort as we put into gardening and landscaping, we all know the sinking feeling of seeing what can happen seemingly overnight. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for dealing with animals that can damage yards and gardens. Straddling the line between supporting wildlife and managing nuisance wildlife can be a challenging balancing act, but we share an approach that does just that. After listening, you will be equipped to prevent damage, and if necessary manage whichever critters take an interest in your gardens this growing season. We hope you will take away some new ideas, as well as what strategies not to spend time and money on.  ·         Featured Question: Growing garlic·         Featured Plant: Inkberry (Ilex glabra)·         Gardening Tip: Using Tree Guards Resources: ··         USDA APHIS Wildlife Services in NH·         NH Fish & Game: Living with Wildlife, Wildlife Control, & Nuisance Wildlife Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at
Some of our favorite vegetables can not only be grown before last frost, but thrive in the cool months before we can grow tomatoes and other classic warm season crops. With our region’s short growing season, moving up your planting window is a welcome opportunity for antsy gardeners after a long winter. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for successfully growing cool season veggies. After listening, or even while you’re listening, head out to the garden and get growing. With a few tricks, you’ll be amazed how much you can grow and harvest before the heat of summer. Featured Question: Row Cover Frames Featured Plant: Garlic (Allium sativum) Gardening Tip: Harvesting Cool Season Vegetables  Background reading: When to start and plant your vegetable garden Using row covers in the garden Growing cool-season vegetables Growing Garlic Fertilizing vegetable gardens Garden mulches Upcoming Events Cool Season Veggies with Becky Sideman on Facebook Live, April 19 at 6 pm Explore our other upcoming events for gardeners and homesteaders Access the transcript for this episode at 
Show NotesIf you aren’t starting seeds, you’re limited to whatever you can plant directly into the garden and whatever starts you can pick up from your local garden center. Starting your own seeds opens up possibilities for growing new crops you couldn’t grow otherwise, better varieties for your garden and tastes, and earlier and better harvests to make it all worth it. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for successfully starting your seeds indoors, from set up and germination to transplanting. Come for the accessible science, stay for the demystifying banter. Once you learn how to start seeds indoors, you can take your gardening to the next level.  Featured Question: Homemade seed starting and transplant mediaFeatured Plant: Hyacinth Bean (Lablab purpureus)Gardening Tip: Planting DepthBackground Reading:Starting Plants From Seed [fact sheet]Growing Vegetables: When to Plant Your Vegetable Garden [fact sheet]Growing Seedlings Under Lights [fact sheet Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at gsg.pod@unh.eduTranscript by Otter.aiNate Bernitz  0:00  Welcome to the Granite State gardening podcast from UNH Cooperative Extension. On today's show, we're talking about starting seeds indoors. in the show notes, you'll find a link to our fact sheet on seed starting, as well as helpful resources on when to start your seeds, indoor lighting and more. eight episodes in we're having a blast putting this podcast together and want to hear from you with your feedback, topic suggestions and gardening questions. Our email is gsg dot We really appreciate the emails we've gotten so far. And hey, if you're not already connected with us on social media, we're on Facebook and Instagram. Just search for ask UNH extension. Now let's get started with seed starting.Greetings Granite State gardeners I'm Nate Bernitz, co host with Emma Erler of the Granite State gardening podcast, a production of UNH extension. Today we're talking about seed starting a practice that opens so many possibilities for gardeners, especially somewhere with a relatively short growing season like New Hampshire. By starting seeds. You won't rely on just whatever seedlings you can get your hands on from local garden centers and plant sales. And you won't be limited to what can be so directly in the garden. You'll have your choice of crops, flowers, and varieties galore to choose from all because you'll be able to provide ideal germination conditions indoors. Once you learn the science and know how of seed starting, you'll be at a whole other level of gardening and won't believe how limited you once were, with spring rapidly and mercifully approaching despite what Punxsutawney Phil says there's no time to waste. So let's get started. Emma, when it comes to seed starting, I want to first know the science, we always want to know the science first. So what are those ideal conditions for germinating seeds?Emma E  2:05  Well, a seed is is basically a shell or husk that's holding an an embryo on the inside. And in order for a seed to germinate, you need to have some specific conditions, you need to have moisture in you need to have light, and you need to have oxygen. And if you don't have those things, then the seeds not going to germinate. When we're talking about germinating seeds at home, we are providing that at least the moisture, at least moisture and oxygen in our seed starting mix that we're using. So that's that potting media that we've chosen to start our seeds in. And then light that's either going to be coming from a really bright window, or ideally actually from some sort of some sort of supplemental lighting system that you have inside your home.Nate Bernitz  2:59  Okay, so moisture, oxygen and light, not nutrients because these seeds already have the nutrients they need to at least get started, so to speak. So ideally, we're recreating these really ideal germination conditions indoors. We know the science, it's been researched, it's been determined, this is what you want to do for these seeds. So if you're doing everything right, what kind of germination percentages are you expecting? Like for every 100 seeds you're trying to start? Are all of them going to germinate? And what sort of practices that maybe aren't so ideal might bring that germination rate down?Emma E  3:40  Wow, that's a really good question. And honestly, it depends a lot on the exact plant that you're trying to propagate. Not all plants create viable seeds equally, some produce a lot more viable seeds than others. So germination rates, gonna vary a fair amount, and it's gonna depend a bit too on the age of that seed, exactly how it was harvested, how it was stored. So if you're buying seeds and packets like most of us do, those seed packets will will have been germination tested by the Seed Company. And on that packet, you'll see a percentage stamped on there somewhere that indicates what the germination percentage of that seed should be under ideal conditions. It's interesting though, because, like I said, some plants do you have a lot of really viable seeds. I mean, if we're looking at something outdoors, let's say an invasive plant like oriental bittersweet, the germination percentage of those seeds tends to be well over 90%. Whereas something like a paperbark maple, it's really only about 5%. So, you know, it helps maybe to know a little bit about the seed that you're starting. But if you have brand new seeds in a packet, you really just need to pay attention to what that jar percentage is listed on that packet and know that really, it would be very rare to have absolutely every seed germinate for you, that typically doesn't happen. But if you have some good quality seed, at least 80%, I think would be acceptable.Nate Bernitz  5:17  Okay, folks, don't go out there and just start germinating oriental bittersweet seeds, because you know, you're good germination, it's alright. It's not impressive. They're invasive, don't do it. When I go to the store, really any store right now, there are seed starting kits everywhere. These they're pretty cheap. They claim, you know, this is what you need. But I want to know from you, what do you actually need in terms of supplies, equipment, what kind of setup is really essential to get to get started and be successful with seed starting,Emma E  5:53  it could definitely be handy to buy one of those complete kits, but you're right, you don't need it. So to start with, I think it's helpful to figure out what sort of containers you want to start your seeds in. seed starting containers are typically on the smaller side, because you don't need to have a whole lot of potting media for a small seedlings root system. And they also are going to have drainage of some sort in them just just like you would for any other potted plants, you need to have drainage for your seed starting containers. So purchase options might include plastic cell packs, or if you're looking for to start something that really doesn't like its roots disturbed, you might go with a biodegradable container, like a peat pot or cow pot. Or if you really don't want to spend money at all, you might have enough materials at home, that could work as seed starting containers. So some people like to use egg cartons. I've seen the bottoms of milk jugs and soda bottles used for seed starting, or even yogurt cups. But what you need to do if you're going to use containers like that is punch some drainage holes in the bottom so that excess water can escape. So once you have your containers figured out, then you're going to need to get yourself a really good high quality seed starting mix. And as seed starting mix is going to be soil less. So that means it's composed of peat moss, probably some very fine, vermiculite and perlite. these are these are both volcanic materials that are often added to potting mix to improve drainage and moisture holding capacity. But you can buy bags of product that specifically are called seed starting next. And these are really important for very fine small seeds, using just a regular potting mix will work just fine for larger seeds. But I found that I have much better Success for Small seeds with that that finer specific seed starting mix. And then once you have those two things now you know that's the absolute bare minimum, you should probably also be thinking about getting together some sort of lighting system. Because for most of us, we don't have a greenhouse attached to our home where we're going to have enough natural light to be able to grow seedlings effectively seal need to have some sort of supplemental light. And it can also be really helpful to have a heat mat. So in an electric heat mat that you put underneath those seedlings to help improve germination. Because usually, most of us aren't keeping our homes quite warm enough for optimal seed germination. But if we're able to just heat up the soil that can be really helpful.Nate Bernitz  8:44  One thing I would add that's really simple would be some sort of tray to go underneath your pots to collect water. And I guess if you're buying those cells, and by cells, you just mean a bunch of little pots kind of fuse together and may come with some sort of drainage tray but and right you know a lot of people I see they'll have these kind of shelving systems where it goes like drainage tray, pots, plants, and then a lighting system kind of above that hanging from the shelf. And, you know, rinse and repeat kind of going up to three, four shelves. So those, those work pretty well. It's interesting though, I was just at a, like, just kind of random store and I saw seed starting kits that were labeled as being window. So cats. So what do you make of seed starting? Really simple way just putting it in a bright window. So it's not a greenhouse, you don't have a lighting system? You're just putting it in a window. That sounds really great. I assume you can probably get plants to germinate, right, but are you going to be able to give them the really ideal conditions they need with just natural light that way?Emma E  9:58  Yeah, I'm glad you asked. That. So you can absolutely get seeds to germinate. No problem just in a window. Actually, for a lot of seeds. Light isn't necessary, really at all for germination, it's what comes after the growth after that that seed has germinated. That is important. And this is really where the light comes in. A lot of times with just using a window cell, the plants aren't getting enough light. And when when this happens, what you'll usually see is extremely long, extended stems on those seedlings. So they might be very weak, they might be really bent as they're trying to grow towards the window. And basically, what you're producing is a very low quality transplant, I think it gets a little bit easier to produce seedlings, just using a window, the later or closer to planting time you go once once the length is longer, but if you're trying to start things, let's say in late February, or early March, and those plants are going to need a whole lot of light, and you're gonna need to keep things indoors for a long time. Probably not going to work all that well, just using the windows cell. But you know, you can certainly try, you know, experimenting in your own home to see if, if perhaps the plants that you're trying to grow will tolerate that sort of lighting scenario.Nate Bernitz  11:28  So when you talk about potentially starting something in late February or March, would that be our category of cool season crops like maybe you're starting broccoli or something like that, that you're actually going to be able to start growing outside pretty early in the spring, or what's your thought there on what you might be starting as early as late February, early March.Emma E  11:48  Definitely some of those those cool season crops, onions can take a really long time if you're growing them from seed. So those you'd start early, and also some of the annual flowers that are a little bit trickier. So let's say you're trying to start your own begonias from seed, those can take a really long time to grow from seed into a plant that's actually large enough and worth the effort to plant outside.Nate Bernitz  12:14  So are there charts or something that you can use to kind of figure all this stuff out? It sounds kind of overwhelming to me like, okay, every single flower, every single vegetable like needs to be what started at a different time? How do you figure this stuff out?Emma E  12:27  There are charts out there. And actually, UNH extension does have a chart for vegetable seedlings. We don't have one for flowers, though. And what I find most helpful is actually to create my own chart, once I have my seeds in hand. So I have all my seed packets. And I'll go through and create a table and list exactly when I need to start each based on the last reasonable frost date for my area or you know, the the most last likely frost date. And it's going to vary from year to year. And it's going to vary based on the crop that you're trying to grow. You know, in general, let's say broccoli, cauliflower, you're probably only going to start that, at most maybe, if you're if you're trying if you're trying to just plant in the spring, maybe four to six weeks before you transplant out into the garden. But other things like those onions, those could take as much as eight to 10 weeks. So once once you start seeds starting it's kind of a process that just keeps rolling along through the spring. You don't do it all at once. Or if you're doing it in the best possible way. It's more of a tapered process.Nate Bernitz  13:39  Interesting. Interesting. And are you starting all of your broccoli all at once? Or are you kind of successionally starting individual crops?Emma E  13:49  usually with seeds starting for spring planting, I'll plant everything. You know, if I was growing multiple different types of broccoli, I would plant all of my broccoli seeds at once. If I was hoping for, you know sustained harvest, I'd probably be planting another round of seeds later on actually in in the summer, so that I could have some plants to put in the ground for a fall harvest.Nate Bernitz  14:15  I see. So successional planting might be more associated with plants that you're direct sowing, like your leafy greens or kind of fast growing plants.Emma E  14:26  Often, yeah, leafy greens, root vegetables. You could do some successional planning with with perhaps broccoli, but a lot of other crops are going to be in the garden for the long haul. So your tomatoes, for example. Beans, you usually you don't start beans indoors usually direct so those but you might have a couple harvests there.Nate Bernitz  14:49  Oh, I'm glad you brought that up. So what plants would you and would you not start indoors and how do you figure that out?Emma E  14:56  Well, it depends again, a bit base On what sort of infrastructure you have to actually start seeds indoors, most vegetable plants can be started directly in the garden. So you don't need to be starting things inside at all. The benefit of starting plants indoors though, is that you really get a jump on the season. And because our growing season tends to be on the shorter side in New Hampshire, having plants that already good size to put out in the garden as soon as growing conditions, you know, are appropriate for them to be outdoors, helps you get better harvest. So things that I would definitely think about starting indoors would definitely be some of the warm season crops like let's say tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, I would probably also be starting so my brassicas, so the broccoli, like we mentioned, kale, maybe cauliflower brussel sprouts, what I wouldn't spend too much time on would be most of the root vegetables. So carrots, beets, let's say leeks. Main reason for that is because for me, I've found that they're very difficult to transplant without damaging them, especially carrots. If you damage that root on a carrot, a lot of times when you're transplanting a lot of times the carrot will fork in multiple different directions. So you'll end up with a very odd looking carrot, right, as opposed to that that nice straight route that you're expecting.Nate Bernitz  16:28  Would your seed packet or seed catalog, Will it say one way or the other? Whether you should start it indoors or sow it outside directly?Emma E  16:35  It will it definitely well. And for a lot of crops, you'll notice that there are two different options. So there's instructions for starting indoors, and they'll be instructions for starting outdoors. For a lot of let's say annual flowers. A lot of those are going to be start indoors only. Although there are some that can be started indoors or outdoors. It just depends a little bit more. But yeah, check check your seed packet, that information is going to be there.Nate Bernitz  17:03  But I guess the the logic for starting something like a tomato indoors as well it will germinate outside you'd have to wait until the soil is already pretty warm. So you're just losing valuable growing time. It doesn't need to be outdoors germinating, when when it could be already in the ground as I started Transplant at the same time, like would you potentially put a seed in the ground for tomato at the same time that you would actually be transplanting out something that you already started?Emma E  17:36  The That's exactly right. And so if that tomato did mature to the point to produce fruit, it's probably getting close to the end of the growing season. Whereas if you had planted that indoors and transplanted out a decent size seedling plant, then you could be getting fruit, you know, by mid summer. So yeah, it makes aNate Bernitz  17:57  big difference from from the time that you start a seed to the time that you're transplanting it or is that like a month long process longer shorter? Or does it depend?Emma E  18:06  It depends again, yeah, so plants grow at different rates. For a tomato, usually you're looking at no more than six to eight weeks before you're going to transplant outdoors. But for other things, it's going to be even shorter, you know, for let's say cucumbers, you're probably not going to start those indoors more than a month before you're going to plant them outdoors. And I should also say too, that there are some plants that just don't transplant well. So those are pretty much always better planted directly in the garden. squashes and cucumbers fall in this category, you can start them indoors, but if you do, you want to be really careful to avoid disturbing the roots when you go to plant. So that's where using one of those biodegradable peat pots or maybe a pot meet at a newspaper or something is is good. And the same I found goes for peas and beans. They they germinate readily in the garden once the soil is warm enough. So there's there's no sense in doing it inside.Nate Bernitz  19:05  Right? If you're using those plastic cells, you have to kind of squeeze the bottom to get it loose. And that disturbs the root since you're saying that's okay with something like a tomato but not for a squash.Emma E  19:16  Exactly.Nate Bernitz  19:17  Yep, got it. Going back to the potting media as you called it or seed starting mix. I see three options. So one of them is to buy a premade seed starting mix, like you're buying a bag and it says its seed starting mix. I've seen those vary really widely in price and ingredients too. You can also buy these pellets essentially that you just add water to. And so I've seen those a lot and you can also make it yourself so you could buy the individual ingredients like you were talking about. What's your take on it? Do you prefer one method over the other? I mean, why not just buy the pre mixed bag. That seems like the easiest way to go.Emma E  20:01  That's usually the way I go, just because it is easier. And if you're trying to make a mix yourself, usually those individual components come in such large quantities that you're going to be left with trying to store, perhaps a huge bale of peat moss or vermiculite, perlite, all those materials as opposed to just having a bag that comes with those things already mixed up in a good ratio. So I think it's worthwhile just just getting the the premix. But of course, you know, if you if you really want to dabble and try to make specific seed starting mixes depending on what you're growing, and that might make a difference if you're if you're growing really fussy plants from seed, but most of the seeds starting mixes are going to work just fine. And those peat pellets that you mentioned before, to name those work really nicely as well. And those are also good for plants that you don't want to disturb the root system of. I often don't use them just because they're a little bit more expensive, but they're absolutely a viable option.What is the best soil mix for starting seeds? That's this episode's featured question. By and large, you'll have best luck starting plants from seed if you use a seed starting mix soilless seed starting mixes have a fine texture and are made of peat moss, perlite, coconut coir, fiber, and vermiculite. different brands will have different ratios of these ingredients. But the best products will typically contain about 50% peat moss and 50% fine vermiculite or fine perlite. pasteurized compost may also be a component of some seeds starting mixes, but it isn't absolutely necessary. gardeners who make their own seed starting mix may be interested in incorporating incorporating compost to cut down on the amount of pea enquire they have to use because both of these have environmental consequences. The tricky part of using compost though, is making sure it is free of weed seeds, insects and diseases. Eventually, your seedlings may need to be transplanted into bigger containers. When that happens, you can switch to using a general potting mix. potting mixes are different from seed starting mixes and that they have a coarser texture and often contain fertilizer, something that larger plants need. But seedlings really don't. potting mixes are often a little less expensive than seeds starting mixes, and can be purchased in larger quantities. And used for a larger number of purposes like potting up your house plants. Regular potting mixes can be used for seeds starting to, but they work best for large seeds. Very small seeds may not germinate as well in coarser mixes, because the seeds won't have good contact with the media. A regular potting mix will work just fine for very large seeds like cucumbers or squash, we'll probably have better luck with a seed starting next for most other veggies and flowers. So pick up a package of seed starting mix for your seed starting ventures this spring and have fun planting.Nate Bernitz  23:36  Okay, so in terms of where you're going to be starting your seeds, so obviously indoors, but is the room temperature important. And I know the or the mix temperature is important because you mentioned that warming matt earlier but is this something you can do in a cooler basement or garage or something like that? Where does it really need to be in your home that you're keeping warm enough for you.Emma E  24:01  For most seeds, what's going to be more important is actually that soil temperature. So rather than having the air be really warm, having the soil be warm is key. And so for a large number of seeds, the ideal germination temperature is going to be something like 75, maybe even 80 degrees and most of us aren't going to be keeping our homes quite that warm. So in order to get the soil at least to that ideal temperature, putting a heat map beneath them is important. Once the seed does germinate, though, it is important that the air temperature isn't too cold because if it is too cold just just like with house plants, you can see some damage to foliage. So I wouldn't try starting seeds in a room that's cooler than let's say 50 degrees, which for most of us there should be a place in our home that's at least 50 degrees and if you're using a heat mat that should be perfectly fine. But it's also okay to you know, if your home is warmer, if you don't use a heat mat, it's not the end of the world, it might just take seedlings a little bit longer to germinate. And you might have a slightly lower germination percentage. But let's say you do keep the inside of your home 70 degrees, then perhaps the heat mat is unnecessary. But if you do if you are trying to start them in a slightly cooler environment that that heating mat is is really important.Nate Bernitz  25:34  And is there any benefit to using a humidity dome, like creating a mini greenhouse?Emma E  25:40  Definitely, definitely when you're trying to get seeds to germinate and when seedlings are really small, keeping the humidity up around them is important. And I think one of the number one reasons for this is that that that potting media will dry out really quickly if if you just have that that media open to the air and low humidity conditions in your home. And seedlings do need consistent moisture. So both seeds to germinate need consistent moisture and very, very small seedlings need consistent moisture in order to survive. And so if you have one of these, you know a plastic covering or a dome lid that you can put on a tray that will help you keep the humidity up in that in that little environment around those seedlings. So that you don't have to be watering constantly. Because most of us aren't going to be around to you know, hit the soil at the spray bottle. You know every hour or whatever it takes to keep it evenly moist.Nate Bernitz  26:39  So it's an alternative to humidity dome just watering more often?Emma E  26:43  potentially, yeah, I still think you're going to have better luck, if you do put a cover over top. But it's not absolutely necessary, you can certainly get a lot of things to start just with, you know ambient indoor conditions, as long as you aren't letting that that soil mix get totally dry. You just don't want that mix to get soggy either.Nate Bernitz  27:07  So when you actually get started, do you moisten or get the mix wet before you even put the seeds inEmma E  27:13  you do. So you want that mix to be pre moistened before you sow the seeds. So what I typically do if I have a brand new bag of potting mix, is take them out in a bucket or you know bowl something I'm going to use to fill containers with put in just enough water in it that it's it's moist. But if I if I grab it and squeeze some in my hand, it's not the water's not going to drip out of it, I'm not going to be able to wring it out, that's going to be just about perfect. We'll fill up my containers, I'll plant my seeds. And then rather than totally because it's it's you do want good soil contact with those seeds. So watering a little bit after you've planted can be helpful, but you don't want to drown them. So that's where a spray bottle can come in handy. Or a misting function on a hose. Because if you if you're using just a watering can, or going directly under the faucet, you're going to wash those seeds all around. So they're not going to stay where you planted them. And that's that's probably the biggest concern.Nate Bernitz  28:19  And planting depth is actually pretty important, right?Emma E  28:22  Very important. Yeah, so some seeds require light in order to germinate. So they've actually adapted to basically germinate just on the soil surface, where others actually germinate better if there's a covering of soil. So if they are kept in the dark.Nate Bernitz  28:39  I see, well, and let's talk just a little bit more about planting technique because you just kind of rolled over that you're like you plant your seeds. How do you do that? I know, one issue I've had is seeds vary dramatically in size, and I struggle to kind of manage and handle the really small seeds.Emma E  28:58  Really small seeds can be really difficult. And you know, there are some tools out there for planting individual seeds, like basically little vials and such it'll allow you to just release a single seed at a time. But often what's easier if you're dealing with a really small seed is to plant more like a tray of those seedlings and then transplant them into other containers later on with a larger seed that you can actually pick up individually with your fingers than planting individual seeds in a container works just fine. And I always defer to whatever the depth recommendation is on the seed packet. So pretty common for seeds to be buried like a quarter of an inch to an eighth of an inch. Very large seeds might be buried about half an inch. And if something says it needs light to germinate, then that basically means you're just sprinkling it on the soil surface. Maybe putting a fine dusting of seed starting mix over Top, but you want that to be open so that it's getting plenty of light. So seeds need that.Nate Bernitz  30:05  Is the amount of light important there like you actually need to turn on your grow lights to get them to germinate or as adjust them kind of being on the surface getting some ambient room light, is that enough?Emma E  30:16  I'd either have them under your grow lights, or have them set up in a window cell just to get them going. Because they are they're going to need some some actual you know, real light exposure. As far as I know, I've never tried growing seeds that need light in an interior room without any light sourceNate Bernitz  30:34  easy enough to turn those lights on, though Easy enough is is it just one seed per pot, does it depend on the crop? Is it okay? If you accidentally drop a few seeds into a potEmma E  30:45  depends on the crop a bit, I will usually plant at least two seeds in a pot, just because you know that the germination percentage is is never going to be 100%. And if you're looking at that that packet you have and it says maybe 75% that means that you know every fourth container that you plant, it's likely that a seed isn't going to germinate. So if you put two in there, then chances are pretty good, you're gonna get something and then all you need to do if you have you know more than you need is just thin out the extra. So you just have at the end, one plant growing in that pot. And with very, very small fine seeds, like I said, it can be easier to plant a whole bunch of those in a container. And then as they get bigger and develop their first set of true leaves. So when seedlings first come up, they have what are called their seed leaves, which pretty much look the same on every plant. But once that next set of leaves comes out, or better yet, the second set of true leaves comes out, then you can transplant those into individual containers.Nate Bernitz  31:51  Okay, I see that's really interesting, I didn't realize that you're potentially having to transplant before you transplant.Emma E  31:59  You can Yeah, I mean, the other alternative with very, very small seeds would just be to try to plant as few as you possibly can in one container, and then thinning them out within said container. But I find it's perhaps a little less wasteful, if you just plant in a, you know, a larger container and then take those seedlings out to grow them out a little bit further. And you could do the same thing, basically with any seedling. But with larger size seeds, where it's easy enough to pick up an individual seed, I think it's easier to just plant them directly in the container you want them to be in.Nate Bernitz  32:35  I see. And for those larger seeds where you're planting a single seed, it germinates it, are you ever gonna have to transplant that up to a larger pot before transplanting it outside? Or are you pretty much planting it in the same little pot that it's going to be and until it goes out to your garden?Emma E  32:53  guess that depends a bit on when you've started your seeds. And when you're actually able to get things outside in the garden. Ideally, you're not going to have to put that extra labor in of moving plants from the seed starting pot into a larger size pot. But was were certain things that grow pretty quickly. You might have to so for example, with tomatoes, before I have had to bump my tomatoes into a slightly larger pot. And how I made that decision was was basically just on how quickly that soil media was drying out. Those tomatoes were drying out and they had to be watered multiple times a day. And they were starting to show signs of nutrient deficiency. So I figured it was worth my effort to actually bump them into a larger container so that they'd be at in their best condition at their healthiest when I went to move them into the garden.Nate Bernitz  33:46  Really just an act of necessity there I guess.You mentioned how these seeds really look so similar with just that first set of leaves. So really helpful to label right. I assume you do label your your pots, what do you write on those labels? Just the name of the plant? Or is there anything else that you find helpful?Emma E  34:22  I do. So I will at the very least write the variety down. Because usually I'll all recognize that plant looks like as it gets a little bit bigger. But if you're newer to gardening, write down the the type of plant write down the variety and I think it's helpful to to write down the date of when you actually sowed that seed. Because again, on seed packets, you're going to see information that's going to say the number of days to germination. For a lot of cases, it'll be somewhere between seven to 14 days. And that helps you keep track of whether things are moving along the way they they should or not. So let's say You know, I plant the seed and the packet said, I should start to see growth within seven to 14 days and three weeks later, nothing's happening. That That tells me that I probably need to sow some new seed. If I don't put the date on there, it becomes hard to keep track of that.Nate Bernitz  35:16  there's kind of two periods here. There's the period between when you've put the seed in and germinates, aka like you actually see the plant coming out of the ground. And after that occurs, so what changes, I assume you're having to keep that, that potting medium moist. Before and after, you mentioned how you might as well just have those grow lights on before and after. I'm wondering about fertilization, I'm wondering whether you need to kind of up your watering, as those plants mature. How do you think about that?Emma E  35:50  Well, fertilization is definitely going to come into play. So the seed starting mix, that that we've talked about, doesn't come with any nutrients in it at all. And that's because seeds don't need those nutrients right away, right. But as they continue to grow, those those seedlings are going to exhaust the original stores of energy that they had within those sea believes. And they're going to need those nutrients from someplace else. And so it becomes essential once those seedlings have a few sets of true leaves. So once the leaves look like they showed on a mature plant, then you'll want to start using a fertilizer and for indoor seed starting, I recommend using a complete water soluble fertilizer. So that could be something like a 20 2020. So you have all of the three main mic our macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. And often, many of these products will also have some of the micronutrients included as well, with really young seedlings, typically, you can get away with using like a half strength fertilizer, because you don't want to burn those those young new roots. So to play it on the safe side, go with a diluted fertilizer. And depending on the product that you're using, you know, the recommendations might be to apply weekly maybe to apply every two weeks. If you're not applying enough, plants are definitely going to tell you, you'll see signs of nutrient deficiency in the foliage. So leaves all start looking good. They're changing colors that they shouldn't be CLC, you know, maybe yellows, maybe purples. And if you're doing too much, then you might actually be seeing some burning on that foliage. So the edges of leaves might might start to get brown and crispy, actually from Salt damage from the salts that are in the fertilizer.Nate Bernitz  37:53  which might kind of look like too much sun as well.Emma E  37:56  Right? Yeah. So you have to do a little bit of troubleshooting there. And it's useful to keep track of when you applied fertilizer, how much you applied, so that you can maybe try to sleuth out what's going on.Nate Bernitz  38:11  And just to clarify, you said that you wait to apply fertilizer until you've seen the first true set of leaves. So not that first, kind of what false set of leaves, I'm not sure thatEmma E  38:23  leaves, seeds leaves. I would wait until the plant has three or four sets of true leaves. Yeah, I would, I would because actually those seed leaves, those those are eventually going to fall off of the plant as it develops as the the nutrients that are within those are used up. So I would wait a little while because if you start too soon the plants just frankly not going to be using that fertilizer.Nate Bernitz  38:53  Do you find that that's a source of confusion whether a set of leaves is a true set of leaves or not like is there an easy way to tell whether the leaves are that first set of true leaves or are just another set of seeds leaves?Emma E  39:07  Oh, that's a good question. So with all this, the majority of the seedlings that you're going to grow are what are called dicots, dicotyledon, so there's going to be two seed leaves. So the first leaves that you see when a plant germinates, those of those seeds leaves, any leaf, or any leaves that develop after that point, are true leaves as what we call them. So those original seed leaves tend to be fairly nondescript, a lot of times they're just kind of oval shaped smooth edges, but when the true leaves come out, they look more like what you'd expect the the leaves to look like on that plant so uh, you know, a seed leaf on a tomato is just kind of this this strap like little pair of leaves, but when the true leaves come out, you're actually seeing that deeply dissected More like compound leaf of a tomato plant.Nate Bernitz  40:03  That's really helpful. And just one more thing on fertilization. So you mentioned this water soluble, complete fertilizer, the way I would imagine you doing that is you would take some measurement of water like correlating to the instructions on the fertilizer, you mix it up, and then you pour it into the tray and the plants take it up through the bottom, is that the best way to do it? Or is it actually better to to pour it over the top and have that go through the potting mix,Emma E  40:34  you know, you can do it either way. So some people actually exclusively water their their seedling plants from the bottom. And that's, that's a legitimate way to go about this. And you could put the fertilizer in that way. I usually don't just because it to me is a little bit more work to water that way. So all water from the top and I'll apply fertilizer over the top. But either either way is going to work just fine.Nate Bernitz  41:01  So if you're using a water soluble fertilizer, is that a kind of powder? Or is that an actual liquid that you're putting into your water?Emma E  41:11  So the stuff I'm talking about is usually like those, those blue crystals. Nate Bernitz  41:16  Oh so you just sprinkle that on? Emma E  41:18  no, I mix that up according to the label instructions. So it's usually some sort of, you know, crystal and product that you're mixing into water. For starting seedlings, I usually don't use inorganic fertilizer. So like a fish emulsion fertilizer, just because seedlings can't use it very, most of that fertilizer product is going to waste because there there aren't any microbes in that seed starting mix to break down that organic matter and make it available to plants. It's also really smelly. So I tend to save that for outdoors. I start using my organic fertilizers once I have plants outdoors in the garden, and I'm using more of these these chemical fertilizers indoors just to get things started.Nate Bernitz  42:07  Okay, that makes sense. One other fertilizer question. I typically haven't seen seed starting instructions on fertilizer. So, you know, I'll just see kind of measurements for plants in general, was your advice just to kind of half that recommendation for seed starting?Emma E  42:28  Yeah, exactly. So if you buy a product that says it's listed for flowers and vegetables, there will be instructions on the packaging that tell you how you should mix it up for those plants. For seedlings, I do have strength. So just dilute whatever that recommendation is. So that you're applying it at half strength. Okay,Nate Bernitz  42:49  let's talk about lighting. This is a source of confusion for sure it sounds easy enough, just get a great light but we know that it's not that simple. For one thing when you go to the hardware store, the big box store somewhere like that they may not have grow lights, you're going to be looking at a long aisle of a lot of different fluorescent and LED light options. So how do you how do you actually make a decision on what lights to use? is there is there something you should be using a particular or do you actually have to go to some specialty store where they do sell grow lightsEmma E  43:31  I actually do think that it's nice to buy your grow lights from a you know a greenhouse supplier or Garden Supply Company so that you know you're actually getting lights that are intended for plant use that should be kicking out the the wavelengths that that plants need and the intensity of light that plants need. short of that, you know if you really want into one, let's say get into le DS which a lot of people are interested in that I would definitely be buying those from a greenhouse supplier so that you know you're getting good quality plant lights. If you're looking for probably the most affordable option that's honestly pretty foolproof that people have been using for decades. It's just good old fluorescent lights that you put in a shop light fixture so those fluorescent tubes that's what I've always used for indoor seed starting and honestly works really well and it's nothing in particular just cool white bulbs or or a full spectrum bulb will work as well.Nate Bernitz  44:40  Any more specificity there. I've seen the different t numbers and things like that there are there is a lot of choices when it comes to buying lights. EmmaEmma E  44:49  I've always gone with T 8s. There's t fives I think what t 12s but t-8 bulbs worked just fine for me with with fluorescent fixtures, usually there's there's not a lot of heat kicked off by these. And so the the bigger thing that you're dealing with is just having, you know, the right intensity of light for those seedlings. And it's something you'll probably have to experiment a bit with with your own setup you have at home. But plants will tell you pretty quickly whether they're getting enough light or not, there's some some symptoms that show up really quickly. With plants that are either getting too not getting enough or if they're too close to the light fixture. Of course, right, carry on. So if plants aren't if those seedlings aren't getting enough light, their stems are going to get really, really long. And so you're going to have this this really long, skinny, spindly stem that that isn't very strong at all. And if you're really not getting enough light, then the the foliage might might be kind of pale, too. That's that's what you see with dark grown seedlings. If there's too much, and usually it's not so much that there's too much, it's just that the plants are too close to the lights and then the heat that's getting kicked off will damage them, you'll actually see signs of burning on the foliage so so dead areas on the foliage, where it's too close to the lights. If you're using like the the TI eight fluorescent bulbs in a shop light fixture, usually about six inches is perfect is that sweet spot for the lights being kept away from the seedlings. So it no matter what system you're using for your your grow lights, you do want to make sure that it's easy enough to raise and lower them as needed based on what your seedlings need, because these plants are going to grow to write. So you're going to need to raise that light up over the course of the seedlings life.Nate Bernitz  46:54  How much room Do you need to give for these plants to grow? Like if you're designing your system, and you're wondering, okay, how far away does the one shelf need to be from another you're thinking about ultimately, how high can that light go? In your experience with these different vegetables and flowers? How tall are they getting before they're going out to the garden,Emma E  47:17  I guess I would do probably at least 18 to 24 inches in between shelves, if you if you have a whole you know, shelving rack of, of seedlings, you know, tomatoes potentially can get quite tall. While you have them indoors depending on when you started them. And some of the annual flowers too, can sell let's say you're growing cosmos, they can get really tall. So you're going to need that extra height. Now, hopefully, if you've started your seedlings at the appropriate time for when you're going to be able to plant outdoors. They're not going to have outgrown that space.Nate Bernitz  47:55  Well, because the fixture takes up a few inches. And then you said you need six inches between the fixture and the plants. Yeah. So if a plant is getting up to a foot or something, potentially, I would think you might need even a bit more than 18 inches.Emma E  48:13  Yeah, potentially. Yep. So yeah, like, like I said, it's going to depend a bit on what you're growing. So if you're producing a whole bunch of tomatoes, you'll probably need a little bit more space. If you're, let's say growing something like an onion, it's not going to get all that big under the lights at 18 inches is probably going to be more than enough.Yeah, yeah, I think the best systems that it is possible to move things around.Nate Bernitz  48:53  Okay, so ultimately, how do you actually know when seedlings are ready? Or is it more just a matter of It's time for these to go out whether they're ready or not like it, it gets to the point where the soils warm enough where we're past last frost like it's go time you want to get them out there, even if they're not quite ready,Emma E  49:13  I guess if you were trying to, you know, grow out, let's say you know, garden center quality seedlings, then you would want them to have root systems that fill up the entire pot that you've grown them in and have, you know, at least probably, let's say three or four, maybe even five sets of true leaves. If you're trying to transplant a seedling when it's too small, it might not survive the process because the roots get so disturbed with you taking that seedling out of the pot, that it might not make it but if that root system is really robust and is filling up that container nicely, then there shouldn't be really any trouble with transplanting at all.Nate Bernitz  49:59  So that's just why it's so important to get the timing right of when you start them. Because Yeah, generally know how long it's going to take for it to get to that stage where it's ready to be transplanted. So timing is just so key thenEmma E  50:12  exactly, yeah, yep. And that's where having that that whole chart going is, is really helpful. And I think sometimes too, you might adjust things. So usually that the recommendations on a seed packet or on a seed chart, you might find, they'll, it'll say something like, you know, eight to 10 weeks. And so you're like, Alright, so you know, do I do eight do i do nine do i do 10. And, you know, you could, let's say try tried 10 weeks the first year, and if your seedlings are grown out too much, then note that and be like, I think I could really get away with doing that at nine or eight weeks next year.Nate Bernitz  50:49  That makes sense to be more conservative as a beginner. And as you get more comfortable, you can push the envelope in different ways, try and move up your window get a little bit more aggressive, but you should have a good foundation of success.Emma E  51:02  Yeah, if you have absolutely, if you're certain you've, you've really got everything going right, if you've got the girl light setup, you've got the heat mat, you've got your good seed Maxi, seed starting next, then you can probably start your seeds on that, that lower end of the spectrum there. So if it says eight to 10 weeks, I'd probably start the at eight weeks. If you have less than ideal conditions. So you know, it's going to be colder, where the seedlings are germinating, let's say, then you'll probably want to go with that longer window. So if you can't get that soil up to 75 degrees, then let's go with the 10 weeks versus the eight weeks.Nate Bernitz  51:38  And I've heard a lot about hardening off, which is that transition period, you're not just taking plants from under your grow light and just walking out and planting them in your garden, right, they need to kind of get accustomed to being outside accustomed to that different type of intense summer over, you know, light and all of that. So do you need to wait until the root system is filled out until you've got enough true leaves before you start the hardening off process? Or can the hardening off process also be part of those plants getting to where they're ready to be transplanted,Emma E  52:14  I would probably wait to do the hardening off process until those plants are ready to be transplanted or very, very close to being ready to be transplanted. I think if you're if you're doing it too soon, you're probably putting a little bit of stress on that very young plant that's unnecessary. So once you're getting close to you know, when you want to transplant when it's going to be appropriate for you to transplant outdoors, that's when you want to start hardening things. And basically that means getting plants adapted to outdoor conditions being meaning sun exposure, wind exposure and and exposure to cooler temperatures as well.Nate Bernitz  52:53  Yeah, so say more about that. How long does that process take? And where are you actually doing that? Are you how do you actually experience and get that gradual process? I kind of find that to be overwhelming just looking outside like okay, where do I put them first? And where do I move them after that? etcEmma E  53:14  oh, yeah, totally. So I think ideally, you're going to do your hardening over about a two week period. So it's nice and gradual and your plants don't really experience much stress at all. When plants go from indoors to outdoors, they basically are not ready to be exposed to direct full sun, even if they've been under a grow light. And so it's if you have a shady area in your property, let's say underneath a tree, it's appropriate to bring them from indoors to outdoors and have them underneath that tree initially. And then over the course of a couple of weeks, you're going to gradually bring those plants out into full sun for longer and longer periods. So basically, you know tapering over the course of two weeks until by the end of that period, that plant is in full sun out there, you know all day for the entire day. If you don't have a setup like that, and what a lot of people do, we'll set up a little shade cloth situation so you can buy material that's made expressly for this purpose for actually blocking out some of the sunlight to transition plants or to grow plants that require more shade outdoors. So you can you can set up your little shade cloth transition area. And if you're really trying to push the envelope with your your hardening your seedlings, you might have to bring them indoors at night. If there's you know, still a chance of really cold temperatures or frost. If that sounds like too much work to you then you'll want to do your hardening process once the chance of frost is gone so that you can leave things out all night.Nate Bernitz  54:57  Okay, that that makes sense. And I think recently seen a lot of people with these pretty cheap, actually little plastic greenhouses? We hear questions about those all the time, you know, what are they good for? What can I do with them? Is hardening off one part of gardening where they actually could really come in handy?Emma E  55:16  Yeah, I think so that could be a really good use for some of those those inexpensive, unheated greenhouse structures.Nate Bernitz  55:22  Yeah, how would you use it in that way,Emma E  55:24  basically, so that that greenhouse is going to block out some of the light, right, that that's coming in, not a lot, most of that's going to be transmitted. But if I was, if I was bringing seedlings that have been grown indoors out to the greenhouse, I might, you know, have some shade cloth over them, or some remain, or something that's going to protect them a bit. And, you know, over over the course of a week or so, you know, take that off.Nate Bernitz  55:53  Yeah, I guess that plastic structure gives you, you know, a pretty easy ability to drape stuff over it.Emma E  55:59  Yeah, yep, absolutely. AndNate Bernitz  56:02  it's gonna protect the plants a little bit from the elements also from like animals or pests or things like that. It's It's literally an enclosure. I know there are pros and cons with those, but enough people have them that helpful to know what to do with them.Emma E  56:17  Well, in the daytime temps inside those structures to will be considerably warmer than the outside temperatures in the spring. And so that that'll definitely help boost growth as well, you'll just have to pay a little bit closer attention to watering.Nate Bernitz  56:30  I know that there are a few common issues with seed starting. You've mentioned a few you've mentioned that if your plants are leggy, that means not enough light, you've mentioned discolored leaves could be indicating a nutrient issue. And you talked a little bit about that. Another one that we hear a lot about is something called dampening off. What is that? What does that look like? And what's the solution?Emma E  56:57  Yeah, damping off is actually a fungal disease. So it happens sometimes if potting media is tainted in some way, or if you're using containers that hadn't been cleaned out. So basically, what happens if you have very cool conditions is it's favored by by cooler temperatures. So so cool, damp conditions where you're starting your seedlings, seeds will actually rot right at the soil line the stems of the seedling well, and so what you'll notice first typically is that all of your seedlings are tipping over. And when you look really closely, you'll notice that it's actually rotten at the base. The best way to get around this is to keep that soil media warm. Because only seedling plants are susceptible to this and again, when it's cooler temperatures, that's when it's more likely to happen. So keep that soil media warm so that beer helping prevent this disease and seedlings are going to grow faster and get out of that vulnerable stage and use a clean potting mix in clean containers when you go to start your seedlings.Nate Bernitz  58:09  Okay, that is really important information. I'm glad we got to talk about that a little bit. One other issue I've heard about is poor root development. So the roots just never really seeming to fell out and therefore therefore being really difficult to transplant and all that how can you ensure good root developmentEmma E  58:28  if roots really aren't developing on your seedlings I would probably be looking at the the potting mix that you're using and your watering practices. If you're using a really you know lower quality potting mix that's got like big chunks of bark in it or, or it's just not very fine. The seeds might have a hard time growing and that media especially very small seedlings, and if you're over watering, that can be another cause because basically if there is abundant water in that container, the seedling is never really going to have to grow its roots out further to be able to reach water. So letting especially as your your plants start to mature. It's important to let those containers dry out a bit before you water again, you don't want to get to the point of wilting but you want to water you know, just before you get there.Nate Bernitz  59:28  Another one of those fine lines of gardening yeah too much not too little.Emma E  59:32  Exactly.This episode The featured plant is hyacinth bean lablab purpureus. hyacinth bean is a beautiful member of the Pea family fabacea, that is native to tropical Africa. In New Hampshire gardens it can be grown as an annual vine. hyacinth bean is highly ornamental, with purple tinge three part of leaves in spikes of fragrant pea like rose purple flowers that are followed by glossy Ruby purple seed pods. Really, really beautiful. It is a fast growing vine that can grow 20 feet long and completely cover a trellis and a single growing season. hyacinth bean is one of my personal favorites for covering arbors trellises fences and pergolas. This plant is easy to grow in gardens with average well drained soil and full sun. seeds can be sown directly in the garden after the last frost date. Or if you want to get a jump on the season indoors six to eight weeks earlier. hyacinth bean roots don't like to be disturbed though. So if you plant seeds indoors, grow them in biodegradable newspaper peat or cow pots so that you can plant the pot directly in the soil instead of needing to disturb the roots. Once hyacinth bean plants are growing in your garden, the only thing you'll need to watch out for Japanese beetles, which thoroughly enjoy this plant, although they will rarely kill it. So if you're looking for an attractive and interesting vine to plant in your garden this summer, give hyacinth bean a try.As we finish this episode, I'd like to share one more tip how deeply to plant seeds. Planting depth can have a direct impact on seed germination. Planting too shallow may result in poor germination due to low soil moisture retention near the soil surface and planting to deep may exhaust the seeds food reserves before the seedling can reach the soil surface leading the seedling depth or weak seedling development. seed packets will almost always include instructions on how deeply to plant seedlings. If you don't have this information for some reason, then a good rule of thumb is to plant seeds at a depth approximately twice their diameter. Very small seeds should simply be pressed gently into the surface of the soil and then barely covered with media. When in doubt, plant seed shallower. And remember, seeds will also germinate better with even soil moisture. Prevent potting mix from drying around germinating seeds by covering trays with dome lids, or covering individual containers with plastic wrap or plastic bags.Nate Bernitz  1:02:53  insightful tips as always, and I'm betting I'm not the only one excited to try my luck with hyacinth bean. that's gonna do it for today's show on seed starting the eighth episode now of Granite State gardening. Our goal with the podcast is to provide trusted, timely and accessible research based information to you and fellow gardeners. We've been so appreciative of all the great feedback suggestions and questions so far, but keep those emails coming. Our address is g s g dot And we're on social media at ask you an H extension where we post content regularly. You can help us grow this new podcast by sharing it with fellow gardeners and if you're so inclined by giving us a glowing five star review, wherever you're listening, we really appreciate all the great reviews you've already left. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Granite State gardening until next time, keep on growing and starting seeds Granite State gardeners, we'll talk with you again soon.Granite State gardening is a production of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and equal opportunity educator and employer. views expressed on this podcast are not necessarily those of the university's its trustees, or its volunteers, inclusion or exclusion of commercial products and this podcast does not imply endorsement. The University of New Hampshire US Department of Agriculture and New Hampshire County is cooperate to provide extension programming in the Granite State. Learn more@extension.unh.eduTranscribed by 
Every homeowner knows they should prune, but beyond that, there’s a lot of confusion. Making things worse, there are examples all around us of poor pruning: fall snipping, summer shearing, tree topping, the list of pruning transgressions goes on and on. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for approaching the ever intimidating and often-counterintuitive task of pruning. Come for the accessible science, stay for the demystifying banter. Once you learn how to prune, you’ll never see the trees and shrubs all around you the same.  Featured question: Can trees be topped to reduce their height?Featured plant segment: Vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis)Closing gardening tip: Staking treesBackground reading:  It’s Pruning Season article, with information about upcoming events:  March 17 live event with Emma and Nate on Pruning:  Basics of Pruning Trees and Shrubs fact sheet:  Pruning Deciduous Trees fact sheet:  Pruning Hydrangeas fact sheet:  Science of Pruning webinar Q&A:  Cleaning and Sharpening Pruners:  TRANSCRIPT by Otter.aiNate Bernitz  00:00Welcome to the Granite State gardening podcast from UNH Cooperative Extension. On today's show, we dive into the world of pruning. At the top of the show, I want to put in a plug for a series of online events we're offering on this very topic. The first is on March 9 on pruning fruit trees, then on March 11, on pruning blueberries on March 15, it's burning raspberries, blackberries and grapes. And finally on March 17, ornamental pruning. If this episode leaves you with questions, join us on March 17. To ask me those questions live. These four events will all be streamed for free on our Facebook page, ask UNH extension. And I'll play host and moderator speaking with extension specialists including Emma and Becky Seidman, who you know from our vegetable garden planning episodes. Check the show notes of this podcast for the details. And speaking of the show notes, we have links to several parenting resources Emma has written herself and one of the things I appreciate most about these resources are the hand drawn diagrams Emma has done which really help illustrate these concepts. Greetings Granite State gardeners. I'm Nate bernitz. co host with me earlier of the Granite State gardening podcast a production of UNH extension. Today we're talking about pruning and specifically pruning ornamental trees and shrubs. So not the trees and shrubs that grow edible fruits because we're going to devote a whole other episode to printing those up. Now today we're talking about pruning landscape favorites like hydrangea, lilacs, Rhododendron, and well you get the idea. You may refer to pruning as trimming or cutting, but for today, we'll use the word pruning. Our goal here is for you to feel confident about pruning, and understand just a bit about how plants actually grow and respond to cuts, you're going to find that is really helpful. Inevitably pruning is something that takes practice and experience as well as an understanding of how particular plants grow and what you'd like them to actually look like as the real expert here. So I hope you don't mind if I learn a bit right along with you. Okay, let's get into it. Emma E  02:29Can trees be topped to reduce their height. That's this episode's featured question. Topping a tree is the cutting back of large branches and mature trees, cutting them to Stubbs trees are often top because they're perceived as being too tall to be safe. This fear is largely unjustified though, as a healthy tree we'll have a root system that is adequate to support it. Topping has the potential to harm trees and actually make them more prone to breakage. Trees respond to topping by producing a lot of long sprouts below the cut of the large branch that quickly grow to the height the tree was initially. Additionally, these limbs are weakly attached to the parent branch and are very prone to wind, snow and ice damage, which can obviously be hazardous. Another thing to consider is that large pruning wounds from large branch removal often did not seal properly and invite decay and insect invasions into the tree topping can lead to a long slow decline of a tree. So topping trees is hardly ever a good option. If the height of a tree really needs to be reduced for some reason. My advice, work with a certified arborist to have the work done properly. Your trees will thank you. Nate Bernitz  03:53Emma I mentioned in the introduction how this is a kind of a separate episode from pruning fruit trees and shrubs. Can you just really briefly explain why this is kind of a different animal? Emma E  04:07Well, it's different I think for a few different reasons. First off, when you're pruning or ornamental trees, typically you're most concerned about having the best possible structure to promote the beauty of that plant, as well as the the health of that plant in general. Whereas if you're growing a fruit tree, you're more concerned about production than how that plant looks in the end, right. You just want to be able to get the most fruit you possibly can on a healthy tree. Are those two things different? Well, I mean, they are to a certain extent and it it gets more particular depending on the exact species that you're talking about. But the big thing is that you're you're either looking at promoting the beauty of the plant or you're trying to make it as productive as possible. Nate Bernitz  04:57Hence the word ornamental. So That makes sense. Let's start with the really basic question of wiper and what are some of the benefits and reasons why someone might want to look out their backyard window at the trees and shrubs out there. And think, yeah, pruning is worth my time, I should definitely be doing that. Emma E  05:18I guess I'll start by saying that pruning isn't something that you necessarily have to do in your landscape, it can be really important. But just because you have a tree or shrub growing in your garden doesn't mean that it needs pruning. But there are some key purposes to pruning. The first thing I think of is to maintain or create good structure within a plant. When when plants are young, in particular, their branches may not be in a in a form that's going to be healthy or conducive to that growth to the growth of the tree. As it gets older, it may develop some serious structural defects, meaning the branches are attached weakly by the angles that they are connecting with the main trunk. Branches may be very, very congested crossing rubbing each other. So maintaining that that really good, healthy, strong structure is the first thing. Nate Bernitz  06:14Forgive me, Emma. But why does that actually matter? Emma E  06:19I mean, first off, it can make the tree look better. Second of all, can make trees more resilient to things like storms. So especially in New Hampshire, where we get a lot of winter storms, ice, these things can put a lot of strain. So wind, like I said snow or ice can put a lot of strain on branches, and make them more likely to break. If they aren't attached to that tree in a really strong way, then we can talk about that a little bit more. But it really comes down to that the angle branches are attached. Nate Bernitz  06:53Are there other reasons why you might prune? I guess for me, I'm thinking really practically, like sometimes you want to prune because a plant is too large and growing where you don't want it to. So maybe it's growing against your house or growing into a power line or something like that. So there's a real practical element I think of as well. Emma E  07:17Controlling plant size is often one of the major reasons people prune. Now, if a plant was put in the best possible location for it to mature, then you probably aren't going to need to do a whole lot of pruning to control size. But be that as it may, you know that is a key reason pruning is necessary. Pruning is also important for keeping plants healthy in terms of disease issues in particular. So trees are much less likely to have issues with disease if there's good airflow through the canopy. Things are let's see, let's take apple or crab Apple, for example. A really common disease on these plants is Apple scab. This is a fungal disease, that tends to be worse on trees that have a very dense canopy. So a whole lot of branches really close together a lot of leaf matter that increases haven't having that density increases humidity. And the leaves will stay wetter for longer, which promotes fungal spore germination and infection. So opening up that canopy so that air can get through really will reduce disease incidents. So that's important too. And of course, pruning is also going to influence flowering and fruiting of a plant. So the way that you actually prune or train, the angle of a branch will impact how much fruit it bears will also impact how it flowers. So there's quite a bit that goes into it. Nate Bernitz  08:52Okay, so your birthday, I think just happened. But let's say that your birthday wish list was all the pruning tools you could possibly dream of, like just completing your personal arsenal. What would be on that list? Emma E  09:09Oh, gosh, well, there's so many right. But I think if you need just the basic pruning set, you know what, what's gonna get you by to do basically everything you need to, I'd say a good pair of hand pruners. So you want a nice quality pair that has you know, good steel blades that that are sharp walking mechanisms that on that pair so you can also carry them around in your pocket or in a holster fairly easily. There's a lot of brands out there and I won't get into that everybody has their their preference I have my own. But what I do like to look for is tools, or a ham printer that has some sort of warranty and that that the manufacturer provides spare parts for so it's possible To actually repair that tool as it goes along, not the least of which new blades because you will need them eventually. Beyond that having a nice pair of loppers is important, so long handled lopper that it that comes really in handy for pruning shrubs back in particular, you'll also want a pruning saw. And there's a lot of variation out there too. If you can only have one saw, I prefer a folding saw that it has at least a six inch blade. because that'll get you through, you know the majority of smaller cuts you need to make. And then if you have a whole lot more money to spend a pole pruner is helpful. So this is actually a set of pruners that is at the end of a long pole so that you can extend your reach that happened to be up on a ladder, a pole saw is really helpful. And then if you're really taking down bigger limbs or trees, a chainsaw, of course is helpful. But that that requires a little training to be able to use that safely versus other hand tools. Nate Bernitz  11:07So what the lopper that's just what a really big pair of scissors. Emma E  11:12I'm not quite so the blade part will look like a pair of scissors essentially where you have a blade, bypassing another blade, but the handles on this are really long and straight. So typically, I'd say at least two feet long, sometimes longer. This is going to give you leverage to make a little bit longer, or a little bit wider cuts I should say. So we're looking at branch diameter of let's say in an inch to inch and a half. Nate Bernitz  11:41You use the word bypass and I've seen printers that are labeled as bypass printers, but I've seen some that aren't. Can you explain the kind of different mechanisms these printers might use to actually physically make cuts and whether you have a preference? Emma E  12:03Yeah, for hand pruners. They come typically in two styles either bypass or anvil. So bypass pruner has an action just like scissors where you're having we have two blades essentially coming together, although in most cases is just one cutting blade. And an anvil style pruner you have a blade that connects with a plate. So instead of those blades going across each other, you have just a single blade connecting with a hard surface so it's more of a pinching action as opposed to a cutting action. Usually, I recommend bypass pruners because they do make cleaner cuts. But Anvil style pruners do have their place. So for pruning evergreens, where you're making a lot of really quick, smaller cuts on branches, Anvil pruners can be nicer just because they are a bit more efficient in the way they cut. And you can really speed up your your pruning time. But if you can only have one pair, then you'll definitely want to have some bypass pruners. Nate Bernitz  13:05Realistically, if you could only have one pruning tool, what would it be? Emma E  13:10If I could only have one, I think I'd choose my pruning saw. A lot of times I will use that my pruning sock exclusively and less branches are getting down to less than half an inch in diameter or so. Nate Bernitz  13:25That's, that's interesting. So you'd go with a pruning saw over hand printers. Emma E  13:29I would, yeah, I would. So they hit him pruners are really, really helpful for very small diameter cuts. So we're saying like half an inch or less, it's probably the most efficient tool for making really nice clean cuts. But for anything bigger than that, then you're looking at maybe loppers, but loppers are only good to a certain extent to probably from half an inch diameter branch to maybe an inch and a half. And anything after that you're using a saw. And of course, the sock can be used for smaller diameter cuts as well. So I think it's probably your most useful tool. And certainly, if you're doing a whole lot of pruning and you want to be really efficient, you're probably going to want that saw rather than switching between a whole bunch of different tools. Nate Bernitz  14:18And supposing that maybe you're not getting all these tools for one birthday or something. Because you really want high quality tools. So maybe as a gardener, you might consider investing in one of these tools a year or something to kind of build up your collection. And I say investing because you do kind of get what you pay for right? Yeah, like you're buying something more quality. It's built to last but then you have to maintain it. Right. So What tips do you have around maintaining these high quality tools so that you really do get what you invested in What's important about that, I think one obvious piece is keeping them sharp. I'm not quite sure how you do that with a saw, but I know you can definitely keep blade sharp. Emma E  15:15With the hand pruners and loppers, you are going to want to keep those blades sharp. And I'll just note too that if you're going to look to buy a quality pair of hand pruners, you're probably going to need to spend at least $30. The best pairs are going to be more like 50 or $60. For loppers, you're again probably looking at minimum 30 or $40. If you want the best then you're looking at closer to 75 or $100. With those tools, it's it's not that hard to maintain them if you keep up with it as the season goes along. The blades on loppers and hand pruners tend to be made out of steel, which will rust if they're left wet or stored wet, which is easy to do when when you've been pruning that sap that that ends on the blades ends up there can cause rusting any other sort of moisture, if you're out on a wet day can cause the blades to rust. So wiping them down after every use was really helpful at least to store them dry. If rust does start to build up, then scrubbing that away I find it useful to use steel wool to scrub rust away and then treat blades with wd 40. To try to prevent remove rust and prevent it from coming back. In terms of sharpening there are you know a bunch of different tools out there that you can buy. But basically what you're going to need is whetstone of some sort. And it's really important to sharpen that blade from back to front at about the same or ideally the same bevel that that cutting edge on that blade is currently at. So basically if you look at the edge of your pruners look at that taper from the flat part of the blade down to the sharp edge and you want to try to maintain that same angle. If you're using your pruners your loppers a lot, you may have to do this a couple times throughout the season or you know periodically every few weeks every month, you might want to be removing rust, oiling, moving parts so that they keep moving, you know smoothly and sharpening. If you don't do a whole lot of pruning, then once a year is probably fine. With pruning saws, most modern saws are really it's really not possible to sharpen them yourself. So in most cases, you can buy a replacement blade. If you've bought a really nice pruning saw from a company that's known for its manufacturing pruning equipment, then you'll be able to buy a replacement blade I found with with my pruning saws, you know this is with with consistent use, they still the blades lasts a few years. So this isn't something you're going to need to constantly replace unless you're doing pruning all day every single day. Nate Bernitz  18:18Gotcha. And I will note that at least the sharpening is a little bit of a challenging concept to convey, just throw it kind of out loud description, but you made a I think a really helpful video at least for sharpening hand printers and we'll have the link to that in the show notes. So check that out. If you're looking for a visualization. We haven't done that for loppers. But maybe we will. Emma E  18:47It's pretty similar. If If you figure out how to sharpen your print your hand pruners, you should be able to sharpen your loppers, by following this the same principles. Nate Bernitz  18:59Okay, then not necessary. So getting into the actual technique of how you use these high quality burning tools that are immaculately maintained and very sharp, because you're keeping them that way. What are the types of cuts that you're going to be making? Right? So we're understanding that not all cuts are equal. You're looking at different types of plants with different objectives in mind, maybe you want to control its shape. Maybe you want it to be nice and dense and full really depends on what you're trying to do. But what are the cuts that you're going to be able to use to achieve some of these different goals? Emma E  19:46What one thing that's really important to understand about plants is that their growth is is directed by plant hormones, as well as environmental factors as well within any tree or shrub, there is one really important plant hormone that's at play. That's called oxygen. And this is produced in green shoot tips and flows downward, which and stimulates shoot growth. So what we see in basically any tree or shrub is a phenomenon that we call atypical dominance, where basically, the atypical buds, so the bud that's at the very end of a branch, and if you look at a branch, it'll be the biggest one is producing oxygen, this plant hormone that suppresses growth of all other buds below it, this is what makes a tree, you know, grow up with a single central leader, if if it has the nicest form, because basically that that bud that's at the peak of a branch is suppressing growth of all the others. So knowing this, that's this is where knowing how pruning cuts are gonna affect a plant comes in. So if we know that the the end bud on a branch is producing this plant hormone oxygen, that's suppressing all the other buds, how we actually go about removing a branch is going to impact how the plant responds. So there are really two different types of pruning cuts that you can make on on any woody plant. One of those is called a thinning cut. The other is called a heading cut. With a thinning cut, what you're basically doing is cutting a branch back to an existing stem or branch. So if you're picturing, let's say, a branch that has one strong stem with an another slightly smaller branch coming off of it, you would be cutting the one branch back to the back to that junction where the other branch comes from that again, this might sound kind of kind of confusing, and we do have some diagrams, and a couple of pruning fact sheets that might be helpful for you to look at. But when you do this, when you cut a branch back to another existing branch or stem cutting, cutting just above it or cutting all the way back to the trunk, basically what you're doing is allowing the remaining branch to assume that atypical dominance or atypical control and so the end bud on that branch is then going to control growth from then on out. This is really essential for controlling growth on young trees. thinning cuts are what you're going to use most of the time, because they're going to help shape the plant without altering its overall size or growth habit. Heading cuts are the other type of cut. And basically what these mean is that you're cutting between nodes. So on a branch, this would mean you were cutting somewhere along the stem between two branches where they come off, or cutting to a very small branch or bud. And basically the reaction here is that many buds break and many new shoots form. So if you've ever seen a branch that just gets just cut off arbitrarily at a point and a whole bunch of new shoots originate just behind that cut, you're looking at a heading cut, and that is the typical response. Nate Bernitz  23:29Why would you make a heading cut? Can you give a couple practical examples. Emma E  23:36Heading cuts are used primarily when you're shearing plants if you're looking to create a lot of really dense growth. So a thinning cut is something you'd use. Really anytime you're pruning a tree or you know majority of shrubs that you're trying to maintain their natural habit. A heading cut is what you're going to use. If you are let's say shearing, a you hedge into let's say a particular shape, or you're you're trimming back and Arbor wajdi and you you're looking for a whole bunch of dense growth the form more of a hedge. shearing is is obviously a very particular application. And really, that's the only time that you're going to be using heading primarily in the landscape. Although I should know that if you are cutting something totally back to the ground in a process that we call coppicing or you're cutting it back to the same point every year, that is also a heading cut. So you're cutting these branches back with the expectation that a whole bunch of new growth is going to arise just below where you made that cut.  Nate Bernitz  24:48so most of the time, we're doing thinning cuts. And yeah, you you brought up that kind of instance where you might be cutting a plant essentially to the ground. stimulate a lot of growth. I think that is a technique that you might use in some instances and not others. It seems really risky. If you don't know much about a plant, you don't really know what you're doing. You cut it to the ground, maybe it's gonna grow back. Or maybe you just killed that plant. So can you talk a little bit more about that technique and when you might use it, and when you wouldn't? Emma E  25:31Yeah, what you said there is important for backing up knowing what the plant or how the plant that you have is supposed to grow. How it naturally grows is so important, critically important if you want your plant to not only perform well, but also look really nice. So doing a little bit of research before you go out and start pruning is really key. In certain cases, you can actually rejuvenate a plant by pretty much entirely cutting it to the ground. And this works for really a subset of shrubs, it's not something that you would typically do with a tree. If the trees coming all the way to the ground, something has seriously gone wrong. But with a lot of shrubs, pruning them to the ground is actually the best way to maintain them. And to keep them looking really nice. great examples of shrubs you can do this with would include forsythia, so the nice yellow flowering bush that we all enjoy in the summer, spy Ria dogwoods. So really any of the shrubby dogwoods will prefer this type of pruning, and willows above, among many others. So again, knowing exactly what the plant you have is, is going to be key to deciding whether that's an appropriate way to prune or not. Nate Bernitz  26:53sometimes, you mentioned storms earlier, you might just have broken branches that need to be removed, is that a type of thinning cut, or is that kind of its own category of cut, where you're cutting basically, right to the trunk. And the whole goal there is just to remove the branch and get a nice kind of stump there, without necessarily stimulating a huge response, you just want it to heal. Emma E  27:21Yeah, so that is a thinning cut. So if you have a branch that's badly broken, you're gonna want to cut it back to the next large healthy branch or all the way back to the trunk. So those are those would both scenarios would be considered thinning cuts. And in many cases, that's that's exactly what you need to do. If you do have a broken limb, I should know that. timing of pruning can be important. But if you have any branch that's broken, diseased, actually, usually I say, dead diseased or damaged. If a branch fits into any any of those three buckets, then it's fine to remove that plant at any time of the year, or sorry, remove that branch at any time of the year. Nate Bernitz  28:05Why is timing important, though? Emma E  28:08That's a good question. So there's a few different things to think about when we consider timing with pruning. First off, for in some cases, plants have specific disease issues or pest issues that might be exacerbated if you prune the plant at the wrong time. A really good example is fireblight, which is a disease of plants that are in the Rose family. So Apple, crab, Apple pear, among others. fireblight infects plants through open wounds. So if you're creating a wound, while that disease is active, you are you are, you know, potentially spreading that disease throughout the plant through your pruning. Whereas if you make if you do your pruning while the plant is dormant, then this is no longer a concern that disease isn't active, you're not going to be spreading it around. The ideal time, in general, to prune the majority of trees and shrubs is in the late dormant seasons. So basically, this means late winter, or early spring. This of course, there are some caveats here. You know, depending on the exact plant you're growing, but in general, if you are pruning during this timeframe, so let's say from March through April, maybe even into May, the plants are just coming out of dormancy or just getting ready to come out of dormancy and enter a period of rapid growth. So if you make a cut in March, and that plant starts growing again, let's say by April, that wound isn't going to be open for very long before the plant starts trying to seal it over. Whereas if you make a cut in sometime in the summer, you might get a little bit of growth. To seal over that wound, but maybe not a lot in the fall, you're probably not going to get much at all. And any growth that does start is likely going to get killed by winter temperatures that that new growth won't have hardened off in time. So you're more likely to get die back at the site of pruning wound. If you are doing your pruning in the fall or early in the winter. Nate Bernitz  30:23I'm not trying to call anybody out. But honestly, the time of year I see most people pruning trees and shrubs is the fall, is that something you've noticed, too? And why is that? Emma E  30:33it is and I think there's a pretty simple explanation for it. It's much easier to prune trees and shrubs when their leaves have dropped off of them. And so when the leaves come off in the fall, you can easily see that branch structure and it, it seems like a good time to go ahead and get more yard work done, because you might already be outside raking leaves, putting putting the garden to bed. But if you can hold off and do that in the spring, your plants are going to be much better served. And you still have the benefit of being able to see that branch structure without any leaves obstructing anything. Nate Bernitz  31:09early spring can be a kind of challenging time, logistically because there may be snow on the ground. And if there isn't, the ground is probably sopping wet. Maybe it's raining, as it often does at that time of year. So it's not the most intuitive time to be out there spending a lot of time in the yard, but you're saying it's definitely worth it. Emma E  31:28It is. And if you only have a couple of plants that need to be pruned, you can wait until the ground is totally thought and dried, just before the leaves start to break on that plant, where people really need to get started early as if they have, let's say a commercial orchard and they have hundreds if not 1000s of plants that need to be pruned. So they're going to be out there in all conditions. But for just the backyard. I see no problem with waiting until the end of April to do your pruning. Nate Bernitz  31:59And that's for New Hampshire. Emma E  32:01That's for New Hampshire. Yeah, pruning time is going to vary a bit depending on where you live. But if you're in the northeast, you'll probably be able to do most of your pruning sometime in you know, late February, March or April. Nate Bernitz  32:15I guess my other theory about why sometimes or often people are pruning in the fall, in addition to what you said, is I think a lot of people think of pruning as just a way of controlling a plant. So it's spent all growing season growing. And at the end of the season, you're like, Oh, I don't want it growing there. And there. It's too big. It's unwieldy. So I'm going to cut it back. And I think your message is that burning is really not about directly controlling a plant, it's there's a little bit more to it than that you have to understand how a plant is going to actually respond to cuts, rather than just trying to cut it to the exact shape that you want it to be. Emma E  32:59That's exactly right. Yeah, I couldn't have said it better. And trying to control the size of a plant is really difficult to do through pruning, when a plant is has branches that are hitting the house that are coming up near a power line, it becomes really hard to control the size of that plant and have it still look really good. So it's important to if you are going to plant something, let's say a brand new tree or shrub, that you've done your homework and you know that that plant is going to fit the size that you have our size space that you have for it so that you aren't constantly fighting it with pruning. Nate Bernitz  33:39So when you are making cuts, should you be doing that at a particular angle? Emma E  33:44Yeah, that is true. So again, this is a little hard to describe. So looking again at our pruning factsheets is going to be really helpful. But when you are looking at a tree, let's say when you're looking at the way a branch connects to the trunk, there are a couple of features that you should be able to see that are going to tell you exactly where you need to make your cut. And these features are called the branch color and the branch bark ridge. Now, what are these look like? Ideally, you know if the if it's going to be a plant that that has these pretty clearly that branch color is going to look like kind of like an area of raised tissue that's on the upper side of the branch where it connects to the trunk. The branch collar or sorry, that's the branch bark ridge. The branch collar is a swollen area of tissue that you'll see often beneath that branch where it connects. And so there's these two things this branch color and this branch bark ridge. If you see one or both of those you'll have a better idea of how to make your cut. This, this is how it goes. So basically, if you see that branch collar, that swollen area of tissue, you want to make your cut at basically the same angle of that swollen tissue so that you're not cutting into it, you're cutting just outside of it. And if you just see that branch bark Ridge, so that raised bit of bark that's on the upper side of where the branch connects, then you'll want to make that cut at about the same angle, that that branch bark Ridge connects with the trunk. Now again, yeah, really hard to try to picture. But this is important. Because within that branch collar area, is a ring of cells that's called rather, it's it's called wound wood. And so this tissue that's inside that branch collar, is actually what's going to help seal over a wound. So if you disrupt that, you're gonna be basically eliminating the trees ability or shrubs ability to seal over that wound. Nate Bernitz  36:03So what happens if you cut at a different angle, so when I think of angles, I kind of think of you can either cut sort of flush, you can cut in or you can cut out, this may not be true, this is just how I'm thinking about it. So correct me where I'm getting it wrong. But I would think that the angle you would cut out would maybe dictate how the plant would respond, if it would send out, you know, new branches in a certain direction potentially. Help Help me understand and and by the way, I would know you're a great Illustrator. And one of the fact sheets that that you mentioned that this kind of basics of pruning trees and shrubs. factsheet in the show notes, has some illustrations that you did that are really helpful, I should take another look at the myself. Emma E  36:52Yes, do take a look at those. So the important thing and all this that in the angle of a cut is really just trying to preserve that tissue that's inside of that branch collar that is going to be responsible for sealing over a wound. Years and years ago, decades ago, the recommendation was always to make a flush cut, which basically means cutting the branch off as close as you possibly can to the attaching trunk. The problem there is that if you remove that ring of cells that that wound would that that wound is less likely to seal over. So basically what trees do, they they're not capable of healing an injured tissue like we are, they're basically capable of just sealing it over. So that's what they'll do with a wound. If you ever look at, you know, go outside and look at a tree in the woods, or one that's been pruned in your landscape and look for those cuts where they are made. If it was a good cut, then you'll see this basically ring of new growth that formed over that cut until there might be just the slightest dimple in the center, it's fairly easy to see. But if you cut flush, or if you cut into that branch color and wound wood of the tree, you might only be seeing new growth from one side of that wound. And the other part is just a you know a gaping wound that never seals over or it takes years and years for that wound to seal over for growth from just one side or maybe two sides to totally covered over. But this is this is important. And the smaller you can cut a branch or the smaller the branches that you cut, the more likely it is for that that tree or shrub to be able to totally seal over that wound. If you're making a very large cut, let's say on a mature tree that that wasn't pruned when it was younger, then a lot of times those wounds don't seal over entirely, or it takes so long that a lot of decay occurs in that wound before the plant can totally seal it over. So this is why it's so critical to prune trees, especially when when they're very small and very young and not waiting until they get very large and become an issue. Nate Bernitz  39:13Okay, well, thanks for setting me straight. That actually does make sense. I'm wondering though, if you maybe just don't make the cut kind of in a textbook way. Someone may not totally be following your advice, and then they're wondering, okay, how do I make sure that this tree or shrub heals properly? Can you just use some sort of product? I see a lot of these products that are there to help trees and shrubs, heal wounds, or maybe some sort of paint or sealant something that you're applying to that wound to cover it up is is that kind of an acceptable alternative? Or how do you look at those products? Emma E  40:00Yeah, it's kind of incredible to me that these products are still on the market. Because we've we've known for a number of decades now that these really aren't in the best interest of plants. And they can actually impede wound sealing over and encourage the growth of rot organisms and insect infestation. Because what these are going to do, so if we're talking about some sort of tar, or pruning sealer, or wound paint, what that's going to do is actually seal in moisture and potentially decay, creating the perfect environment for the K to occur for fungal organisms to break down that tissue. Instead, if you leave that wound open to the air, it's gonna end up sealing over much better. And, you know, this kind of makes sense when you figure that trees have developed effective mechanisms for this on their own. You know, trees in the forest don't have humans intervening trying to help them seal over their wounds. Because like I said before, unlike people or animals, woody plants aren't going to heal their damaged tissues. And though a bandage might be really helpful for us, that's really not helpful for a tree at all. So I would skip those products. And by the same token, if you have a hole in a tree, where an old wound did did allow some decay, to get in, maybe the interior of a tree is starting to break down. You also don't need to fill that in with anything, so no need to fill trees with cement. It's not helping the tree on a tree or a shrub, the only part of it that's actually living when you're looking at a branch or a stem is just a very thin layer of cells. It's called the cambium. So that vascular tissue that's right beneath the bark, the interior where all the wood is on the inside. That's not living cells. So plants can survive, even if their trunks are totally hollow, or trees can survive, I should say. Nate Bernitz  42:09That's amazing. And it makes me wonder what other kinds of products are out there that claim to do one thing and in effects kind of undermine that very purpose. But I guess that's for another episode. Spring is a time when a lot of people are bringing home young trees and shrubs. It's really just not financially feasible, in most cases to buy mature trees and shrubs just really expensive, because it took many years of growing them to get to that size. So we're often bringing home fairly young plants. And you mentioned earlier, how important training is for kind of getting these trees and shrubs off on the right foot. Can you I guess expand on that talk more about the principles of training? Is there more to it than certain types of pruning cuts are we also talking about staking and other techniques here? Emma E  43:24there's a little bit more to it. Usually when you are planting a brand new tree or shrub, you shouldn't have to do too much pruning right away. The only thing that I only things that I would be removing potentially would be broken branches, or any branches that are crossing right on top of one another or rubbing against one another. But if you if you're getting quality plants from the nursery, these features probably aren't going to be noticeable are really there. To begin with. What you are going to be looking for, let's say in trees is a nice even branch distribution around the trunk. So ideally, you should have branches that are coming off on all sides. So if you were to look at that plant from above, the branches coming off would look like spokes on a wheel versus all the branches coming off of one side of the plant. If if that is happening, if all the branches are pretty much clustered on one side, then you may want to remove some of those branches, which should in turn, stimulate or release some bud growth on the other side of the plant. It's also important to note to on young trees, that a lot of the branches near the base aren't going to be permanent. So don't get too stressed out about branches that are only two or three feet off the ground. If they aren't perfect or if they're too low. These are going to be removed eventually over the course of that plant's life. So leaving some of those on initially is totally Fine. One other thing you're gonna want to look for on trees is the actual angle that the branches are attached to the main trunk. What you're looking for a really eye, ideally, you're looking at a 60 degree angle or so would be absolutely perfect. So you know, pull out your protractor and see what that looks like. But that that's kind of the ideal attachment angle for the majority of trees. And the reason for that is that when branches are held at that angle, they tend to be pretty productive. So if it's a plant, or a tree, that flowers you should see plenty of flowers, maybe some fruit development there. And branches that angle are also structurally sound. If the branch angle is really, really narrow, let's let's say it's 20%. If any stress is put on that limb, it's more likely to break away from the main trunk. So this is where snow and ice really come into the picture and why trees that naturally tend to have very narrow crotch angles tend to break more. classic example is calorie pear or Bradford pear. These are ornamental pear trees that are planted really commonly on in around homes along streets. But these are really prone to splitting from ice or snow damage. Because those those angles are so narrow, they're very, very likely to break away. Nate Bernitz  46:35So it sounds like at least in year one, you're not doing a heck of a lot. And really the training starts kind of the following year. I bet for a lot of gardeners, it's that following year, when you kind of stopped thinking about that plan, you think a lot about it when you first plant it, and right when you're supposed to really be doing this work of training it to get to the adult form that you want and to be a healthy plant for the long term. That's when it's kind of out of mind. To what extent does the way you train and prune trees and shrubs depend on what it is? At least for me, I'm thinking about some kind of broader categories, I think about our evergreens, plants that that keep their, their needles leaves all year, I think of kind of flowering trees as maybe their own category, although there may be categories within that. I think about hydrangeas as kind of being their own category there. There are lots of different groupings, I would think. So how do you go about, at least understanding this at a basic level, of course, we're not going to go into detail on the exact specifications for how to burn all of these different plants today. But hopefully, you can explain the basics of how to categorize them and basic considerations as well as how to actually learn more. Emma E  48:04When I think about pruning different types of plants, I'm not so much thinking I need to change my technique as I do my approach with evergreen needle trees. Those are plants that I really don't do much pruning on at all in the landscape. And honestly, if if an evergreen tree has been planted in the right location in a landscape, it really shouldn't need much. plants like pines, spruces, hemlocks, have very strong apical dominance. So they'll naturally have that nice conical shape and should have just at one central leader, so you really shouldn't need to do any formative pruning early on in that plant's life, the only thing you might need to do, if there's some sort of damage to that plant, then you might need to get in and do a bit of training. But otherwise, I just kind of want to gloss over those for now. So your evergreen trees leave those alone, they really aren't going to need much in the way of pruning. It gets a little different though, if we're talking about needled evergreen shrubs. These sometimes do require a little bit of shaping to get them to fit a location to give you the design aesthetic you're looking for. So I'm thinking of right now junipers use maybe Arbor wajdi, camera Cypress. The deal with these plants is that some of them will produce new growth from the brown areas in the STEM, the areas where there aren't any living branches coming off, some of them won't. So you need to know specifically what type of plant you have. And then how it's going to respond to those pruning cuts. So for example, if I have, let's say, a you, I could prune that shrub really, really hard, meaning I could cut a branch back basically to a stub where it Have a brown stick leftover. And typically I will get some new growth coming out below that cut. But if I do that same thing to a Juniper, it's unlikely that there's going to be any new growth. So if I'm trying to prune that plant a little bit, I do not want to prune any further back, then I don't want to prune past the point basically, where there are some some green living needle branches. Additionally, with these shrubs, you typically don't want to remove all of the new growth, you can shorten it. If you're doing some shearing, which again, I don't really recommend, you could remove an entire branch if you need to. With a thinning cut, that's going to be acceptable as well. But you don't want to entirely denude it removing all of the new growth all at once. You have to account for, you know, evergreen shrubs, so needle evergreen shrubs getting bigger over time as well. They're, they're gonna continue to grow. And you do need to allow some of that growth to be there. And in terms of timing for those plants. I'm thinking early summer, you know, right after the growth flush. Again, pines are a little different. With pines, you're actually pruning back candles so that that new growth that comes out, before the needles expand, you can you can shorten that growth. But that has to be done in a very specific time in the growing season. And if you prune too late, you could really end up damaging your plant. So research, research, research or reach out to you and H extension, if you have a question about pruning a specific evergreen. So, the other group of plants, of course we're talking about are deciduous plants with deciduous trees. There really aren't any particular things that I'm thinking of, I'm just paying attention to the timing of pruning. So even if it's a flowering tree, I am going to prune in the late dormant season. So I am going to prune in February, March maybe into early April. With deciduous shrubs, then I'm thinking of a couple of different things, right. So I'm thinking of blooming time on these plants. And I'm also thinking about what sort of pruning they will tolerate. So there are a couple different approaches with shrubs. In terms of pruning, there are some that will create, let's say, three, four or five main stems. And you're pretty much just going to leave those stems alone, you're just going to work on shaping that plant selecting branches here and there, maybe removing some that are crossing and rubbing but the main architecture of that shrub you're going to leave alone. I'm thinking let's say of a Korean spice viburnum, I am going to leave that the main trunks alone, those are integral to the structure of the plant, I'm just going to be playing around with some of the smaller branches that arise from those removing some shortening some with other shrubs, so you can cut them pretty much entirely to the ground in order to rejuvenate them. So this, this really include shrubs that have more of a suckering habit, if you will. So forsythia fits into this group. Certainly things like spy Ria, like ninebark, where you can go in and actually prune these plants right to the ground, and they're going to come right back. Or you can do more of a a staged approach, where you remove, let's say, a third of the oldest stems in the first year, half of the remaining old stems The next year, and then in the third year, you're going to remove the final batch of old stems, that's going to be a little bit less stressful for the plant than cutting it entirely to the ground. But those are kind of your two options for rejuvenating things. That's the approach I would take with lilacs for example, right be removing some of those oldest stems about a third that first year, half the next year, the remaining half the final final year. And I'm going to get a whole bunch of new shoots when I do that. And I'm just going to be thinning out the ones that are very small so the ones that are pencil are less than a pencil with in diameter are very, very close because a lot of times they do this you get a whole bunch of new shoots and then you do need to go in and send those out a bit. But it's a lot easier with with shrubs like that, that you can entirely cut back. But like I like I said with the needle evergreens, do a bit of research on exactly what type of shrub you have, and how it can be pruned so that you get the best possible response from that plant. Nate Bernitz  54:59So the Spring flowering trees and shrubs, those are kind of the exception. You're pruning pretty much all of these trees and shrubs and sort of late winter, early spring, except for plants that are actually blooming in the spring. Because if you're doing that you're just cutting off your flower buds. Right? Is that fair to say that they're the exception? Emma E  55:22That's exactly right. Yeah, especially for Spring Boot spring blooming shrubs, if you prune in the spring, before they start flowering, you're just removing those flower buds. So if you prune right after they've finished, then you're still gonna have a, you will have still gotten to enjoy that bloom. And you're gonna have a new crop of flower buds for next year. Nate Bernitz  55:41Emma, how do you help people from getting overwhelmed by pruning, there's so much information, I know that you could talk honestly for hours about the subject. Because there's so many details, so many considerations. But for anyone that is feeling overwhelmed, wondering, if I don't understand all this stuff, should I just not burn it all? Am I gonna make a mistake? How do you help people kind of ease into parenting, understanding that, yeah, you don't need to know every fact about parenting. To do it, they're just maybe a few basic things to know to at least get started. Emma E  56:17Yeah, pruning can be incredibly intimidating. And I have to say, when I first started, I was really, really nervous that if I cut the wrong thing, I was going to ruin a plant forever, I was going to totally destroy the way it looked maybe damage its health. But really, when it comes down to it, plants are incredibly resilient, if they're healthy, and as long as you aren't removing more than a third of the growth of that plant, or really of its of its total total mass, that it's gonna be okay. And there are few pruning cuts, if you've at least made a cut with with good technique, rarely is a plant beyond salvage. So, you know, there There are, of course, you know, really great pruning cuts, and there are some that that aren't so great. But rarely is there, you know, a total disaster situation. So even if you maybe didn't prune a shrub quite the way you should have or even if you're you're dealing with a young tree that you're trying to prune for the first time, that plant is going to produce new growth, and you are often going to get a second chance to prune it, you know, maybe in a more effective manner or a more attractive manner. That's better for the plant's health. So don't freak out, I guess, if you're really nervous, I'd say start with just removing branches that you're confident about. So go through and remove everything, that's, as I said, dead diseased or damaged. And then you can start looking for branches that are crossing or rubbing against one another. And once you've done all that, it's possible, you will have done everything that you needed to do. And you might just want to walk away at that point. Or if you're feeling a little bit more confident, then you can start to look at the actual branch structure within a plant and start to play around a bit with with making those cuts. Nate Bernitz  58:23And for you, you have this background of working at public gardens, Botanic Gardens. And you've just spent so much time around plants that look exactly how they're supposed to look, which gives you, I think, a really big leg up. Because when you look at these plants, you can see what it looks like. But you also know what it can look like. And so that gives you a leg up and manipulating its structure. Is it fair to say that, that's kind of a big part of burning is just knowing what plants can look like what they do look like when they're healthy and well maintained. And maybe the way to do that is to spend time at really well taken care of gardens. Emma E  59:08I think that that's true. Knowing what a plant looks like, at maturity, when it's been really well cared for and well pruned is is really helpful to know, it's not absolutely essential, but it is helpful. So if you can visit a botanical garden or you know another, you know, public garden space where plants have been really well cared for. It's not only going to give you ideas on what to plant, but also give you a sense of how that plant grows naturally. And, you know, you might might want to take a few pictures, jot some notes. And of course, you know, never hesitate to reach out to people that have more pruning expertise. Like me. Happy to answer your questions. Nate Bernitz  59:56Yeah, that's a good point. We're from UNH extension and anyone in New Hampshire, please don't hesitate to reach out to us you can actually email us pictures of the trees and shrubs that you're looking at ask for advice. We can maybe even annotate and point out some recommended places where we would cut or at least kind of give you the basics and weigh in on your situation. And whatever state you're from actually use your Cooperative Extension Service they, they're here to help and the Master Gardeners in your state are here to help as well. Emma E  1:00:30This episode's featured plant is witch hazel specifically Vernal witch, Hamamelis vernalis. Vernal witchhazel is a deciduous shrub that grows six to 10 feet tall and about eight to 15 feet wide. It's native to southern and central portions of the United States and hardy to zone four. Unlike common witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, which grows in the wild in New Hampshire and blooms in the fall. Vernal witchhazel blooms in late winter from late February to April depending on location, and it's potentially one of the earliest blooms in the landscape. Often alongside snowdrops. The blooms on Vernal witchhazel are spider like with four strap like pedals that range from pale yellow to reddish purple depending on the plant. The leaves are also really attractive with golden yellow fall color. If you have a good quality garden soil in your landscape that is well drained, organically rich and consistently moist. Vernal witchhazel could be the plant for you. As long as it's grown in full sun, you will definitely be enjoying winter blooms. fertile witch hazel would be one of my picks for a shrub border, woodland garden screen, rain garden or specimen plant. Check out your local nursery this spring for Vernal witchhazel. As always, I'd like to share a closing tip, this time on staking trees. New trees sometimes need stakes to hold them firmly in the soil until their roots become established. container or bare root trees may shift in the wind and could benefit from some temporary support. Note I said temporary. Large bald or burlap trees often don't need stakes because their root balls are heavy enough to prevent movement during moderately windy weather. However, smaller containerized trees might need a little bit of support to keep them from shifting until their roots are established. So if you think you need steaks for your new tree planting, you have a couple of options. The first is to drive three short steaks into the undisturbed soil around the tree and attach them to the trunk with a stretchable material. There are ties made just for this purpose that you should look at purchasing and using. Don't use garden hose and wire. These can actually girdle trees. If you use this standard system, make sure to remove the stakes a year from planting to avoid girdling the trunk and to promote structural strength of the trunk which comes from the tree being able to move just a little bit in the wind. Another option is to drive two or three wooden stakes into the soil against the side of the root ball. driving those stakes deep enough to be more or less level with the soil. This system does not require ties and the stakes do not need to be removed and will rot in place. This might actually be my preference. So staking trees can be a good thing in some cases. Just make sure if you're using Ties and More of a traditional system that you only keep those stakes in place for about a year. Nate Bernitz  1:04:14I really appreciate this time, Emma, this this has. This has been great. It's not a full class or anything on parenting. I mean, really, you need the visuals you need the hands on experience. But hopefully this is a good foundation for folks. We have some useful links in the show notes that I recommend checking out. Hopefully we'll get back soon to being able to do in person demonstrations of burning as well and as a fantastic teacher and once this pandemic is over with and we can get together safely. You'll definitely want to check out one of Emma's pruning demonstrations that she does in various parts of the state in the spring but this year has been an episode of Granite State gardening on ornamental pruning. We'll be back with future episodes on pruning, fruiting trees and shrubs. As we're getting into the spring here, we're going to do a lot more topics around, getting ready for a successful year and the garden, the orchard the landscape. That's what we're doing here. We're trying to set you up for success in your home garden and landscape. We welcome your feedback, your comments, your suggestions, you can email me and I at GSG dot We'd also appreciate your reviews. If you're listening on Apple podcasts, you can give us a five star review. We'd really appreciate it and anyone who's listening you can definitely share Granite State gardening with other gardeners and friends in your life that you think would benefit from listening to the podcast. Thanks for tuning in to Granite State gardening. Until next time, keep on growing and printing Granite State gardeners we'll see you next time. Granite State gardening is a production of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and equal opportunity educator and employer views expressed on this podcast are not necessarily those of the universities, its trustees or its volunteers. inclusion or exclusion of commercial products on this podcast does not imply endorsement. The University of New Hampshire US Department of Agriculture and New Hampshire counties cooperate to provide extension programming in the Granite State learn
Houseplants are as popular as ever right now, with many people spending a lot more time at home and craving the warmth and natural touches plants bring. Sometimes, us houseplant enthusiasts can even go a little overboard, bringing too many plants home and sometimes giving those plants a little too much TLC.In this episode of Granite State Gardening, Lake Street Garden Center greenhouse manager Nichole Keyes joins UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz to exchange tips for choosing the right houseplants for your home and helping your indoor garden thrive. They also get into their personal favorites, houseplant shopping tips and predictions for popular houseplants in 2021. Featured question: fertilizing houseplants Featured plant: ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) Closing tip: Cleaning houseplant leaves IPM tip: Controlling aphids Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at gsg.pod@unh.eduBackground reading:UNH Extension’s houseplant resources: Street Garden Center: B  0:00  Welcome to the Granite State gardening podcast from UNH Cooperative Extension. On today's show, Emma and I speak with Nicole Keyes, the greenhouse manager at Lake St. garden center in Salem, New Hampshire. Our conversation is wide ranging, including assessing your home's growing conditions, best growing practices, how to be a smart shopper, personal favorites and predictions for hot foliage houseplants and 2021. By the end of this episode, I guarantee you'll be inspired to grow some new plants because Emma and Nicole's enthusiasm and knowledge just rubs off. And y'all have a few new tips and tricks for your next house plant shopping outing to your favorite local garden center.Greetings, Granite State gardeners. I'm Nate bernitz joined as always by horticulturist and UNH extension field specialist, Emma Erler. And today by Nichole keyes.Nicole, I'm excited to hear some industry insider knowledge from you today. But I'd love to start by getting to know you. Tell us a little bit about yourself.Nicole K  1:14  I work at Lake Street garden center in Salem, New Hampshire. It's a small family owned business. It's been open since the 70s. I'm born and raised from Salem. So I used to go there with my grandfather, like as a child walking through the greenhouses. And when I was old enough to work he he knew the owner pretty well and kind of like gave me a little push and was like go ask for a job. Because I knew I was interested in plants and I love the outdoors. And I'm definitely a nature girl. So I started as a cashier there and just I didn't even know the difference between a Petunia and a philodendron. Back then just being there and and starting to learn I really my passion kind of developed. I've been there 18 years on and off through my life. So it's been a pretty cool journey. It's it's pretty unique that to be a part of still like family run business. Nate B  2:10  Well, I know Emma shares your passion for scientific names for for the Latin. So let's start there. Why is that important?Emma E  2:20  Well, I guess I'll say it's, it's really important because common names can be misleading. It can be misguiding there. In many cases, there are multiple different common names that can be applied to the same plant. And in some cases, two different plants will have the same common name. So if you're using the Latin name, you're being as precise as you can possibly be. And any gardener, any botanist that you're talking to, is going to know exactly which plant you're speaking of and use that Latin name versus a common name. Because to a certain extent that can really be regional as well with what people will call a certain plant. Nate B  3:01  Nicole, do you find that customers sometimes come in and they're asking about one plant, but maybe thinking of another? Or like really kind of actually practical examples where this really comes into play? Nicole K  3:15  Absolutely. I think it's something I deal with on a regular basis and echo everything that Emma said, it's a lot easier for me, when a customer comes in knowing what plant plant they they're, that they're referring to. And like I've noticed, too, that with the trends online today, and like there's a lot of online sales going on all over the internet, and a lot of people are making up common names or coming up with cooler more funky names for plants and customers will come in like, do you have devils IV, and I'm like, what's a devil's IV and it's 1000 I've never heard it called Devil's IV in my life. And so like Google's my best friend today, when it comes to that, I have to do a lot of research online to kind of keep up with the trends and also to be able to educate the customer when we do figure out what they're referring to, you know that the scientific name of the plant and and I've noticed to a lot of the clientele that we have come in, they really do want to know you know, they they want to learn they want to learn the actual names of the plants and and there's this just this huge interest in foliage and houseplants in general. That's up and coming. It's just it's I'm excited to see it happen because it's you know, it's what I love.Nate B  4:48  So when someone is asking about something like Devil's Ivy, is it that that's just a pure rebranding of something that's otherwise actually a pretty common plant or Might that sometimes be referring to a new cultivars? Or is it some of both depending on the situation, Nicole K  5:07  it can definitely be both. There's, there's a lot of new varieties, you know, plants are getting hybridized. And, and all the time. And so I'm find myself like I have to keep up with the different varieties of plants that are being sold and marketed and, and branding to is, is a huge thing. Because a plant that might be called like there's, there's a brand there like Angel plants and it's a trademark and customer will come in looking for that Angel plants, when really it could be a host of all different types of terrarium plants and indoor foliage that are sold in these little cube pots by one company. And they call them a certain thing like exotic angels and, and so I have to kind of differentiate too. And it happens not just with houseplants either like in the spring, it when we buy things in, there's tags in these plants from all different sources and companies. And if they're not read note that they don't know how to read the plant tag properly, they can think that they're calling the plant what it is when actually it's it's a trademark or a brand of the plant.Nate B  6:32  Is there any standardization to what's on those labels?Nicole K  6:37  Usually, they all look different. But most of the time the Latin name of the plant is down at the bottom of the tag. And of course, the brand or company will be in big, beautiful, bold letters across the top of it above the picture. So a lot of the times you have to and sometimes even on the back, you have to flip it over. And then when the lettering at the bottom, it says you know the the true Latin name of the plant. So yes,Nate B  7:06  so we've got these really specific plants science, scientific name, genus species. But if we take a step back Emma, what do you see as the broad categories within foliage house plants?Emma E  7:20  Gosh, you know what? A good question. I mean, broad categories, I'd say First off, I mean, you have vining plants. So perhaps somebody who's looking for something that's trailing, that has, you know, long stems, not necessarily twining, but something that that would have more of a drooping characteristic. Then you also have, you know, a whole broad variety of different foliage types, and different plants within those categories. So for example, I would probably include ferns in foliage plants and ferns are a class their own, then you've got a whole variety of different tropicals that have different needs. So there's a whole bunch of different really cool house plants that are in this foliage plant group that are in the Aram family arrowheads. So that's one group. And then you've got poms, like I mentioned, or actually, I didn't mention palms before, but you got palms and you've got all sorts of other interesting tropicals. Outside of that, too, I mean, you could probably be considering some of the other flowering plants in this foliage plant group as well. Some orchids have really beautiful foliage, and they're grown expressly for their foliage. And some of the bromeliads too, are grown just for their foliage. We're unlikely oftentimes to actually get blooms on them indoors in our homes, but they can be really lovely. So foliage house plants, that's really an artificial distinction that we're making. Right? Maybe it's an industry distinction. It's certainly not an academic distinction. It's, I think, referring to plants that are sold primarily for their foliage, as opposed to some other characteristic. Is that how you see it, Nicole? Nicole K  9:07  Yeah, I mean, it. My greenhouse at this point in time is kind of split between two we have foliage plants, which are mostly, I mean, nowadays, they're not just green. foliage plants come in a host of beautiful colors, which is really cool. But blooming and non blooming or foliage. plants is kind of like how I would generalize it. Emma E  9:36  Yeah, and I guess what I would probably separate out there to are the succulents because it's, they're different. Totally different needs in many cases. And I think in some regards, succulents are maybe waning slightly in popularity, just because a lot of people don't have the growing conditions they need in their homes in order to be able to grow them successful.Nicole K  10:00  Fully, I agree with that. I separate them entirely from everything else in the greenhouse because they, they do need full direct beating sunlight and to be run really dry. And a lot of the times customers will see pictures on Pinterest or in magazines with these beautiful succulent dish gardens like sitting in the corner of a bathroom or in the middle of a living room on a coffee table in these really impractical situations thinking that they can do that too. And I have to be the bearer of bad news. But I can make other suggestions. But um, but yeah, I I've seen a spike in popularity in low light foliage plants and a little bit of a decline when it comes to cactus and succulents. Nate B  10:53  Well, you can't necessarily blame people because if you go into a store, maybe it's a big box store or something else. And they have succulents that are out for display and for sale in growing conditions that wouldn't support them long term, you might think, okay, like you can grow them anywhere there with all these other plants. I mean, you would have a better insight or perspective on this. But I suppose you can have any plant in sub optimal growing conditions for some period of time, but eventually they need to be put into more optimal growing conditions.Nicole K  11:31  Yes, yeah. And and yeah, I don't I don't blame the masses. Certainly not. There's so much false advertising out there. I consider myself somewhat of a plant advocate. I would say that, in regards to placing plants in areas where it might not be optimal for them, plants are super resilient. And a lot of the times they'll struggle for a long time before you can actually kill a plant. So there will be signs and symptoms that come up. But for a good while when you get a plant home, it's not going to really tell you yet if it if it needs to be somewhere else. Emma E  12:25  I think what the you know why people are so interested in say succulents and cacti is just because they're so different from anything you'd see growing in the wild in New Hampshire. And they're really unique, interesting forms. When I first got really interested in plants as a little kid, that's exactly what I wanted to grow. I had a whole bunch of cacti, I had some Jade plants, one of which I still have. And yeah, I was lucky in that my parents, at least at their house had a really bright south facing picture window that I was able to keep my plants in and actually a little greenhouse where things could be in the summertime as well. So I feel like it's almost more of a refinement, I guess, for me to be branching out and looking at some more of these some different plants and focusing more on foliage instead of just really interesting forms that succulents have.Nate B  13:22  So you've both talked about how there's this trend towards, quote unquote, low light plants. Let's talk about low light. Are there any plants that actually thrive in low light? Or is it more of a tolerance and what is meant by low light is low light, just meaning that it's not direct sun? Does low light mean that it can be in a dark corner of a room? What is the distinction between these plants that tolerate or thrive in low light, whatever you say there, versus a plant that has higher light requirements.Nicole K  13:59  I described this all the time at my job because it's a really it's a, there's a lot of confusion around low light, bright, light, direct light, indirect light. And and so the way I usually describe it is plants that thrive in lower light don't necessarily need to be up against a window or in necessarily a brightly lit room. There aren't really any plants that are going to thrive in no light at all, but certain plants like Sansa various snake plant, some philodendrons poffo there's there's quite a few foliage type plants that will do well in the corner of a room or set into the middle of a room that may only have one or two windows and not get sun beating in bright light, in my opinion would be still indirect so not where the sun beets in in warms the area, but a room that's lit up throughout the day from natural light. So there are other types of plants that sometimes get confused with lower light plants but do need more indirect bright light, especially flowering houseplants like begonias or orchids, bromeliads, some types of older plants, like ponytail, palms and shift flera. And sometimes some of those plants can tolerate a broad scale of of that without really showing you, you know that it's too unhappy. SoNate B  15:43  how do you help people evaluate their growing spaces and understand where something fits in like, someone is looking at a north facing window, and they just don't know like, is this good for low light, am I getting more than what I need here, or a corner of the room that sometimes they just kind of walk by, and notice that it's lit up, but it's not like they're standing there with a timer, kind of keeping track of exactly how much light it's getting? Is, are there some other pointers that you might have for evaluating the amount of light a particular space gets?Nicole K  16:22  Yeah, so I'm, I'm kind of a quirky person. So I have these little phrases that I use sometimes. Because a customer will often think that they have full sun in their house, when really, it's just a lot of bright, indirect light. So in differentiating that, I will usually use this phrase of where the kitty would lay, like, where the sun actually beats in that little spot on the floor where it heats up. And I'll say that directly, because people understand that, you know, they can picture that one spot where like the kitty would snuggle. So, I use that oftentimes, and it works pretty well. Or I try to stray away from the directional usage is far as evaluating I mean, it is a good rule of thumb. But most of the time, people don't really know which side of their house is north and south. And unless you sit with a compass and figure it all out, I'm more of a visual learner myself. And so I'll I'll prompt them with questions, you know, between 10 and two is really the most intense part of the day in regards to sunshine. So if they have a window that's lit up until only about, say, 10 or 11 o'clock, in my opinion, that's morning sun that's bright, indirect light. So I kind of use time references with them. And and what it looks like in that room around that time to try and make suggestions of what plants might do well there.Emma E  17:57  I'll say to that, very few plants in my collection, would actually show signs of stress or injury from being closer to a window than I have them. I mean, certainly cold in the wintertime can be an issue with having if you have a drafty window, but in terms of light exposure itself, even my plants that will tolerate low light, are usually happier if I can have them closer to the window as opposed to further away. Probably the only real exception I'd say here is for things that that really like a lower light situation. I'm thinking of say like ferns, I probably wouldn't put my ferns in a really dark place or sorry, in a really bright place like a southern facing window, where it would get really warm. But other than that, oftentimes when I moved my other house plants outdoors in the summer, yeah, like today on their summer vacations.Nicole K  18:55  Windows Sun is lower in the winter than it is in the summer. So if you if you get all these foliage plants in the winter, or you're you know, you're exploring houseplants for the first time, say now and you have these plants in an area just like you said, the sun's actually going to change as to where the intensity is in your house. And so your plants might need to move around in the in the summer and take a little vacation. I like how you put that. My I have a big window in the kitchen, where I have all my little succulents and then they have to go over into the living room in the summer because the sun is totally different. And those two spots,Nate B  19:39  do different house plants have different temperature requirements, or are pretty much all that plants sold and advertised as house plants going to tolerate general and typical household temperatures.Nicole K  19:53  I find that temperature really only is an issue below. See 55 degrees, most plants 55 and up unless it's a you have woodstove, really hot, dry house. If there's a vent, a heat vent blowing in a certain area, those are types of temperatures that are more extreme that could negatively affect the plants that you have there. And then they're also on the other end, there are certain plants that through fall in winter, do like a cooler period, like flowering cyclamen is a big popular flowering plants for Christmas time. And they actually prefer cool temperatures are like a drafty window. And especially at night, they they like to be about 10 degrees cooler, and they do a lot better in that kind of setting. And then there are plants that like a lot of people are into growing fruiting things, edible fig. And what they don't realize is figs go dormant. So they lose all their leaves in September, and they're just these sticks and people think their figs have died. And they really want a cool dormancy period. So they want to be put in, you know, a garage or a basement, they don't need much light, a little bit of water here and there and they instinctually when the day start lengthening, they'll actually push their leaves out and start growing and then you can eventually after frost get them outside. But so there are specific things for certain niches of plants, but for the most part, I will say that, like is benjamina weeping Ficus. They're finicky when it comes to anything drafty or too hot or too, they just like shed all their leaves if they're unhappy. But what most people don't realize is the plants not actually dead. And those guys can completely defoliate and then push new growth in a pretty short amount of time, if you're watering it properly.Nate B  22:01  So you talked about a few examples. Most of them were non foliage plants, like fig or flat flowering cyclamen, you did give the one example of the Ficus but generally it sounds like foliage, house plants are pretty accommodating of normal household temperatures. I think sometimes people ask about temperature because they might be confusing temperature with humidity. In New England, warmer temperatures mean higher humidity, so people may be associating the two. I was speaking with someone a couple days ago, who I think was making that exact assumption. They were thinking that because I was recommending higher humidity for their ferns, they thought the solution was just to increase the temperature.Emma E  22:51  Yeah, not the same thing there. Although you're right, the air can hold more moisture when it is warmer, versus when it's cooler. So if your home is warmer and you have some source of humidity, whether that means a pebble tray near your plants or whether that means actually having a humidifier, you are able to going to be able to keep that that humidity up a little bit more humidity is is really important when it comes to growing houseplants there are certain things that I frankly can't grow in my house because I don't have a humidifier and I don't go out of my way to increase the humidity around plants. I have tried many times to be able to grow prayer plant and they just really don't like my home and I I'm not helping them out because the humidity is too low. Like you mentioned with the the trailing Ficus though a lot of times they will my prayer pylint will come back it'll look terrible winner and then when it gets warmer in the summer it will start to look a little bit better. But it's not the most attractive plant to have in my home in the winter months.Nicole K  24:07  I was laughing to myself over here when he talked about prayer plant because anything in the Columbia family and Miranda family in general they just I'm the same way I'm not gonna I mean a pebble tree is pretty easy. I noticed you mentioned that and just for people listening that don't know what that is, you can actually take a saucer and put a layer of rock or gravel in the saucer and fill it up with water just to the rock and and set the plant there so the plants not actually setting in the water. The water is evaporating up around the general area of the plant and it will raise the relative humidity for the plants itself. And I'm I have so many plants and I just if I if I if I put it where it needs to go and it's not going to do its thing I just grab a new plant because I have the leisure to do That was a profession but I have one coap in my bathroom that's a little brown around the edges but it's it's doing okay and it's pushed new leaves and it's not super happy but that's the most human place I have in my house. And to match the lighting in that room with the humidity is I had to find the correct plant for it, but it's a it's a calafia mosaica which is has this really cool patterning that almost looks like pixelated it's it's a really neat plant but so I was attached to having it no matter what. So that is the one. But other than that I I can't keep them alive for the life of me. It's what I do for a living.Nate B  25:54  house plant pests don't stand a chance when Rachel Maccini spots them. And as UNH extensions pesticide safety education coordinator, she knows you can't control what you don't scout. Now for Rachel's Integrated Pest Management IPM for short featured tip.Rachel Maccini  26:10  One of the most prevalent pests of houseplants are the aphids. These are small, soft bodied pear shaped insects that seem to come from nowhere. They prefer to feed on the new growth of the plants by inserting their mouth parts into the plant and extracting the plant juices. This feeding often results in yellowing and misshapen In addition, the growth of the plant may be stunted and new developing plant buds are often to form also as a phosphine. They excrete a sugary substance we call honeydew. This makes the plant's leaves shiny and sticky. This honeydew becomes a medium for fungus constantly mold to grow, which creates unsightly dark splotches on the plant surfaces. with minor infestations of aphids, you can handpick you can spray with water, or you can wipe the insects with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. If there is a major infestation a pesticide maybe warranted.Nate B  27:16  what are some other techniques for increasing the humidity in your home or at least in a particular area of your home to support plants? And can you give some more examples of house plants kind of across the spectrum from plants that don't have humidity requirements and will tolerate pretty much anything even the driest conditions in your house in the winter time to the plants that are maybe the most finicky. And really only for houseplant enthusiasts that are planning on taking significant steps to support their humidity requirements.Nicole K  27:51  I yeah, so I'm I can speak, right there's there's certain plants that you know, we sell pretty regularly. And I and I have tried to broaden our inventory. As I've as I've been in charge of the greenhouse department at Lake Street. So I'm more keen to know about certain plants and there may be some that I'm I'm just not as familiar with. But I'm definitely a driver dry and arid, obviously cactus and succulents. We we mentioned do okay. Shift Lera, I've found it's also called umbrella tree, they tend to be pretty tolerant of drier house settings, there's quite a few it seems like there, there's there's less that that need that that higher humidity than then others. So air plants is a is another one of those categories we were talking about to lancea that is really popular now. And they're they're cute little plants that don't need soil and you can tuck them in all kinds of things and put them in glass and put them in phases and put them in your bathroom and hang them everywhere. But the only way that they absorb the water that they need is through a very fine mist or humidity. in the air. They have these tiny, tiny little hairs all over them. And that's how they absorb you can actually soak them underwater and submerge them which is what I usually recommend people do when they buy them from me because of the fact that they they're not necessarily in the human requirements that they need. So you're kind of giving them what they need in a dose of bath for an hour once once or twice a week. Another thing that I try to decipher with customers if they're just using a regular squirt bottle, oftentimes the droplets are not a fine enough Miss for the plant to actually absorb So there's a lot of recommendations that I'm seeing online in forums and websites and things of missing, missing, missing missing. And you're not really doing too much because those those big droplets are going to evaporate faster than your plant is going to absorb them. We do sell, there's there's certain mysteries you can get that are floral grade and are more of a fine mist. And missing can definitely help with certain things. Like calafia, we were talking about prayer plant, air plants, bromeliads, I think or another one that like that really humid environment. And was there anything else you can think of and add to,Emma E  30:48  I'd say outside of the misting, because I think a lot of times missing for most people probably isn't going to be adequate for really increasing humidity around plants. Because unless you're home all day, and getting up and missing the plant, let's say every 15 minutes, they're still going to be pretty darn dry. And most of us aren't going to do that. Right? I know, I won't, I'll maybe think of it once a day. And that's not nearly enough. So if you're really trying to grow a lot of things that that do like higher humidity, I think it's probably worthwhile to actually get a humidifier. And to set that up in the room where you have those plants nearby, you don't want necessarily moisture to be collecting on the leaves of the plants. And if it's a humidifier, that's that's sending out hot steam, you also don't want that to be hitting foliage, but you do just you want that air to have more of a humid feel. And then there are certain things that just really appreciate more of a greenhouse environment for a lot of tropicals that do really need that humid environment, because they're there from, you know, a really wet rain forest environment, probably looking at 70 80%, humidity, you know, maybe even 90%. Whereas in our home, so probably the best we're gonna get is maybe 50%.Nate B  32:14  So that's in a bathroom.Emma E  32:18  Yeah, probably in a bathroom with a humidifier setup nearby in the winter months, it's probably going to be more likely closer to 30. If you are in a home with, you know, the furnace running wood stove going. But I think that's, you know, like we've already touched on, I think it just helps to, to recognize what the conditions are in your home and pick things that aren't going to be real fussy. And I think that's where it's helpful to talk to the staff. At the garden center, you're going to where you're going to pick up a plant and, and just be frank about what the conditions are like in your home.Nate B  32:55  I see there being somewhat of a spectrum where maybe on the lowest and we're talking about a place in your home, that not only is not humid, but also maybe next to a radiator, just getting pounded with hot dry air. And then you go to just a normal spot in your home. It's not humid in a special way. But it's also not getting hit with hot dry heat. And then maybe your kitchen right above your sink, there might be a little bit more humidity in your bathroom, there might be a little bit more humidity depending on how often people are showering and stuff like that in the house. And then for the enthusiasts, you might be adding a humidifier into the mix or even some sort of more managed growing chamber. Do you see a lot of houseplant enthusiasts actually going to that level and going beyond just conditions that they can create in their house and really introducing managed conditions with terrarium and other enclosures?Nicole K  33:58  Yes, and more so I think in the past six or seven months than ever before. I i there are a lot of people coming in talking about you know, indoor greenhouses and plant shelves and people are home now. You know, a lot of people are in their house and and they want plants because I think it's actually like an instinctual thing that we're coming into this trend because us as a society we're spending so much more time in the house and there's like this craving for nature right? And, and so people just want that atmosphere in their home. I can't tell you how many times I've had customers come in and say I'm making a home office now and I want plants for it. It's a it's a pretty common thing. Recently and and a lot of plant enthusiasts that that we do have a lot of regular customers and really cool plant people that come in and and they have this whole setup in their house with the humidifier and the grow lights and the whole nine yards and and so yeah, I do see a lot of that we don't sell that level of equipment at Lake Street so on there just to help help them you know, pick out what what they've gotten and decipher what they're doing. But a lot of people are pretty self informed. And when it comes to this stuff and, and, and very, very enthusiastic about their houseplants and taking care of them perfectly, I wanted to touch on something that Emma had said about her goldfish plant, it just made me think and this is kind of relative to what we're talking about. She she had described how in the winter, her goldfish plant loses some of its leaves, it doesn't look necessarily the most beautiful. And then in the summer, it's lush, it's full, it pushes new growth, and that's the case kind of with a lot of different plants is it's okay sometimes to lose a leaf or two here and there. Sometimes things defoliate and then regrow plants are just like us, you know, and they're definitely not perfect. And sometimes I get I get a lot of people who like one brown leaf and they come in like my plant is dying and like it's okay, I can help you. I have customers take pictures, email me, you know, describe what's going on bring in a leaf in a bag if they think that there's some type of disease or insect. But a lot of the times it's pretty regular to have some level of I don't want to call it ugliness because plants are awesome. But that defoliation or browning leaves or a little bit of brown tips on the end, especially when it comes to not having the perfect conditions because most of these plants are tropical. And they are from rain forests. And we live in New England. And, and we're trying to keep them in a tiny little pot in our house to admire so it's definitely something to consider that it's okay. And and a lot of the times still they'll survive even though they're they're not thriving at the moment. And there may be certain times in the year where they they do better than others.Nate B  37:26  I appreciate the house plant positivity I guess it's like if you find a gray hair or have something or have a headache or something, it's not the end of the world. It's It's okay.Emma E  37:40  All note too that anybody who's been keeping houseplants for a long time is probably killed a lot of house plants as well. I have certainly killed enough house plants. In the years I've been keeping them and through a lot of that I've learned not only just from the mistakes I've made with those certain plants, I have learned more about what they actually need. And I've you know, frankly learn which things are going to be able to survive and the conditions I can give them in my home and what plants are going to tolerate the care that I can provide. I'm one of these more negligent waters so I will often water less than my plants would probably prefer. And so I've figured out you know exactly what's gonna tolerate my schedule.Nicole K  38:30  I'm the exact same way with my house plants, they they just barely survive sometimes. Also, during the busy season, my houseplants take a hit because I'm I'm at the greenhouse most of the time. But it's actually especially in the winter it's almost a benefit to be light handed water. The number one killer of houseplants from what I've seen in this industry is over watering it's just too much love and and and oftentimes customers will think the plant is drying out to the level it needs to because it looks that way from the top. Um, but really those last few inches of soil in that pot make a huge difference and and being an underwater is more beneficial to your plants than than an overwater for sure a plant is going to come back a lot quicker from from being a little too dry than it ever will be from from over watering and rotting.Nate B  39:34  Emma from a scientific academic perspective, can you explain and demystify why overwatering leads to plant suffering. From a common sense perspective, it almost doesn't make sense but we see it time and time again that plants do suffer from over watering what is actually happening there.Emma E  39:55  So we know that plants are taking water up through their roots, right so it would seem Yeah, more would be better. But really what's also happening with plant roots is that they're also taking in oxygen, the top part of a plant is doing photosynthesis, all those green parts, and you probably know that plants take in carbon dioxide, and then release oxygen. So the top part of the plant is using limited oxygen only when it switches over to that burning energy phase of respiration. But that's solely what's happening in roots respiration. So oxygen needs to be able to get into the root system of the plant. When we water too much. Basically, what we're doing is drowning the roots, the plant is not getting the oxygen it needs. And in many cases, you kill the plant, just by doing that alone by drowning it. There's also the potential when you're creating this overly wet environment, that you're going to have issues with actual fungal pathogens, and experience rot and decay in those roots. So too much is not a good thing. You know, same same for anything else, I guess whether it's with people, animals, I mean, there's a limit. So getting the watering, right is what you need to do. Now, all this being said, there are plants that are adapted, obviously, to live in the water. Usually, we're not growing those indoors, these would be things that you'd be putting more into like a pond situation or maybe even growing in a fish tank or something similar. Not that you couldn't grow them indoors, we just don't usually do it. But most of the the terrestrial plants that you're going to be growing things that you're going to be picking up at the greenhouse, are not going to appreciate too much water, being lighter with the water is important.Nate B  41:52  What are the other factors besides actually how often you're watering on whether plants are going to suffer from over watering? I'm thinking possibilities might include the potting mix that you're using, how much water it's retaining how well it's draining, and maybe the container you're using, too. What do you think about that, Nicole?Nicole K  42:12  Yeah, all of those things you listed are definitely factors. As far as the potting medium, or potting soil that you're using, you definitely want to look for something that's nice and light and fluffy. Like Emma said roots need gas exchange, we don't usually wouldn't necessarily think that. But when I first learned that when I was being trained as a water, it finally made sense to me. You know, when you open that bag of potting soil, you want to be able to dive your fingers right in there. If it takes two hands for you to pick up that bag of potting soil, you might want to reconsider the brand that you're paying per light. If those little white specks in your potting soil, it's actually pumicestone it creates those little spaces, those air pockets that roots need. And then you know there's other plants that don't that might need more specific soil medium like orchids, want to be in a bark mixture. They're epiphytes, they grow on trees naturally. So when we stuffed them in a pot, we need to accommodate them and in some way and the size of the container is huge. I see a lot of people they see a plant they really like and they come in looking for it. And they already have a pot picked out because they love the pot the pot is pretty and it matches their house and but that pot might not necessarily be the correct size for the plant that we have that you want or that you're buying. So a plants there, especially in the winter, they they they like to be a little more rootbound a little tighter in the pot. If you're buying a plant, say a four inch or six inch plant, those are common sizes that are sold all over. You don't want to bump it up into anything bigger than say a six or an eight inch two inches bigger. I i've if you if you the more soil you have, the more moisture you have, the more chance you have of killing that plant. That's kind of how I put it in layman's terms to customers. The type of container to I I keep all my plants in my house and the plastic grower pots. I want a pretty pot, I'll find one that I can set that plastic pot into. I water a lot of my plants at the sink and then put them back where they are just for the sake of not having saucers everywhere and just the setup that I have. It's not really necessary but that's kind of how I do things but I I find the plastic it's air rated at the Bottom it allows the plants to dry out that how they need to. Next Level Up would be terracotta, like non glazed clay. And then glazed pottery dry, it's it takes a plant a plant a lot longer to dry out, say in a clay pot that's glazed because it's not porous, especially if it's ways on the inside or all the way up the rim. And so you, you want to take that into consideration.Nate B  45:33  And it goes without saying that you need drainage holes on the bottom there are a lot of pots that are sold that don't have drainage holes. So I guess that might be useful if you're tucking that plastic pot into it. But I recently learned how to drill holes into pots using a hollow drill bit it worked really well said buying cheap pots, and they're partially cheap, I think because they didn't have holes in the bottom and putting holes in myself that worked really well.Nicole K  46:00  I i've never yet we don't have one of those bits, but I sort of wish we did because the sales manager oftentimes will buy lots of pottery and and they're really cool pots, but sometimes they do come without drainage. And I take advantage sometimes of of what I know, in in just general knowledge as far as plant care, but yes, holes in the bottom of your pot is definitely necessary. You want that water to drain out the bottom. And there are if if if you're a little more comfortable, you have had plants before and you know that you're you're pretty good water, you can manipulate any pot to accommodate your plant, you can put gravel in the bottom of your pot where the water will catch, you can learn how much to put in your plant. So it just goes to the bottom and doesn't necessarily spill out. There's there's tricks to you know, if you're really attached to a pot and you consider yourself a little more experienced water.Nate B  47:07  I'm glad you brought up the gravel at the bottom because that's a question I think that a lot of people have is can you create that drainage layer at the bottom? My concern would be that the potting mix might end up just clogging at the bottom, sort of getting into that gravel and potentially stopping water from draining is my concern founded? might that be true for sand or something else? I mean, there's all sorts of things that you could potentially put at the bottom but is that going to work or what's your take on that Emma?Emma E  47:41  I'd be more concerned about just overflowing that reservoir so you have those stones at the bottom or the sand at the bottom and you have no way of knowing exactly how much water is down there at that level. So I I would be more concerned that I that that space all those pore spaces between the stones it's already full. But the potting mix at the top is looking like it's it's kind of dry so I put more water in there. I i've never personally had a whole lot of luck with with pots that don't have drainage I I have a few actually really nice glaze pots that don't have drainage that I've had for years and I've tried a number of different plants in them and I've found it's just it's really hard to get it quite right. For me anyways, I don't think I ever quite figured it out.Please excuse the interruption. It's time for this episode's featured question. How to fertilize houseplants. fertilizing house plants is something that is often overlooked. Many foliage plants are relatively slow growing and have fairly low nutrient requirements, but they still need a fertilizer boost periodically for healthy growth. Most potting mixes contain few if any nutrients. So if your plants are looking pale or developing smaller than average leaves, then it's probably time to fertilize. Which fertilizer works best depends on what you're growing. Different fertilizers contain various percentages of the three essential macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. In general, foliage house plants grow best with fertilizers that are high in nitrogen, whereas flowering house plants grow better with a higher phosphorus source. There are many specialty house plant fertilizers that work quite well for specific plants. However, a balanced fertilizer such as 10 1010, or 20 2020 is usually suitable for the majority of common plants. One thing I would avoid is organic fertilizers for houseplants. Not only can these products be smelly, but they require a soil microbial committee To make their nutrients available to plants, something that potting mix simply doesn't have. Finally, I'll close by saying that it is important to carefully read the fertilizer label and apply only as directed. Too much fertilizer can actually damage plants. Also, you should only fertilize when your plants are actively growing. Usually the spring through the fall, giving it a rest over the winterNate B  50:29  interruption Excused emma. So Nicole, what shopping tips do you have for our listeners for the next time they go to their local garden center and want to pick up healthy plants that will thrive in their homes?Nicole K  50:42  So educating yourself on the most common pests of houseplants I think would be the first step. spider mite is a very very common one. And webbing any type of webbing between the nodes which would be where the leaf meets the stem or over the the leaf itself is is definitely a no no it's a it's a sign that there's there might be some insect damage going on. Looking for mealybug is another one, it's a little and white and fluffy and it kind of looks like mold and sometimes these guys can just be little tiny, white fluffy specks and you don't really know what you're looking at. But googling images of these things I think because coming from I sell a lot of different types of plants in one small one area, you know, and these these pests are gonna happen and we do the best that we can to practice integrated pest management program and be on the ball when when we get things in scouring over making sure that there's there's no little bad guys on there and treating them as well. But it's going to happen you know it to some extent and so I think we pride ourselves at Lake Street on on keeping our plants pretty clean. But insects are definitely something you want to look for fungus gnat is another one that's really popular if plants are getting over watered, consistently, fungus not can get his soil borne. And then they if you Brussel the plant or go to pick it up and these little flies come out, you know that those guys can spread pretty quickly and you can have a problem on your hands in the house looking for a nice lush green foliage, anything chartreuse or if you can see kind of veining and leaves of foliage plants, they're usually lacking nitrogen or you know deficient in some way which can be rectified. But they might not be in the in the in tip top condition. And looking for new growth, I think is a big one to it checking that plant and seeing you know, wherever then the new leaves are pushing out is is there nice healthy new growth on on the plant that you're buying. If there's a whole table of plants and you're you don't know which one to pick, shape, branching, nice full plants and especially the the new growth looking to see that that new growth is pushing is is something you you want to check for as well.Emma E  53:46  I'll often try to take a peek at the roots too. Sometimes that might mean just looking at the underside of that pot through the drain atolls. And I would ideally like to see routes that look white or more of a cream color that are nice and healthy. If I'm seeing just kind of shriveled looking brown roots on the bottom, it's probably a sign there's been some root decay from overwatering and that that plant is going to struggle along for a while if it if it does survive.Nate B  54:12  What exactly do you do with a plant that has at some point suffered from over watering and potentially some root rot? Is that something that plants can come back from and how can you help them or are you having to actually prune roots at that point trying to cut out decaying roots are well those roots potentially heal on their own.Emma E  54:35  So the damaged roots aren't going to heal, but you could potentially get new healthy roots if there's still existing healthy roots on that plant. You could get healthy new growth expanding from those roots. First thing I would do is just totally cut back on watering. And if you're using a pot that doesn't have a drainage hole, or if it's something that's been in the same pot for you Let's say five or more years, it's possible that drainage hole has gotten clogged up. So repotting, it can be helpful. But I have a porthos right now that was given to me that decidedly had some root rot going on when I got it, but it is starting to push some new growth because it is on my watering schedule now. So watering is is very light and those healthy roots that were still on the plant, I think of there, they're still there. And I've gotten some new growth, expanding from those roots too.Nicole K  55:33  Another thing too, is downsizing the pot sometimes, when customers come in and show me pictures, I can usually decipher that it's an over watering issue. And if you if you take that, if you go to report it or just to even see what the roots are, and most of the soil falls away and you have this tiny little root ball in this pot, spit into downsizing the pot into some fresh soil and getting it on a new watering schedule will will help push healthy root growth as well.Nate B  56:08  When you talk about a watering schedule, how do you think about that and plan for a watering schedule for your plants? Is that something where you're watering? When you know that the plants need water? Or are you potentially able to at some point figure out that a plant needs water every week, or every 10 days or whatever it is, how do you really lock that in?Nicole K  56:32  I think using my five senses are some of the senses anyways, maybe not taste. But smell sometimes, you know, you can smell some dank soil. But a I would say that that's the best way to do it with your plants individually. Because most of the time people want things that are convenient. And so they want to water on Wednesday when they're home or one day a week. And oftentimes you have plants in different sized pots that need different watering requirements. So I'll actually take the customers plant that they want to buy. And I'll show them how you can brace the plant with your hand and tip it over and pull that pot off the bottom. And you can actually see that the top might look dry. But further down, you still have moisture. So they bring the plant home and they water it and they put it where it wants to go. Every few days or so with this new plant, they can check and they can see you know how how far it's gone. How much that soil has dried out. Obviously different plants want to dry out to different levels, which you would want to educate yourself on when you buy the plant. But visually when I teach girls how to water in the greenhouse to it, that's another another thing that I do is I have them pull off that pot and see because usually, most often it will look dry on top and it's not ready yet. To checking out the soil would be a big one.Emma E  58:11  Yeah, I would say I don't really have a true schedule. When it comes to watering, I would say I pull out the watering can a couple of times a week that first pass through I'm not watering everybody might be just half of my plants actually need water. So those will get watered and everybody else gets left alone for the time being. And then if I you know come through again, before I disappear for the weekend, I might be watering some of those same plants again, and maybe some of the ones that got left out before so it's, it's really just based on plant need. Rather than saying, I need to do this once a week, every Tuesday my plant gets water. It's really you just need to work on your observational skills, feeling the soil, taking a look at it, maybe at some point letting that plant get almost to the point of wilting so that you know what that looks like. And what the potting mix feels like when it's that dry.Nate B  59:12  I want to get your predictions. Um, I'm not sure if you have predictions or not. But if you do go for it, but Nicole, I know you have predictions. What are the plants that you think are going to be especially popular this year? The plants that you've noticed have been growing in popularity or you think are going to be growing in popularity very soon.Nicole K  59:35  Yeah, there I mean, there's a lot I've I've worked at Lake Street a long time and I will say I used to never be able to sell snake plant and now I cannot keep snake plant on my table. There's so many cool varieties. There's cylindrical snake plant which is rounded there's, you know, different variations of snake plant and and Since avaria, is 10 times more popular than it ever has been. So that's definitely one philodendron in any species, especially anything variegated philodendron Birkin is one that's really hot right now. monstera deliciosa monstera ad and Sonia I which is sometimes called Swiss cheese vine that has that kind of serrated leaf to it but more binding and smaller than the delicious dosa. People are just becoming philodendron collectors it's it's kind of a thing now. And every I get calls every week of Do you have this type that type and, and I wish that I had more of a source but I do the best I can to get in but we have had Birkin in. We do have Adam Sonia and zyliss yosa. And so those also another type of porthos is Cebu blue is one that's become more popular. It has this really beautiful silvery blue foliage and it's not your typical heartshaped leaf. It's one of those plants that Emma was talking about that kind of spills over and it's I'm a big fan of the Cebu I have one and I love it. People are also I would say, orchid cactus I've noticed an upcoming trend and especially Fishbone orchid cactus, which has sometimes called Ric RAC is an old common name for it rickrack cactus it has, it looks like a bone, it's really cool. It has these big lobes and it flowers. And I've I've had more people at cult like we've had people calling and asking and we've propagated more of that, because of the prediction that that's going to be more popular string of hearts is another one that I can only I it's a it's not the most vigorous grower so we can only put out as much as we can and propagate and then it's gone. And I'm bringing in like a tray at a time and it disappears. And so that's one that I can't even keep in there. Another one that we've had the mother plant for a while and we just never really propagated it because it i don't know i i noticed it a few months ago down there for the first time but we've we've had it for a while it's in the sixes family and it's called Partha gnosis is amazonica or jungle vine. It has these really almost similar to an angel wing begonia. It has these elongated wing shaped leaves with like a reddish Maroon underside and a silvery foliage and it is a little different in the sense that it doesn't need direct sunlight, but it's actually a climber. So it does send out runners that will cling on unlike patos and most philodendron that just our bridal veil, there's other ones that just kind of spill over the pot this one will actually climb if it has something to cling on to and so we've started propagating those and that's another one that is just flying off the shelves. it's it's a it's a really cool plant try to scan Sha two I also known as wandering Jew there's some really neat hybrids that have come out like Nanak which is has this like light pink and green variegation and the underside of the leaf is like purple like a color shade that you wouldn't think would be natural to a plant it's I have one I love it My room's purple purple girl so I and then try to sketch a rainbow is another one it has this cream and purple and greenish variegation really funky and awesome. But any of the tracks I have like nine different species of try to sketch I have a whole try to sketch a table which is a first for me in Lake Street garden center history. So that one's really cool too. What about you, Emma?Emma E  1:04:24  Oh, gosh, I mean, I I feel like I've been seeing a lot of Hoyas around as well as being pretty popular and a good choice if you don't mind waiting a long time or don't mind a plant that will just kind of sit around and not do a whole lot which I think can be fine. That's kind of how the the snake plants are to where they're, they're not gonna grow you know very quickly, but you're going to have something that's that's pretty hard, too hard to kill. One of my favorite plants that I have right now is my cast iron plant aspa distro. It's really attractive, really more of kind of an old fashioned vibe but it's it tolerates the low light condition I have it in doesn't mind the soil being on the drier side so I'm hoping to see more of that plant around because I do think it's it's worthy of being a part of this this new foliage plant craze.Nicole K  1:05:23  I actually had a hard time getting those in this year which has never been the case for me we we order a lot of foliage from Florida at the end of our you know, spring growing season when when summer is fading into fall we we try to vamp up the greenhouse for winter sales and it wasn't on the availability at all and usually I'll get six in and they can't tell them all winter. And we actually had customers calling this year asking for her cast iron and it's called that for a reason for sure who that plant is pretty I won't say indestructible but it can it can tolerate a wide range of conditions that yeah, it is that is a cool plant. I think one of my favorites. I'm a begonia girl anyways I love all but don't me and my boss to the owner of Lake Street we when it when spring hits between angel wings and dragon wings and tuberous but don't we just we do too much. He's like more and I'm like yes. Or I'm always trying to look for different colors. I just we have an affinity for begonias, both of us so we share that but dragon I'm sorry, angel wing begonias. Right now the macula Ladas are, are hot. They're they're definitely we have a mother plant that we've had for almost 30 years. It's a begonia Ksenia, an orange blooming variety and it has that angel wing type leaf with the silver spotting on it and this bright orange clusters of flowers. And we usually sell it as a shade hanger in the spring. And I kind of saw this trend up and coming and I asked our grower to propagate some of it. And it I it's it was a good prediction is they're they're going like crazy and angel wings. And I would say abutilon I think is an underrated winter flowering house plant. I mean, it will actually flower most of the year if it's happy and has proper fertilizer conditions. But it's it they call it flowering Maple because the shape the leaf, it has nothing to do with the APL family. But it has this really cute like pendulous flower that hangs almost looks like a little like fairy skirt. And they come in yellows and paint. And I'm a big fan of training standards. So like I like to take a plant that would normally be a bush and try and turn it into a tree. It's like a nerdy fun thing that I like to do and it along are really easy to actually do that you can pick away all the foliage and just leave this little ball at top. And if you keep picking away all that foliage on that main stock, and get rid of all the others, you'll get this nice little round head and this cute little tree. So I think that's why I love them so much.Nate B  1:08:30  But would you say for houseplant customers, there's a particular time of year where you're going to have access to the best variety and selection at your local garden centers are there for Lake Street and for other garden centers, I assume that the trends and timing are relatively similar, like is winter a really good time to buy or some other time here.Nicole K  1:08:55  So usually, after the we start slowing down with our annuals and vegetable sales, spring flowering items and stuff, basically, when there's space in the greenhouse, which is usually around August, that's when I'll start looking at bringing in some foliage plants. Even it can still be a little hot and the sun can be really intense in there. So I have to be careful at the end of the summer. But I'm usually bringing in three or four shipments from Florida anywhere between August and October. So fall and throughout and I'm calling and checking and asking is something that you can definitely do to you know, inquiring when if and when you're getting new shipments of houseplants is something you know it's a question we get oftenEmma E  1:09:47  I would imagine to having customers tell you what they're looking for giving you a call talking to you, you know at your business is helpful for you as well in terms of planning.Nicole K  1:09:58  It does. I will Say, though, that the trends come and go so quickly that what's popular now in three weeks like might not necessarily be, and especially next season, I don't, I can't even predict what I mean, we were deemed essential through the, you know, the whole COVID shut down in New Hampshire garden centers and nurseries were able to stay open. So we had three times the amount of volume that we usually do there, you know, and we did the best that we could to keep up with the inventory. But it was near impossible, even our suppliers sold out faster than they ever would have. And that's, that's continuing on now through fallen winter, and I've had more customers in my greenhouse in January than I've ever seen. Walking through there at four o'clock on a Wednesday, you know, I can have 10 people in there shopping for houseplants, and that's unheard of for us in January. So yeah, to answer your question, yes. I people call and ask and then I hunt is kind of what what usually happens.Emma E  1:11:09  I'd say I, I would say grow what you're excited about, you know, visit your local garden center. Do a little bit of research in advance or take advantage of the staff that are working there, use them as a resource. But uh, you know, don't don't pigeonhole yourself either. With just growing, you know, one specific thing that you think might be perfect for your, your location, you know, be willing to try a bunch of different things. And yeah, if you're really excited about the plant, chances are that you're going to do the research you need to keep that plant really healthy.Nicole K  1:11:48  Yeah, we covered so much. And this has been a really awesome opportunity. I'm, I'm really grateful for it. And thank you guys for reaching out to me to do this. And I'll say to you know, I've seen a lot of customers who really want to be plant people, but don't think they are, you know, in any can be a plant person. And Emma said it earlier. And it was the same for me I had to kill a lot of plants before I could keep plants alive. I can't tell you how many times I tried to grow an African violet. And now in however long it's been my African Violets are doing great. But just just keep trying, you know, and and and don't hesitate to ask questions. So a lot of people will come in the greenhouse and and, you know, feel like they're bothering me or whatever. But that's what we're here for. You know, I'm I love the QA and, and to be able to help customers out and and learn how to, you know, take care of their plants and broaden their experience and stuff. So don't don't hesitate to to utilize us as a resource.Nate B  1:12:55  And I would echo that for unh extension. That's why we're here too. So, yeah, everyone out there. Don't be afraid to kill plants. Don't be afraid to try new things. And don't be afraid to ask questions either to your cooperative extension to your favorite garden center. We're all here to help. So yeah, thanks again for coming on. Nicole. This has been really fun. We'll have to talk some more at some other point about some other aspects of house plant maintenance. We didn't even get things like fertilizing pruning, cleaning sanitation, we didn't talk about propagation as far as the How to and that could be its own episode, frankly, lots of opportunities for for future topics of discussion.Emma E  1:13:48  This episode's featured plant is zz plant seameo caucus ximea folia. It's one of the best indoor foliage plants I know of for low light environments. zz plant is native to dry grasslands and forests in eastern and southern tropical Africa, making it pretty solidly a house plant for New Hampshire. It's a member of the arrowhead family, which means it's related to other popular house plants like philodendron monstera and peace Lily. It's distinctive looking, and that is stemless with compound leaves that arise from rhizomes beneath the soil. The leaflets are glossy green, and they're attached to fleshy leaf stems that grow to about two to three feet tall. zz plant grows really well and bright indirect light, though will tolerate low light so it's a it's a decent plant to have a good ways from a window in your home. You should when you're caring for it water regularly, but avoid keeping the soil consistently wet. Soils should really be allowed to drive fully between water applications. plant will also do best if you keep it in a room where the temperature is at least 60 degrees. The last thing I'll note is that zz plant does grow slowly. But it's easy to keep looking good as long as you're being careful with your watering, occasionally fertilizing it and giving it a good source of bright indirect light.I'd like to close this episode with a tip on how to clean the leaves of foliage house plants. Over time, dust and dirt can build up on leaves, and block sunlight limiting houseplants ability to photosynthesize. photosynthesis is of course how a house plant feeds itself in too much dust can prevent optimal growth. So ultimately, cleaning not only makes your house plants look better, but it also makes them healthier. Now how you can do this there's two ways. First, you can either put your plants in the kitchen sink or shower and run lukewarm water over them. Avoid hot or cold because this can damage leaves. If the plants are really dirty, then they can be sprayed with a diluted dish soap solution, which can then be sprayed off with lukewarm water. Another option if you have smaller plants is to use a dusting cloth or a gentle brush to clean individual leaves. cleaning house plants doesn't have to take too much work, but it will definitely keep them looking and growing better.Nate B  1:16:39  Thanks, emma. great tips as always, that's gonna do it for today's show on foliage house plants, our sixth episode of Granite State gardening. Our goal with the Granite State gardening podcast is to provide trusted, timely and accessible research based information to you and fellow gardeners. We've been so appreciative of all the great feedback suggestions and questions so far, but keep those emails coming. Our email address is g s g dot We're also on social media at ask UNH extension and you can help us grow this new podcast by sharing it with fellow gardeners. And if you're so inclined, giving us a glowing five star review if the podcast app you're using allows it. Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Granite State gardening. Until next time, keep on growing Granite State gardeners.Granite State gardening is a production of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and equal opportunity educator and employer views expressed on this podcast are not necessarily those of the university's its trustees, or its volunteers, inclusion or exclusion of commercial products and this podcast does not imply endorsement. The University of New Hampshire US Department of Agriculture and New Hampshire counties cooperate to provide extension programming in the Granite State learn more@extension.unh.eduTranscribed by https://otter.aiTranscribed by https://otter.aiTranscript by
Show NotesIn this bonus episode of Granite State Gardening,  New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station researcher Becky Sideman, Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz continue their conversation from the last episode, getting into working with seed catalogs to understand the information and how it’s organized as well as how to make selections that will thrive in your garden. We get into the weeds of concepts including organic, seed treatments, GMOs, and disease resistance, as well as segments on selecting varieties for container gardening, staking tomatoes, and growing Malabar spinach (Basella alba). Part 1 of this conversation, titled Planning Spring Vegetable Gardens, Soil Temperature, Nasturtiums & Fencing, was packed with experience and insights for garden planning, and we recommend listening to it before jumping into this episode. Featured question: What are the best varieties for growing veggies in containers? Featured plant segment: Malabar spinach (Basella alba) Closing gardening tip: tomato staking Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at Background reading: Growing Vegetables in Containers: Applied UNH Extension Research: Pruning Tomato Plants: Garden Diseases:  Managing Garden Pests with IPM:  Exciting Veggie Varieties Q&A:  UNH Sideman Lab on Instagram: Transcription by Otter.aiNate Bernitz  00:01Welcome to the Granite State Gardening podcast from UNH Cooperative Extension. On today's show, we continue our conversation with Becky Seidman: UNH Extension specialist, professor of sustainable agriculture and food systems, and researcher at the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station. If you haven't listened to Part one yet, which was called "planting spring vegetable garden soil temperature nasturtiums and fencing", you'll want to check that out before listening to this episode. We'll talk about using the wealth of information provided on seed packets and in seed catalogs, not only to understand it, but how to use it to choose the right varieties and succeed with the varieties you choose. Greetings Granite State gardeners, I'm Nate Bernitz, joined as always by horticulturist and UNH extension field specialist, Emma Erler. And again by Becky Seidman. We pick up our conversation after talking about garden planning systems and strategies. Now, we'll get into talking about tips and solutions for working with seed catalogs, understanding the information provided for us and how it's organized. So rather than get overwhelmed, we can get informed and find varieties that help us bring our garden plans to life. Emma, let's jump back in with what you view as some of the most important sections to focus on when you're looking at a variety of listing and a seed catalog. Emma E  01:35I'd say one thing I'm looking at, which is always going to be on there is the days to maturity. So if this if I'm ordering from companies that are out of the Northeast, you should I can probably assume that what I'm going to grow as long as I am planting on time, I'm going to be able to get a harvest. But you know, depending on when you're going to be able to get things in the ground, let's say it might be important to know whether something whether it's going to develop really quickly or not, or whether it's early fruiting or not. So I don't I'm thinking, let's say maybe tomatoes, you know that you're gonna be gone by, let's say August 1. And so you want to make sure that you you've chosen a variety that fruits really early, I say you've started them indoors, get them outside in the garden, and hopefully you're getting a nice crop within, you know, let's say two months at the at the most. So that's important. And then another thing that I guess we've kind of touched on already is is whether there's any sort of pest resistance in a variety. So if I know let's say that I have been having issues with early blight on my tomatoes year after year, then I might be looking for a variety that is early blight resistant, etc. I guess the same could go for squashes or cucumbers with say powdery mildew. So if you've at least accurately identified what that problem is, you might be able to skirt it somewhat with rotation and choosing a variety that has resistance. Nate Bernitz  03:09There's a lot more information about disease resistance in the catalog than on a seed packet. The seed packet might say that it has disease resistance, but in the catalog, it might say what it's resistant to and its level of resistance, whether it's resistant, whether it's tolerant, how resistant is it, there's a lot of really nuanced information that you might be able to get from the catalog. Becky Sideman  03:34Definitely. And I would add to that that not related to diseases but relating to whether a crop does well. One of the things that you will often find in a catalog is descriptions about the seasons that crops do well in, I'm thinking about broccoli, for example, broccoli varieties vary enormously in their tolerance to the kind of mid summer heat that we experience. And so if you are a real broccoli afficionado and want to grow broccoli so that you can harvest it throughout your whole growing season, you would probably want to actually grow an early season broccoli that will do well in the spring before the summer heat, and maybe a main season broccoli that can have some heat tolerance, and then maybe even a third that goes really well into fall production. That might not make sense if you just care if you have a little bit of broccoli here and there. But if you're really focusing on any given crop, you'll realize that there's a lot of variability that you can choose from. Nate Bernitz  04:43And I guess that might be taking us back to where we started this conversation which is hybrids, because plant breeders are breeding crops for specific characteristics. So if you're that broccoli afficionado you're looking for broccolis for different Seasons that might be where you're really benefiting from some of these newer varieties, Becky Sideman  05:05that's for sure. And they, they may be newer varieties that are hybrids, but they may also be new, open pollinated varieties, the two are not necessarily at odds with each other. Emma E  05:17Yeah, it's a really where that comes in, I guess open pollinated or hybrid is whether you're intending to save seeds yourself or not. So if you're really hoping to just have this, this garden where you're saving seeds every year, which I think is really hard on the scale of a home grower, if you just have a few plants here and there. But it really doesn't matter if you're going to be starting things from from seed each year, and not trying to save the seeds, whether it's open pollinated, or hybrid. Becky Sideman  05:46No. And in fact, some people prefer open pollinated seeds for kind of exactly kind of the reason that you might also the opposite reason, but the exact same justification is why you might prefer prefer hybrids. So hybrids are super, super, super uniform and consistent, they are going to be the same as each other. And that's great if you want something that's really uniform, but open pollinated varieties tend to have more variability in them. And that can be nice if you actually enjoy that variability, or you want to see that, you know, a little more adaptation to a particular environment. So there the I think there's clearly room for both. Nate Bernitz  06:32That's a great point. And so one example of something that you might be looking at in the description of a particular variety is, like you said, whether it's early or late or something like that, what what else might you be looking at when you're looking at one of these really robust descriptions of a variety and a catalog? What are some of the traits that might be highlighted? Becky Sideman  06:55Well, I'm thinking about, it's really so crop specific, actually. And it's hard to get, I mean, it's easy to to dig into if you start talking about a given crop. But for example, we mentioned onions earlier. And a lot of catalogs, those will be sorted into short day, intermediate day and long day onions, which has to do with usually there'll be a helpful little chart to help you decide which one you want. But that has to do with what parts of the country they're going to do well in. And so you know, it makes sense to really read those descriptions and understand what, what they they mean. I think about the sweet corn section and the sweet corn varieties differ enormously, not only in like the color of the kernels and the timing of maturity of them, but also in the genetics behind their sweetness and whether they have to be isolated, or they can grow next to each other, and they have huge flavor differences. So there's just all these characteristics that when you start digging into any given crop, you'll realize that there's a ton of variability for most crops, actually, Nate Bernitz  08:14yeah, when I just open up a catalog, which I'm doing right now and I'm looking at the eggplant section, and I'm just perusing some of these different descriptions, and it's really bringing me back again to our garden planning discussion. One of the really big differences is from a sort of culinary and preservation perspective. What are you actually planning on doing what this vegetable once you harvested it for this eggplant? Are you planning on grilling it? Or are you planning on freezing it for later use it so that those actual desirable culinary characteristics are really relevant as well as you know if you're this is maybe a fruit but just what immediately comes to mind if you're growing apples? Are you planning on growing them to eat fresh? Are you planning on making cider or sauce and you're gonna just see that different varieties are best tailored to specific and uses flavor texture, it gets really specific and that's really one of the benefits of gardening is that you do get to grow exactly what you want you get so much selection whereas when you go to the grocery store, you might be buying a crop that is at the store because it has a really good shelf life and handles being shipped really well.  Emma Erler  09:31Yeah, that's that's definitely something that I really appreciate. Just the the diversity of flavors of textures of colors that you can get when you're growing things yourself. I know particularly I think of zucchini, how in my mind just vanilla and rather boring the supermarket zucchini is but when you grow it yourself, there's actually you know, some real, some real different flavors things sometimes they can be kind of nutty. Maybe a little bit sweeter, all sorts of different colors, shapes, sizes. So you know, just a lot to play around with. But your point is well taken Nate that trying to grow things based on use is definitely going to be important. Nate Bernitz  10:17I think you're also going to see, you know, if you're talking about these cucurbits, like cucumbers, for example, that's what I'm looking at. Now, in this catalog I have open, and some of them their description, say that they actually are better for small spaces growing in containers growing vertically, right, so you're looking in that description. And going back to your garden planning, where as you were looking at the different crops you are wanting to grow and the space requirements, you have these characteristics that you're actually looking for. And I think that's going to make it less overwhelming when you actually open the catalog and see so many choices, and just aren't really sure how to choose. You go back to your plan and go back to your needs.  Emma E  11:00Totally. Yeah, I think that's a good way of looking at it to break it down. I think too, if you're feeling overwhelmed, starting smaller is never a bad idea. So it's it's really easy, I think, to get carried away when you're looking at that catalog and trying to pick out what you want to grow. Because there's typically just so many things that look cool. And if you haven't tried out a bunch of them before, you might be thinking that it would be neat to order a whole bunch and try all these different things. But in order to keep yourself from potentially getting completely overwhelmed, it might be easier to say you're just going to grow these five or six crops, and you're just going to pick out one or two varieties of each. And once you've totally figured out how to grow those, you've had some success, then you can start maybe expanding that garden trying different things. But yeah, just trying trying to keep a lid on early efforts i think is important. This episode's featured question is which vegetable varieties are best for containers? This is actually a question we get fairly often, as many people are interested in growing their own fresh food and limited space. growing vegetables and containers can be quite easy and rewarding as long as you have a sunny spot outdoors where plants will receive at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Outside of choosing the right varieties. In order to be successful, you need to choose containers that will hold enough soil for the crop you want to grow and have good drainage at the bottom. pots need to have at least one large hole at the bottom to allow excess water to escape. If necessary, you may be able to drill holes along the sides and bottoms of containers. five gallon five gallon plastic buckets are a really popular choice for this. It's also crucial to choose a quality potting mix. garden soil is too heavy for containers. So instead you should be looking for a quality soilless mix that contains peat moss, coir, perlite, vermiculite, etc. Quality mixes will become composed primarily of peat and coir. Cheap mixes will be filled with bark and won't hold soil moisture as well. As for varieties, you can grow just about any vegetable in a container. Although that being said, if you are growing what tend to be very large plants like cucumbers, summer squash or tomatoes, you'll want to look for varieties that are listed for use in containers that are described as miniature or bush type. Your favorite seed catalog is sure to have at least a few choices of bush tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and eggplants. I found that any type of pepper, green or root vegetable can be grown in containers and you don't need to get a special container variety. Personally, peppers are one of my favorites. They fit into containers nicely. And they're really beautiful to like any other aspect of gardening, you'll need to experiment with growing and containers to see what works best for you. Good luck. Nate Bernitz  14:26There's a minimum number of seeds you can buy, right, so maybe you're buying a seed packet with 50 seeds in it or more than that might be the smallest possible quantity you can get. And it has a germination rate of you know x percentage in those ideal conditions, which are might actually be getting in the packet right as opposed you might not be able to see the precise germination rate in the catalog. But in any case, at some point you know if you only have room to plant five seeds you know how many days different varieties are you going to buy your you can only do so much. And the seeds don't last forever, my understanding is some different vegetables, you know, maybe some my last one or two years, maybe some other vegetables, the seeds might last a little bit longer if if stored well, but they all have a pretty short shelf life. Emma E  15:21Yeah, that germination rate or percentage will definitely go down over time. I know for my own garden, I'll often use the same piece for a couple years just because I really only have room for a couple dozen plants and there's 100 seeds or so in that packet. But after after two years or so the germination rate goes way down, and I just don't find it worth my time anymore to be planting a whole bunch of seeds that are no longer coming up and I'm wasting time in my garden. So starting over again, is is important and for, there are lots of charts out there that show how long some seeds are, can be expected to last, you know, whether it's a year, three years under ideal storage conditions. So you can get an idea there, I mean, there's a chance you might be able to use the same seeds, multiple years in a row. Becky Sideman  16:13I always like to do a little germination test to confirm, especially for crops I really care about to make positive sure that the seeds still are viable. And because if I'm placing my orders now, for my seeds, I do not want to find come may 15, that something I was counting on didn't germinate. And then what am I gonna do? So, so there's kind of an element of managing risk there as well. Sometimes it's worth getting fresh. And not risking for too many years. Nate Bernitz  16:55I actually want to come back to something you said in the very beginning, the first thing you said about looking at a catalog is you're gonna see days to maturity. And I know you said it's important, but I was wondering, Becky, could you talk a little bit about how you actually interpret that days to maturity number. So if you're a grower in whatever town and whatever growing zone, why is the days to maturity particularly relevant? Becky Sideman  17:25Well, I would say that it is important, but I would also say to take it with a big grain of salt. Because sometimes it's actually you can play a little game, if you have lots of seed catalogs with the same variety and listed in them and compare days to maturity. And you'll find sometimes they are wildly different. And part of this is because sometimes they measure that from days to seeding from seeding to maturity, or from transplant to maturity, you really have to read and know what what you're talking about there. I use that information in two primary ways. One is within a given seed catalog, within a given crop, they will have a range of maturities. And you can be pretty sure that a 63 day corn is going to be considerably earlier than 89 day corn from the same catalog. So that's helpful information to know. The other big way I use this is for, cuz I'm always trying to go really weird stuff that should not grow here. Because that's what I like to do. And so I want to grow things that take a much longer growing season than we have. And I sort of figure Okay, I am pretty sure we're going to have 100 frost free days. It's possible I wouldn't, but I'm pretty sure we will, most years. And so if the days to maturity, in some listed in a catalog is up around 150 to 120 days, I start thinking I'm gonna have to start that really early, I'm gonna have to really, I'm not saying I won't grow it, mind you, I'm just thinking I'm gonna have to protect this and really get it going and like that it's going to be dicey, whether I make it or not. And so those are the two ways that I really use the days to maturity, I take it with a grain of salt. I use it as a rough guideline for what's earlier versus what's later. And I tried to use it to figure out whether I can possibly grow these things that aren't really well adapted here. Nate Bernitz  19:42So you're kind of saying that it's helping you determine your planting date because you're taking that days to maturity and sort of counting back the number of days from the frost date. And sort of seeing if those numbers all work or if that's just Too many days between what you would expect to be the last frost and expect to be the first frost, is that right? Becky Sideman  20:07Yeah, that is correct. But again, that's making it sound a little more scientific than how I actually do it, I really do use this one ballpark number, which is roughly 100 days, you know, days of frost free, I know that we most often have more than that. But I feel like when we start having a crop that's over 100 days to maturity, I have to really start thinking about ways I'm going to creatively lengthen the season for that crop. And that's it. I don't try to because I think that, like, if, you know, something says that it's, you know, 35 days to maturity, I you can't use those numbers religiously to say, Okay, well, I can if it's 35 days to maturity, if I start one on May 1, and then I start one on June 15. And then I started again on, like, it just doesn't work out like that, because in reality, we're assigning a number, but it's not a real number, because it's maybe 35 days on average. But like, early in the season, it takes longer than that, because it's cold in the middle of the season. It goes faster than that, because it's really hot. And so it's just like a ballpark number. I don't know if that's discouraging or not, but it's how I use these things.  Emma E  21:33No, I think that's helpful. I guess my philosophy often is I because I do tend to be more of an ornamental or flower grower than vegetable growers. So when I have my vegetable garden, I just want to ensure that I am going to be getting some good produce, so that I can be screwing around with some of the other things that I like in the ornamental beds. So in that case, I'm often looking for some of those earlier maturing varieties that I'm like I should that definitely have plenty of time for this to fruit or fully mature and I will absolutely be getting whatever it is that I want I will be getting, let's say this, this squash, this winter squash should definitely produce something for me with the amount of time I can expect to have in the growing season. But I think you know, depending on on what your your your hobby is, what your interest is, like, Becky playing around with all that that stuff. That's, that's really cool.  Nate Bernitz  22:33And you're really talking about these crops that you plant in the spring and harvest in the fall. Right that where you're pushing the envelope, I guess the other thing you could look at are cool season crops that maybe you're planting early in the spring. And you need to make sure that you can harvest them before the summer heat hits. Or maybe that you're planting in the late summer, early fall and need to make sure they're going to be harvestable. Before we get our first frost. Becky Sideman  23:01Yeah, that's right. And I think that that's when you really have to take those days to maturity with a grain of salt because they get again, they're measured in a certain condition. And if you're doing something, let's say a little different, like growing spinach in a high tunnel over the winter, or planting something really, really early under low tunnels outside or something like that, those numbers are going to not apply directly. Because it's going to be cooler, slower growing conditions. But yeah, yeah. Nate Bernitz  23:50I've seen this in catalogs and packets, I've seen some things labeled as treated seeds. I've also seen pelletized seeds, what are these terms actually mean? And then do I want something that's treated? Do I want something that's pelletized? Emma E  24:06I think sometimes with the the pelletized seeds, we're talking about seeds of plants that are very small and might be kind of difficult to plant because you can't actually pick them up with your fingers. So let's say beets. Now I know beets have a pretty good sized seed. Maybe something more like a carrot or maybe lettuces might might be actually rolled in some sort of some sort of aggregate that's making them a little bit bigger and easier to handle. I guess the challenge though, is that you still typically have to thin because a lot of times there's still more than one seed rolled up in that pellet. If there if there isn't, you know, it might be a bit easier to handle. So say you're gardening with kids, it might be a little bit easier for them to handle the pelletized seed than trying to gently sprinkle let's see lettuce seed or carrot seed that's very, very fine. So kind of preference are usually you pay extra for it. So it's not something I typically opt for, but definitely an option. Becky Sideman  25:16I'll jump in with that. The other thing with pelletized seed is that often that process of palletizing also involves priming the seeds so that it's ready or to germinate sort of it's kind of like getting it partially germinated, and then drying it down in the piloting process, so that they germinate quickly and uniformly etc. Unfortunately, the downside of that is that they don't, they've come partially out of dormancy, and so they don't store as well. So a palletized seed is easier to handle, like Emma said, and for that reason, in certain circumstances makes a lot of sense. But it's not going to last and the ideal storage conditions are not going to be, it's not going to last as well, even if you have those excellent storage conditions. So you'd want to use those seeds up.  Emma E  26:09you definitely can find treated seeds as well that I believe are treated with fungicides, typically/ Becky Sideman  26:15and in some cases, insecticides, depending depending on the situation. Nate Bernitz  26:22So you're not going to find something that's organic and treated at the same time? Becky Sideman  26:27there are organically compliant seed treatments as well, you'd want to unnecessary, you'd want to read the details of those seed treatments. And if you particularly if you are interested in organic gardening, you'd want to make sure it was an organic seed treatment, which many of them are not. Oftentimes, with a treated seed, either with insecticides or fungicides, it's going to germinate better in cold soils with pests, and if it's treated with insecticide, it won't get attacked by a seed, corn maggot or a root maggot perhaps when it's young, so you can get increased vigor from those. But the downside is they are pesticide treated seeds, and you need to handle them accordingly. Emma Erler  27:18I'm kind of curious, Becky, you know, back to the organic seed thing. If you are, you know, a home gardener is planning to grow your garden organically. Is it important to be getting organic seeds? Or can you just order the regular seeds? And, you know, be very careful with your practices so that your garden is indeed organic? Becky Sideman  27:43Well, it comes down to sort of there's two parts to that my answer? And one is there's a there is a philosophy, that there's a philosophical approach to that, which is that if you are truly organically inclined, you would want to be theoretically, supporting organic agriculture at all levels. And that includes when you purchase organic seeds, you're you're supporting that those plants that were raised to produce those seeds were raised organically. And so from that perspective, many organic producers do in fact, want organic seeds, and they want to sort of encourage that organic production at all at all steps of their of the food system. But on the other hand, there's the other part of that question. The other part of my answer has to do with like, are you actually following the rules, and the the organic regulation state that if something's available organically, you must purchase and use it organically. If it's not like if you want to grow a variety that you can't find organically, as an organic grower, you could use it. So I recognize that most home gardeners are not actually certified organic and paying attention to those rules. But it's sort of important to know like if it's out there as a possibility an organic grower would have to purchase and utilize that organic seed. Nate Bernitz  29:26That's really interesting. And I think the flip side of that coin, so there's our organic gardeners, but people are also concerned about GMOs, do you like can you even buy GMO seeds as a gardener? Is that something that would be labeled? What do you need to know about that when you're perusing your seed catalogs? Becky Sideman  29:50The last time I researched this from a home gardener perspective? Yes, you could, in theory gry genetically modified seeds, but it would be difficult to do so without knowing it. And because most companies would have disclaimers really clearly on them, and also, because they're not targeted for home gardeners, you would typically have to be buying them in lots of maybe 10,000 seeds or more, which most home gardeners are not going to do. So I would say probably a practical standpoint, it's very unlikely that you would, if you did, we're not looking for genetically modified seeds. If you're trying to not have them, it's very unlikely you would accidentally purchase them, probably practically impossible. That said, there's a bunch of seed companies that have GMO free pledges. And so they clearly state that in their catalogs, they don't sell genetically modified seeds, and they even test for the presence of trans genes. So if you if that's something you are looking to avoid, it should be pretty straightforward to do So. Nate Bernitz  31:10that might be a fun topic For a future episode, we'll see. I actually wanted to go back to disease resistance for a few more minutes. We mentioned that yes, in the catalog, you are seeing what something is resistant to through a, you know, some sort of key or legend. If you're someone that has dealt with a particular disease in the past, and you find a seed in this year's catalog that says that it's resistant to that disease, does that take the place of other management practices? Do you still have to rotate? Do you still need to potentially use some sort of product? Do you need to practice other cultural growing practices? What's your take on how significant disease resistance actually is? Becky Sideman  31:57My take is that it It varies with the disease and the crop. There are disease resistances that are pretty much absolute immunity conferring disease, resistances, that would pretty much entirely control the disease, an example would be leaf mold, and tomato, for example, which is very uncommon in outdoor gardening settings, but it's pretty common in in greenhouses. Another example would be bacterial leaf spot and pepper, which is a pretty devastating disease if you have it. And if you have resistance, it is just a non issue. But those are the rare exception. And most disease resistances are partial. And they should be what pathologists call protected by using all the other cultural practices in your arsenal as well. So rotate and do everything else you can to try to minimize that. Because if it's a partial resistance, you just aren't going to get complete control no matter what. And I would say it's probably safest to assume that resistances are going to be partial. And it never hurts to go ahead and rotate. Because even if it isn't necessary for that disease, it's probably necessary for something else Nate Bernitz  33:29that's really interesting. isn't actually going to say in the catalog one way or the other. Like if it's kind of a complete and total resistance or not, or are you just saying in general unless you specifically know that there's a resistance that's going to completely cover it, you should assume that it should just be part of your overall disease management approach? Becky Sideman  33:53Yeah, I think that most catalogs are not going to be very clearly overly promising immunity. They because well, who knows what happened? That seems dangerous to over promise, right? So I would say most are not going to tell you it's going to be complete immunity. So you might know it. But if you don't know what they're not going to tell you. They might tell you it's partial resistance or intermediate resistance, which is a great sign that it's not complete. And for that reason, I guess that's why I would even if they say resistant, I would interpret that as maybe not complete and you should protect it. So even if it is very high level of resistance. You know, pathogens evolve. And they evolve slowly over time by people putting them out, putting resistances out and challenges them. And so everything you can do to try to minimize that, and minimize the pathogens, chances of evolving resistance is good. So that's why I would err on the side of assuming it won't be complete. Nate Bernitz  35:16And, Becky, you really have some insider information on this whole disease resistance process, because as a researcher, you're actually evaluating disease resistance. Right? Can you share just a little bit about what actually goes into being able to say that variety x is resistant to disease y? Becky Sideman  35:41Yeah, well, there's different ways that that's done. But basically the way you in order to say that someone has done replicated experiments, when exposing those plants, to the pathogen, that may be that they may mean they've grown them in fields that are known to have that disease or an environment that have known had the disease, or maybe they've grown them in a setting and actually inoculated them with that pathogen. It can be a little tricky to get an accurate, it's it can be tricky to make proclamations that are broadly applicable. Like, even if we do a really great disease, inoculation and screen and identify resistant things. The reality of life is that there's variability and pathogens that are out there. And so it might be that there's different strains in other parts of the country, or even in different parts of the state, for example. And so that's part of the reason that you have to sort of view it with a little bit of like, healthy skepticism, I guess, because you often don't know, like, we might just have a new strain could show up of a particular pathogen. And so even though folks have done their best to to evaluate them, it is all like actual looking to see what their response is in some kind of setting. Nate Bernitz  37:25that is so interesting, and seems to have so many parallels to, you know, all the news coverage of development of vaccines and medications. It's really just as complex with crops, it seems. Becky Sideman  37:38It totally is. Yep, that's true. Emma E  37:41I guess, one follow up question I have is why you can find resistance to some diseases in crops and not others is that just because nobody's been doing breeding work for that crop? Like I'm thinking, if I'm looking at a catalog, I'll never see septoria leaf spot in tomatoes as something that plants resistant to? Becky Sideman  38:03Yeah, that's like a really deep question. Why is that? You know, is it because that pathogen is just really, really successful at colonizing that plant? And that it, it may target something specifically about the plant that it's really hard to not have the plant do for example, I don't know if that makes sense. But like, oftentimes, the way when you select resistant plants, they have lost whatever makes them susceptible to a particular pathogen, and maybe for septoria. And I agree, that's a particularly challenging one. And it's not that breeders haven't been trying because they've been trying really, really hard with that one. Is it just that septoria takes advantage of something in that plant that we just cannot do without? You know, that the tomato plant can't do without? That's it a deep question. Nate Bernitz  39:10We need a project warp speed for septoria leaf spot, clearly. Becky Sideman  39:14And if we did, it would likely be successful. Yeah. Nate Bernitz  39:18Are you familiar with instead of disease resistance, insect resistance? What are there any examples that come to mind? I'm just curious what insect pests a gardener might deal with where they actually might be able to find a variety that has some resistance to it? Becky Sideman  39:36Well, the best example that I can think of, well, actually, I can think of a few different varieties. So are a few different examples. So one example I can think of his striped cucumber beetle. So striped cucumber beetles, a pest that probably most gardeners are familiar with if they grow squash or cucumbers or melons, or anybody else. That family, it turns out that squash, cucumber beetles are really, really attracted to a certain class of compounds that cucurbits produce called cucurbitaceae. And that there are varieties and species of cucurbits that produce really high levels of cucurbitaceae that are crazily attractive to cucumber beetle. And on the flip side, there are ones that are much lower cucurbitaceae than producers and therefore less attractive. This is an example where even though there are studies that have shown this, and there are examples of more tolerant varieties that, you know, cucumber beetle avoids, it's been really difficult to get that sort of widespread in all our varieties. So even though it's out there, it's really not super widespread. There's other examples I can think of. Like some of the Harrier, tomatoes and potatoes are more resistant to certain insects that have difficulty actually feeding on the leaves, that results and some resistance the insects but also resistance to diseases that they transmit, for example. Nate Bernitz  41:30that is really fascinating and more complex again, than I would have thought it's not a direct resistance to the insect as much as some sort of environmental or kind of indirect resistance. Becky Sideman  41:46It is more complicated when you have an insect feeding on a crop than with a pathogen. It shows up there and lands on the crop. And either that works or it doesn't work. But with insects, they're actually actively choosing where they go. And so that brings a whole nother like, how does the crop look? Not only How does the crop taste and what are they attracted to versus not? And it's, it's very complicated, you should have Anna on for conversation about this. Nate Bernitz  42:19We sure are going to. the host of over informed on IPM, another UNH extension podcast. Absolutely. Becky Sideman  42:27She would over inform you on that for sure. Nate Bernitz  42:31So we've been talking a while I don't I don't want to go much longer. But I do want to ask lastly about local adaptation of buying locally, because you mentioned that there are some benefits to buying locally. But this idea of local adaptation, I am curious about what it means. I know that that's one reason why land grant universities extensions, Agricultural Experiment stations are actually doing work at the local level is to try and develop these locally adapted varieties. So what can you tell us about local adaptation, Becky Sideman  43:12it can mean any of a number of things. But at the most basic level, when you do Plant Breeding, and you develop varieties, you take these very diverse populations that are like variable for everything, they're segregating for all kinds of traits. And you go out and you look to see what are the most attractive, productive, best tasting fabulous things here, and you select those, and you go from that. And if that work happens only in let's take, for example, the Central Valley of California, you can imagine that you would select some really great varieties. But when you take those here, the whole and grow them here, you can imagine that our environmental conditions are just nothing like those environmental conditions. And there's this genetic gene by environment interaction that takes place where crops just may not perform the same way in different environments. And so, you know, to the extent that we can evaluate, select, and not just evaluate, but actually do selection and plant breeding in a wide variety of environments, we're more likely to result in some things that are actually going to perform really well consistently in those environments. If that makes sense. Nate Bernitz  44:52It does make a lot of sense. I'm really curious about what your role is, you know, how do you actually come up with recommendations for growers in New Hampshire. Becky Sideman  45:03There are heirloom varieties that were selected and grown for many years in this region that are well adapted to here because people farmers selected them and continued them, I can think of some older Flint corn varieties that fall into this category, for example. But the way hybrids are developed is that open pollinated lines are selected and bred in a given area, and then they're cross together and the hybrid suitability is evaluated. So the same exact processes apply. And locally adapted hybrids are just as much a thing as locally adapted open pollinated varieties. For example, a lot of Brent Loy's cucurbit varieties over the years are hybrids, and they're extremely well adapted to our conditions. Just because something was bred here doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be super well adapted here. But we'd like to think it is, and that there's a better chance probably, but I think there's also a role for continued evaluation. Many seed companies do this. Many researchers at Agricultural Experiment stations like myself do this, where we take a bunch of varieties that we think are gonna do well here. And we actually grow them over repeated seasons, and evaluate how they do actually in the face of environmental variability that that comes along. And that's usually pretty informative, because sometimes sometimes things perform as you'd expect, and sometimes they don't. And sometimes the weather conditions are just weird. And you get some you learn have weaknesses that you would not have necessarily predicted for a variety. So I think that variety, testing is also important, as well as variety development in a region. While I, I'm always really happy to share my results with farmers and gardeners in the state and in the region. I recognize that there's actually a lot of room for grower preference. And I actually think it's really, really, really important that you evaluate for yourself and compare for yourself a bunch of different varieties, especially if you you know, maybe it's not so important if you just want to go a little bit of something. But if you're a real broccoli aficionado, you should probably grow a bunch of varieties, because you'll certainly have preferences and they won't be the same as my preferences, and they won't be the same as seed catalog preferences. We always do this, when we have grower conferences, I asked what are people's favorite varieties? And you get this whole list? And then you say, what are people's least favorite varieties? And it's the exact same whole list, it's just different people have given the answers. So I think there's I do not think there are best varieties, only a few. I think that it depends on your own situation. Nate Bernitz  48:21Yeah, I guess there's a role for personal preference. There's also a role for personal experience, right? What actually does well in your garden, what does well in Durham, New Hampshire, you know, may or may not do well, where ever you are in your garden, maybe even What does well for someone on the other side of town, not necessarily do well in your garden. So the role of journaling, or, in your case spreadsheeting? That's not a verb. But we'll just roll with it. And just trialing you know, whether it's on the Research Farm or in your garden, Becky, I'm just curious, where can people go to learn more about you and your research? How can they do it? Becky Sideman  49:07Of course they do. So on UNH extensions website, there is a section called applied research. I should look that up and make sure that's really what it is called. I think it's called that and I applied vegetable and fruit research. And I publish all of my research reports, they're even before I publish them in manuscripts or anything like that, so that they're ready for for farmers and gardeners to read. And they're usually in the kind of dorky detail that you'd really want if you are an afficionado of crop X, Y or Z. So those have my contact info on them and people can always just reach out directly. And if you want to see what we're up to on the moment, you should follow UNH Sideman Lab on Instagram because We're always posting photogenic pictures of whatever crops were playing with at the moment. Nate Bernitz  50:07Can confirm - a great follow. Okay, closing question, Becky, what's one variety of something that you grew last year in your garden that you just can't wait to grow again, one single recommendation that you just can't wait to share? Becky Sideman  50:26I grew tetsuKabuto winter squash last year, on my mom's recommendation from the previous year, and it's a fabulous storage variety. It's a cross between a maxima and a moschata. So it's a really delicious, good storing winter squash variety. And we're really enjoying eating it right about now. And so I am looking forward to growing tetsuKabuto  again, which for those that are curious, I did have to Google This means steel helmet, in Japanese. Nate Bernitz  51:04Hey, as long as you don't have to spell it right? Becky Sideman  51:06That's right. Nate Bernitz  51:08Well, thanks for coming on Granite State gardening. Becky, you've been our first guest and an absolutely wonderful guests to have. It's been a real treat, getting to talk to you. I hope we'll have the opportunity to do so again. Becky Sideman  51:23This was a pleasure from my end as well. Thanks for having me. Emma Erler  51:46This episode's featured plant is Malabar spinach, Basella alba. Malabar spinach is an annual vine that is native to the East Indies. It can be grown as a vegetable plant or as an ornamental vine. As a vegetable. It has edible spinach like stems and leaves, and though it's entirely unrelated to spinach, the leaves have a very similar flavor and are packed with vitamins A and C and calcium and iron. The leaves and stems can be picked as needed for soup salad source stir fries. The leaves of the plant themselves are glossy green with smooth edges and the stems are deep burgundy read this lens the plant to ornamental uses as well on fence posts trellises or hanging baskets. A nice thing about Malabar spinach is that it really thrives in hot weather. Unlike spinach, it can be grown easily in any garden that has rich consistently moist soil and full sun. If you want to grow Malabar spinach, start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last spring frost date or so directly in the garden after the last spring frost date. As vines grow, train them on a trellis or other support to keep the foliage clean and ready for harvest. Malabar spinach climbs by twinning, so it will wrap around those structures. In conclusion, if you're looking to try something new and interesting in your garden this year, give Malabar spinach a try.  Emma E  53:24I'd like to close this episode with a tip on staking tomato plants. I think most everyone knows that tomatoes require some type of support, but you may not be clear on what the best options are. Circular tomato cages are the most common, but they aren't my favorite. Though they do a good job of keeping the foliage and fruit off of the ground. tomato cages have a way of compressing stems and foliage together, reducing airflow through plants, raising humidity and prolonging leaf wetness. So if you've had issues with fungal diseases on tomatoes before, tomato cages probably aren't helping. Instead, I like to support individual plants with tall upright steaks, like four to five foot wooden stakes or rebar. As the plants grow, I use twine to tie one or two main stems to the support. To keep the tomato plant tidy. I remove all of the suckers, that is new stems that develop in the leaf axles so that I'm maintaining just one or two leaders. Another option is a basket weave system, where stakes are driven between plants and twine is woven between plants in the stakes in an S shaped pattern, like you would if you were actually weaving a basket. If you can't picture what I mean. Be sure to check out the UNH extension factsheet on pruning tomato plants. Now is a great time to plan ahead for your 2021 garden. Nate Bernitz  55:02Email us at GSG dot to share your feedback suggest future episodes, and of course to ask gardening questions. If you're enjoying this podcast so far, consider giving us a five star review wherever you're listening. That's going to help other gardeners find this podcast. If you're not connected with us on social media yet, just search for ask UNH extension. We'd love to connect with you there. You can get regular content updates, we share interesting articles, gardening tips, and it's just a great community of gardeners. One last way you can connect with us is to subscribe to the Granite State gardening newsletter. All of these links are in the description of this podcast, along with some articles that relate to the topics we've discussed today. Definitely check out that description. Our next episode is on foliage house plants. Be sure to tune in. Thanks for tuning in to Granite State gardening a production of UNH Cooperative Extension until next time, Becky Sideman  56:10Keep on growing Granite State gardeners. Nate Bernitz  56:15Granite State gardening is a production of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and equal opportunity educator and employer views expressed on this podcast are not necessarily those of the university's its trustees, or its volunteers. inclusion or exclusion of commercial products on this podcast does not imply endorsement. The University of New Hampshire US Department of Agriculture and New Hampshire County is cooperate to provide extension programming in the Granite State. Learn more at extension
SHOW NOTESWinter is the ideal time to reflect on last year’s garden and plan for the year ahead, but when seed catalogs start arriving it can be overwhelming. In this episode of Granite State Gardening,  New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station Becky Sideman, Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share and discuss proven tips and solutions for selecting the right varieties and developing your garden plan. Part 1 of this conversation was packed with experience and insights to help make 2021 your most successful and rewarding gardening season yet, and our next episode will feature the second half of the discussion.Featured question: What is the best way to get an accurate soil temperature reading and what's the ideal temperature for planting a variety of vegetables?Featured plant segment: nasturiums, TropaeolumClosing gardening tip: Garden fencing considerations Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter.Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at Background Reading: Soil Temperature for Seed Germination (Penn State): Big Onions: to Plant Vegetables: Preparing a Vegetable Garden Site: Garden Diseases: garden pests with IPM: leftover seeds: seeds: plants from seed: Transcript As transcribed by https://otter.aiNate B  00:00Greetings Granite State gardeners. I'm Nate Bernitz co-host with Emma Erler of the Granite State Gardening podcast a production of UNH extension. This episode features an incredible conversation with the University of New Hampshire's Dr. Becky Seidman. And as part one of two because we decided to split our interview into two episodes. Part Two will be released in a couple weeks, and this episode part one we focus on understanding different kinds of seeds and vegetable garden planning. In part two, we'll take a deep dive into understanding and utilizing the wealth of information on seed packets, and within seed catalogs, physical and online, and how to use that information to take your garden planning to the next level. Dr. Becky Sidman is our first guest on the Granite State Gardening podcast, a colleague of ours at UNH Extension. In addition to Becky's work as a sustainable horticulture state specialist at UNH extension. She's a professor and coordinator of undergraduate programs in sustainable agriculture and food systems within the Department of Agriculture, Nutrition and Food Systems at the University of New Hampshire, and a researcher with the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station. Becky's research emphasizes vegetable and berry crop production, including season extension practices for Northern New England. Let's get into part one of our conversation with Becky Sideman.Becky, Emma, I am so glad to be sitting here talking with you today about one of my favorite topics and certainly a timely topic as we're getting our seed catalogs in the mail, snows on the ground. And we're just yearning to be outside and warm weather back in our gardens. And seed catalogs, of course, have so much promise the the new varieties, the exciting varieties, all the benefits, the solutions to last year's problems. They're all in that seed catalog. But I think it makes sense to start with a little bit of science as we sometimes do an extension. So Becky, was wondering if you can demystify a few terms, the big two categories, when it comes to seeds, open pollinated and hybrid, what are we talking about? They'reBecky S  02:25Sure, I agree, this is my favorite time of year with the same catalog start coming in. And we get to spend our time poring through them.Emma E  02:34Basically, an open pollinated variety is one where you can save the seeds, and they come out looking something like what you started with. And so it's basically an inbred thing that you can keep saving, and selecting, and so forth. A hybrid is a variety, that's the result of crossing to parents that might or might not look anything like each other. And as a result, it's pretty uniform, and usually has pretty predictable characteristics. But if you saved it seed, it wouldn't come out. Like the thing you started with. Am I in your experience when you're looking at a seed catalog or a seed packet for that matter? Are they actually going to say open pollinated? or hybrid? Are they going to have other terminology as well? And how does that all fit together? Yeah, I'm glad you asked that Nate, a lot of times that information is listed right on the seed packet. it'll it'll sometimes say open pollinated, will often say is heirloom, which all heirloom varieties are open pollinated varieties. They've just been around for a while, like they've been around probably since 1950. Or or earlier. So these are things that people have been have been saving the seeds from for four generations. Typically, what you will see to on on seed packets is an indication if a seed is hybrid, so it'll either say hybrid on the label or it will often say f1. I personally sometimes go for the hybrid varieties just because they do have some sometimes stronger characteristics might have a more robust plant might there might be some sort of resistance to a disease, let's say, and I don't try to save seeds myself. So that's perfectly acceptable for my garden.Nate B  04:30And Becky, you're coming into this with several perspectives because not only are you an avid gardener, but you're a researcher and searcher and you know you have extensive experience in plant breeding. So for you saving seeds isn't just, you know, a hobby or a pastime. It's something that has been essential to your work. So I'm curious, wearing your various hats but maybe especially your hat as a garden. What do you see as the pro and cons, when you're evaluating broadly what category you're aiming for?Becky S  05:09That's an awesome question. As a gardener, I tend to actually grow a whole mix of things, I grow a mix of modern hybrids to new open pollinated varieties to much older varieties and heirloom varieties as well. So it really just depends on the particular characteristics I'm looking for. And the particular crop we're dealing with. I do have some species where I like to save my seeds from year to year. And for those I'm using primarily, heirloom open pollinated varieties that I'm saving. But I also have some crops where I want the latest best disease resistant and the most vigorous varieties, and the latest coolest hybrids, and so I have a real mix of all of these things in my garden. Okay, so you're not putting all your seeds in one basket, you're, you're diversifying, trying to, you know, get the best of all worlds. INate B  06:16I know this is a little nerdy, but that we're used to that we're okay with that. I was wondering if you could just before we move on from this topic, can you actually explain why seeds would be open pollinated? Like what that actually means? Why something might be a hybrid? What, what results of that? Like? What is the actual science behind these terms? And what are the different ways that plants in the garden actually are pollinated? Like for something that's open pollinated? How is it actually getting pollinated? For something that's hybrid? Where are those seeds actually coming from?Becky S  07:00Oh, that's a super awesome question. And we could get really deep in it. But I'll keep it kind of, I'll give sort of an a general general response here. So it all comes down to the biology of the plant. So some plants some plants need to be pollinated by other members, other individuals, sort of like, you know, we do as humans. And so for example, squashes need, they have female and male flowers. And that female flower cannot be pollinated, except by another flower, a male flower. And so it sort of facilitates and encourages cross pollination. Lots of plants that are open pollinated, don't have that reproductive strategy. And instead, they can pollinate themselves. And they do so very cheerfully. And so a plant that does very well with open pollinated varieties is probably usually one that naturally self pollinate or naturally in breeds. So you could kind of see that each of these strategies has advantages. The advantage of outcrossing and needing to be pollinated by somebody else, is that you're always bringing in new genetic diversity. And that tends to be kind of good for adapting to new chain, you know, changing environments, and so forth. But on the flip side, you have to have another individual nearby. And if you self pollinate, you can just do this all on your own. So you're kind of you know, you're a little more independent in that way. So it really just comes down to the fact that different plants have different reproductive strategies. Basically, that's what it comes down to.Nate B  08:56And it's nice because the seed packets while it's not actually going into the biology, by knowing whether something's open pollinated or hybrid, you're actually getting some of that information, you know, if you if you understand this topic, and of course, now we all do, thanks to that wonderful explanation. So last week, Emma and I were getting ready for this episode. And we started to get into this, we're like, Okay, so we're going to talk about the science and then we're going to go right into the seed catalogs and packets and how to, like make these decisions. But we both realized, actually, before you get into all that there's a lot of planning that you need to do and so this time of year is not only exciting for circling what you want and your seed catalogs and, but it's also really important for planning. So I was wondering, What are you thinking is the most important checklist of pieces you want to get lined up before you even start thinking about what you're going to order.Emma E  10:05I guess for me, it kind of depends on on where you're at in your gardening career. If you've never garden before, this is going to be your first year, starting a vegetable garden or even a flower garden for that matter. First, you really need to assess your site. So assess your your yard, wherever you're planning to put this garden to make sure that it's actually going to be appropriate for what you want to grow. If you've been gardening for years and years, and you have this really bright, sunny, you know, full sun spot that's well drained, then, that part, you've probably already figured out the space where you're going to be putting that actual garden. But if you're brand new, first making sure that you have a good spot, a spot with that that good well drained soil with with bright sun is really important, it's also going to be important to determine how much you're going to grow. I think a lot of times when you've never garden before, it's easy to get really carried away. In the spring, when you're starting seedlings, maybe even when you're let's say tilling the plot where your garden is going to be the first time. So trying to have a real honest, look at how much energy you're going to have to actually maintain that garden. Because I think one way that's one really easy way to get frustrated and not come back to gardening is if you start too big, too fast. And then you don't end up having that much success either. Because you can't you can't keep up with the maintenance, whether it's watering, weeding, weeding can definitely be a big problem the first year that you start a garden, or you know, any year going down the line, depending on what weeds you're dealing with, or you might even have pest issues. So have a realistic look at what you're actually going to be able to accomplish.Nate B  11:55So I guess as a gardener, you want to plan for both the best and worst case scenarios to some extent. So best case scenario, everything you plant thrives, and you end up with a huge haul. So your options are consume what you can, if you're a canner preserver, you're doing that. Maybe you're giving stuff away to family and friends, of course, that there's that time every year where everybody's trying to unload all their zucchini, and there, there's these predictable different times of year where if you actually succeed, you're really overwhelmed potentially by all you have. So you should plan for that. And also plan for what happens if things don't go your way has diseases, drought, whatever your obstacles are that that you're okay,Emma E  12:43absolutely. And I would say to you know, if you have any knowledge of gardening, just knowing that some crops are going to take a bit more effort and work than others, you know, something like a tomato is actually going to require a fair amount of work to get it to be productive, you're going to need to stake that plant in some way, you're probably going to have to do some sort of pest management and whether it's insects or diseases, and you're going to want to be around to harvest too. So that's that in my mind is going to potentially be a little bit harder than just putting in a row of radishes.Nate B  13:25Today's featured question comes from a virtual panel we offered in January, which included Becky as well as reps from local seed companies, unexciting vegetable varieties. The question was, what is the best way to get an accurate soil temperature reading and what's the ideal temperature for planting a variety of vegetables. Let's start with getting an accurate soil temperature rating and why that's important. gardeners typically think about the last frost as the marker of when to plant and that's important, but soil temperature is just as important. soil temperatures affect whether seeds will germinate and whether plants will grow. Using a soil thermometer. Take the soil temperature at eight or 9am for several consecutive days at a depth of two to four inches and then average the results. Sunshine snow, cold rains and overcast conditions all affect soil temperatures and it's worth noting raised beds and soil under black plastic will heat up a little bit more quickly in the spring. While soils covered with organic mulch, like straw will warm up a little bit more slowly. Now for the second part of the question, New Hampshire gardeners often circle Memorial Day weekend on their calendars for planting. This is somewhat conservative as the last frost is usually well before that. But having patience is a virtue in May, when it's so tempting to take the risk of planting warm season crops a few weeks earlier. If you're in a warmer microclimate or using season extension techniques like row cover, you can move up your planting window a little bit, but again, soil temperature remains important. Generally speaking, cool. season crops like leafy greens, peas, onions and root crops can germinate in soils as cool as 40 degrees, and some even as cool as 35 degrees. But most seeds tend to germinate best at between 70 and 80 degrees. warm season crops are typically transplanted into the garden as seedlings. So the last frost date is typically what gardeners are focused on for those crops. For corn, beans, okra and vegetables in the cucurbit family. soil temperature is an important consideration for direct sowing. corn and tomatoes will germinate and soil as cool as 50 degrees. But the optimum temperature is 80 degrees. Snap beans as cool as 55 degrees but also optimally 80 degrees and cucumbers, eggplant, pepper and squash and soil as cool as 60 degrees. But optimally 80 or so degrees. This has been your featured question. Emma, you've brought up pests a few times. I'm curious, Becky, as you're gardening throughout the year, you're taking note of what pest issues you have, how does that actually inform how you plan for the next year's garden?Becky S  16:16Well, you're right, I do keep really good track of what problems we have had. And I keep notes about those. I'm kind of lucky in that I have three little garden areas. So I can move things around. And a big part of my planning is actually figuring out my rotation and figuring out okay, if I had my squashes over here last year, and boy, I really would like to get those far away, because I'm rotating away from squash bugs hopefully, Part A big part of my planning and juggling involves drawing little pictures and lists of things in the different spots of the garden. So I think that even if you don't have a huge space, anything you can do to sort of move things to areas where they weren't before is going to serve you well.Nate B  17:11So I'm glad you brought up like actual visualizations, the pictures the list, because when I think about a garden plan, I think about it visually, I think about the layout, because for one thing, every crop is gonna need its own spacing. So there's the whole spacing, and then there's actually how many of each plant Do you need, you know how many squash and so you do a little bit of multiplication there, if you have five squash plants, and they each take up, you know, X amount of feet. That's kind of giving you your formula. But you also need pathways and access your accounting for all the different rotations potentially successions that you're planning on doing with your plantings. Maybe you're even accounting for cover cropping during the summer, or in the early fall. So how do you account for all of these variables when you're actually doing your planning, Becky?Becky S  18:09Well, in my case, I've been doing it long enough that I have kind of an idea in my little map of how much space we devote to given crop to particular crops like, oh, we're going to need a whole row of this, we're going to need a wide row of that. All of these things can fit in one row, that kind of a thing. So I I kind of have a sense of how much space they'll take. But especially I think if you're newer, you might not have that sense. And I will be honest, even though we've been doing this for a long time, sometimes we get it wrong. And the plan changes. And this is okay. We do our best like, like you said, to kind of calculate out how much space where we think we're going to use and where we think things are going to go. And then then we would modify on the fly if we haveEmma E  19:03to. And I'd say that finning is sometimes Okay, too, right. So if you end up with too much of something, say you have you have tomatoes and you've spaced them 12 inches apart, and it should really be, let's say, two plus feet apart, probably even more than two feet. Ideally, if this is a large indeterminate tomato, it's okay, you know, you might actually end up with more produce at the end of the day, if you weed out some of those plants to get that spacing a little bit better. And that's true. I think when you're growing some other crops to you, you really have to thin them a bit so that you're getting that full size produce that you're looking for. Let's take carrots, for example. You really need to be pulling some of those out. Even though it might seem a little a little painful at first to be throwing away what seems like perfectly good plants that could be providing you more food, you're not going to get as good a harvest if if they're spaced too closely.Nate B  20:00Well, I'm glad you brought up specific crops, because earlier you were talking about how some crops require more work than others. You talked about how some plants are going to require thinning. I was wondering if you could, I guess this question is really for both of you, in your experience, what crops are going to require more work? What are some of the easier lower maintenance crops,Emma E  20:22I guess I always considered tomatoes to potentially be a little bit higher maintenance. And I guess that's, that's kind of hard because everybody wants to grow tomatoes in their garden, right. But tomatoes can definitely have some more issues, just the fact that there are a number of fungal diseases that can be problematic. insect diseases, if anybody's familiar with tomato, or tobacco hornworm. It's incredible how quickly these these caterpillars can come in and defoliate your plants if you're not paying attention. So scouting is going to be really important making sure that you're in your garden often. And you definitely are going to need to be doing some staking and trellising. I, often if I don't think that I'm going to have a whole lot of time to spend in the garden, I will definitely be going more for some of the root veggies. Just because you know, once I've thinned them out, once they've come up, I don't feel like I have to do all that much more besides come through and harvest them. And I definitely don't really need to be doing any pruning, staking trellising, they're just going to do their thing. So as long as I'm not dealing with any sort of soil borne past, I think those are a bit easier. Yeah, IBecky S  21:36would agree. And also, you know, the thing about tomatoes is that, you know, if you don't get a great Head Start, you probably won't be harvesting them until sometime in August, if you're lucky. And a lot can go wrong between spring when you plant them and August. And so even though some crops like I think about peas, for example, as being really a lot of work, the work is picking and picking is pretty fun, and it happens pretty early. So you know, in a gardening setting, even though peas are a lot of work, I think they're one of the easier crops one of the more rewarding crops to grow, because you get such anEmma E  22:18early start to things versus say the shelling bean, that's going to be a little bit later. Exactly. There's a lot of work that goes into it. And you might already be a little a little weary from weeding and monitoring past hopefully not too much watering, but depends on the season. Of course.Becky S  22:38I think another thing is there's the easiness factor, but there's also this space utilization factor. And I think that squash is while it's in some ways, sort of set it and forget it, if you don't have terrible pest problems. It's a huge space hog or can be similarly with, you know, melons. And, for example, dry beans, dry beans are a tremendous space hog for the amount of beans you get. And those can be really valuable, wonderful crops to grow. But you just have to have plenty of space. And if you have real limited space, you might not spend it on those crops.Nate B  23:21Yeah, so what if someone does have a pretty small space and they want to maximize it and grow a variety of veggies? What would you recommend,Emma E  23:30I mean, I would definitely try to be growing some greens because they don't take up very much space and you can plant them more than once say you get a harvest and as long as it's not too hot, you can get another harvest after that. Same ago for radishes. If you like those you can get a couple harvests in you might be able to get away with if this is a very small spot a determinant tomato variety. So tomatoes really typically fall into two camps, determinate or indeterminate. And determinate tomatoes will basically form all of their flower buds at the ends of the branches there, they're going to bloom all at the same time, you're going to get fruit that's developing at the same time and pretty much ripening all at once. So really helpful if you're if you're looking to have an efficient harvest because everything's ready to go. Pretty much at the same time. These plants also stay smaller, which sometimes makes them more appropriate for small spaces or for patio plantings. indeterminate tomatoes are going to produce fruit over a longer period of time. These are going to keep growing throughout the course of the season, and are going to be producing flower buds continuously as they go. So you're going to be say only harvesting a few fruit at a time but you're going to have those over a longer period of time. But those plants get very, very big. So usually for the very small space in your garden or in a container. They're not the best choice and I You would probably forego the zucchini summer squash if I was if I had a very small space or just a single raised bed, because I might only in that situation have room for just that, let's say, one, maybe two zucchini plants. And if I have a neighbor who gardens, there's a good chance that I'm probably going to be able to get my hands on some fresh zucchini anyways,Becky S  25:24that's a good point, my, my, let's see, he was my step father in law had a very small single raised bed garden in the retirement community in which he lived. And it was always fun to see how he, what how he got the most out of that tiny, tiny space. And he always planted at least one indeterminant cherry tomato, because a cherry tomato just goes and goes and goes, and at least a couple cucumbers. Because also they just go and go and go. And so if you're willing to harvest a little bit each day, and you know, you're willing to take care of that one plant, it was so shocking how much produce he could get out of this very tiny space from these couple of real productive plants.Nate B  26:18Do you see growing vertically as a solution to small space gardening for any crops? You know, of course, when you're talking about these space hog plants, you're talking about plants that are vying along the ground, taking up huge quantities of space. But to what extent can you try and train plants to grow up instead of outBecky S  26:40sure that works really well for things that are vining plants. And there's lots of ways that you can creatively sort of either steak them up or install some kind of trellis. A quick google image search of trellising your favorite crop will yield countless creative options for how to do that. But I think you know, cucumbers, certainly tomatoes, pull beans, peas, these are all things that really do great, with some kind of sticking up.Emma E  27:17But I probably wouldn't try though, is something with a heavier fruit, like a pumpkin or a melon, unless you want to go out and rig up some sort of system to provide support for that fruit what you could do. Again, if you if you do a Google search for images, you'll you'll see different ways that people have made nets and different webbing systems to hold up the fruit. But that weight can potentially be too much for the vine itself. So it's either going to pull the plant, well, it's probably just going to pull the plant down or potentially break a stem. So I would stick to something more like those cucumbers, maybe a smaller gourd beans. Those are things I've had success with in my brief vertical gardening career.Nate B  28:00That sounds like fun. If you're into that kind of thing. Emma, when we get questions from people who are trying to do their garden planning, something we get a lot is people really struggling with lack of full sun space. You know, they've assessed their backyard, and you know that their flat area over here is great, except that it doesn't get full sun and the area that does get full sun, it was more of a marginal growing site. And that really limits your options. Once you pick up that catalog. What do you recommend for people in that situation,Emma E  28:46if you don't have full sun, meaning you don't get at least eight hours of full direct sun in that area day more, more is definitely better, then you're going to be looking at maybe growing some things that don't fruit. So you want to let's say grow greens. These typically tolerate less less sunlight, you might be able to get away with some of the root vegetables. Nothing's going to be quite as big or full or robust as it would be if you grew the plants in full sun, but you can still get something out of it. You might also play around with herbs if you think you might have a use for those. But if you don't have a full spun spot, I wouldn't waste your time with peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, squashes, because they really do need all of that sunlight in order to be able to photosynthesize effectively and create enough energy to be able to grow a fruit.Nate B  29:41We're gonna have to cover this topic in a different podcast, I think but one other consideration that comes to mind for me for garden planning is just what are you actually going to start from seed indoors? What are you going to direct sow, and what are you going to potentially buy as a seedling? So I think the only question I want to ask on this topic is for beginner gardeners, what do you think should be considered for buying as a seedling instead of ordering it as a seed from a catalog.Emma E  30:13I mean, I think that if, if you, you know, don't have the capacity to be starting seeds indoors. So if it's either start directly in the garden or, or buy seedlings, the tomatoes that Becky mentioned, are probably helpful to buy as established plants, you typically don't get as good a variety selection when you buy the plants versus buying seeds. So the tomatoes may not have all the characteristics that you're looking for, you know, either it's not gonna have the flavor, you're looking for the plants not gonna have the growth habit that you were hoping for. Or probably most importantly, you're not going to have, let's say the disease resistance characteristics that you really need in your garden. Other than that, I mean, a lot of times what you'll find are some of the cold crops, so broccoli kale cauliflower that you can buy as a starts, I've had luck directly sowing these in the garden, although the germination rate definitely isn't as good as it would be if I started them indoors in advance. So if you're looking to get a real early start in your garden with some of these crops that will take a light frost and you don't have room to start them indoors, then maybe getting some some kale or broccoli into the ground that are already established plants might be good, so that those plants can produce for you before we get into the heat of summer. Because they don't, these are things that really don't like the heat,Becky S  31:40I might add to that list onions, because they're notoriously one of the longest, one of the slowest growing young transplants. And so usually the first thing you'd have to start if you were going to produce those transplant yourself. And so I might think about whether you could find the onions you were looking for started by someone else that might be something might get,Nate B  32:09you have to be kind of careful about buying onions, though you need to get the right variety for our area. So when you think New Hampshire growing onions, and you're looking for, are they called sets, when when they're at that size, I think what are you actually looking forBecky S  32:27what set is a tiny onion, so it looks like a little pearl onion, but it's dried down. And you would just plant it like a little bulb and it would grow into a big onion that you would then harvest. So that's one option. And yes, you do have to be careful to get varieties that will grow in our long days, we have long days, even though we have a short growing season compared with short day onions that grow down south. So you'd have to be kind of thoughtful about that. But you can also buy transplants, which are little young onion plants that look just like little scallions. And I'm a number of nursery sent local nursery centers, garden centers would likely have onion started as small plants that you could could get, you can also purchase onion plants, mail order shipped to you, I tend to be a little cautious about doing that. Because usually those are raised in much warmer places than here where they have many onion pests. And often you're also purchasing in small insects with them. So that that could be a caution. That would be one reason to raise your own or purchase local seedlings.Nate B  33:47Well, it's a it's a good point about being cautious just in general about where you're ordering from because I think that really gets us into the catalog phase. A lot of gardeners get several catalogs, you're not ordering all maybe from one company. And you mentioned a preference, possibly, at least in some instances for local companies. So Becky, how do you think about choosing a company or companies? I know we're not going to give endorsements of Oh, you know, shot from this company? They're the best. But in general, what considerations are there for who you're shopping from and maybe what you're purchasing from a particular company?Becky S  34:27Well, that's a good question. And I personally purchased from a whole array of companies every year because I'm a real variety nut and I want all the varieties of everything. And so I really have to go to lots of different companies for that. But I think your consideration about local is really important because we have a unique growing climate here in the northeast, we've got a short growing season. And it's humid. And it's just really different than many other parts of the US. And so I would want some level of assurance that the varieties that I'm going to grow are going to have been evaluated and are going to grow well, in a climate like ours. That's not to say that I only buy from companies based in the northeast, there are certainly good reasons that you might go outside this region. For example, if you want to really excellent peanut selection, you're going to have to go to Southern companies for this,Emma E  35:40for example.Becky S  35:42But I think that that, knowing that things have been evaluated with the diseases and insects and climate that we have, is a really important factor.Emma E  35:54I guess I I sometimes base things too, just on reputation. You know, if I know somebody, or if I have a friend who says they had really great luck with the company, then I might be inclined to shop from them. I also love it too. And companies have a really good customer service department. So make sure that there is a number right there that you know, you can call to reach out, I think sometimes it is possible to buy seeds from other, you know, online distributors that might seem really cheap. But I would definitely be, you know, thinking if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. And be ordering from a well known company that that does have a reputation for producing quality seeds, plants, etc.Nate B  36:44So whether you're actually using physical catalog, some people really like to actually receive their catalogs in the mail, they get to circle things and use them in the way they always have. But you can also shop online, and many of these companies have excellent websites, where you can do all or most of what you would do in a physical catalog, maybe even some things that you wouldn't be able to do in the physical catalog. So I'm curious for both of you, how do you actually like to use a catalog, whether online or in person, what's your process as a shopper?Emma E  37:20Well, I guess I actually like to look through catalogs and decide what I want to order from the catalog. And I guess one reason I like that is that all of the offerings for let's say a specific crop tend to be clustered together. So I can quickly compare all of the different descriptions of the different varieties that they're offering, you know, just by looking at a single page or two, versus if I go to the website for that, that same company, and I'm looking at the catalog from, I'm probably gonna have to click on every single variety to take a look at, you know, its description. You know, let's say it's the number of days to maturity. So I just like the the catalog for that. Plus, a lot of my favorite catalogs have really nice glossy pictures and just kind of fun to sit back, you know, let's say next to the woodstove and look through the catalog. I will say that I am more modern though when it comes to actually placing orders. So I'll probably pick out from the catalog what I want, you know, I have things circled there, start and then go online, and select what I want, make sure that it's still available, because a lot of times online, you can look right away and see if something's out of stock versus filling out your your paper order slip, sending that off and then not getting what you want. And then I can pay with card. But definitely still really appreciate that that hardcopy catalog that shows up in the mail,Becky S  38:47we have a super similar process, I lay out all the catalogs, and I proceed through crop by crop comparing all the offerings and make my spreadsheets and then go online to place the order and then I can pivot if necessary if they're out of stock or of something. It is true though, that sometimes it's good to check online. Because it they see companies have printing deadlines. And they have to print the catalog at some point earlier in the season. And it may be that things get out of stock, but it also happens that things get added. And so you can be delightfully surprised by new and exciting things that aren't even listed in the catalog.Emma E  39:34That's a good point too. I guess probably the only time I would go online first is if I'm ordering from a company that I never have before and I don't have a physical catalog from them. But if so if they don't automatically send me a catalog, I might sign up for one too so that in future years that that catalog will be part of my collection.Nate B  39:54And Becky when you said that you go crop by crop, kind of going back to the garden plan when you Actually sketched everything out by the end of that garden plan process? Do you actually have a list of the crops that you want to grow the quantities that you want, you know, where everything's gonna go? That's all happening before you're actually getting to that process of laying your catalogs out?Becky S  40:17Well, yes, but that does make it sound more organized and scientific than it is. In reality, I just need I know, I need a whole bunch of this, that and the other and only a little of this than the other. So it's, it's not as worked out as you make it sound. But I will say I maintain this spreadsheet. And every year, I just add a new tab to it. And this has come in shockingly handy when you want to go back and see what variety did I grow last year, that was such a failure, or that one that was so successful, where did we get that that was three years ago. And it's just like, it's so wonderful to have this resource of all the things I've ordered over the years.Nate B  41:07I love that from an extension person. And one sentence, it's not that organized. It's not scientific. On the other hand, I have this spreadsheet, and each tab correlates with a different year and I'm able to cross check and everything that's, that's such a classic extension perspective, not that scientific.41:24It just doesn't have amounts in it.Emma E  41:29And I'm assuming there's always room to for that one thing. You see where you're like, Oh, I gotta try that. That's really cool. That wasn't originally part of the plan.There's a miscellaneous section.Emma E  41:42That would work for your gourd garden, right?Nate B  41:44That's right. I'm planning on having a magnificent gourd garden this year. Speaking of space hogs, I think my entire garden might just be gourds growing sideways growing up growing every which way. And I guess that miscellaneous category what what's that kind of the equivalent of a junk drawer? Right,Becky S  42:01exactly.Emma E  42:27Though we're talking about vegetable variety selection this episode, I wanted to feature one of my favorite annual flowers that often gets planted in vegetable gardens. The Mr. shum tropaeolum. nasturtiums are a really lovely annual plant. They're typically grown for the ornamental features, although they're also edible. They grow really well in poor to average well drained soils that are in full sun, and they're even moderately drought tolerant, which makes them a good choice for New Hampshire landscapes, where the weather tends to be a little uncertain. nasturtiums will also tolerate a fair amount of neglect, and really don't require much maintenance during the growing season. They shouldn't even be fertilized because this can increase leaf growth and decrease flowering. nasturtiums can be sown directly in the garden after the spring frost date, or planted indoors four to six weeks before the last spring frost. Now nasturtiums are interesting largely because of the their actual features. The leaves are rounded and peltate which means that the leaf stem aka the petiole attaches to the center of leaves instead of at the base as is more standard in most plants. The flowers are funnel shaped with five petals and a distinct spur at the back. They come in shades of red, yellow, orange or cream, and the flowers are also fragrant. All parts of the plant are edible except for the roots and have a peppery flavor. The leaves, flowers, pods and even seeds can be added to fresh salads. an assertion is often listed as one of the best edible flowers. So give nasturtiums a try in your garden this season. No vegetable garden is complete without them.Nate B  44:25For today's closing gardening tip like to talk about garden fencing. An important part of your garden planning is protecting your harvest from animals and today's closing gardening tip is about using fencing around your garden. Depending on what animal species have been the biggest nuisance in past growing seasons, the type of fencing that will work best will differ. Some animals can jump over fencing if it's not tall enough, like deer, while other animals can dig under fencing if not designed to prevent it, including rabbits and groundhogs, also known as well. Chuck's while other animals can climb up and over fencing such as porcupines your budget will in part dictate what materials and style of fencing you install. Plastic and wire are less expensive options than wood or electric fencing. But all have pros and cons. Appearance may also be a consideration So combining function with a statics may be part of your planning. If you rent or for another reason, don't plan on Gardening in the same plot for years to come. You may consider something that can be moved, whereas that may not be a consideration for homeowners with well established garden plots. This has been your closing gardening tip. This conversation continues but we've split it up into two episodes. Make sure you're subscribed to Granite State gardening so you know when Part two is released, which will feature the second half of this conversation as well as another listener question gardening tip and featured plant. Look for Granite State gardening in your podcast feed every two weeks and look out for episodes and the not so distant future on seed starting pruning, emerald ash borer and foliage house plants. email us your questions, suggestions and feedback to GSG dot edu. This podcast is just starting out. So there are a couple things you can do to help other gardeners find us. One simple thing is just to share it with fellow gardeners and friends. And if you're listening on Apple podcasts, you can give us a five star review there which actually helps people find the podcast. Beyond that you can connect with us on social media to get more regular tips and updates from us. Just search for ask UNH extension on Facebook or Instagram and give us a follow there. We also have the link to sign up for our monthly newsletter, also called Granite State Gardening in the show notes, where you can find lots of helpful resources related to what we talked about in this episode. Thanks for tuning in to Granite State gardening. Until next time,Becky S  47:16keep on growing Granite State Gardeners.Nate B  47:24Granite State Gardening is a production of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and equal opportunity educator and employer views expressed on this podcast are not necessarily those of the university's its trustees, or its volunteers. inclusion or exclusion of commercial products in this podcast does not imply endorsement. The University of New Hampshire US Department of Agriculture and New Hampshire County is cooperate to provide extension programming in the Granite State. Learn more@extension.unh.eduTranscription by
The idea of growing harvestable fruit inside your home is tantalizing, but is it realistic? In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for growing fruits indoors — from the challenge of yielding fruit from plants indoors year-round to growing tropical fruits indoors and outdoors.  Featured question: using neem oilFeatured plant segment: blue passionflowerClosing gardening tip: what to do about broken limbs on trees and shrubs overwinter 
Herbs are delicious and fragrant additions to a garden, whether a dedicated kitchen garden or as ornamental and edible accents in vegetable and flower gardens. But herbs can also be grown inside your home, protected from the elements and even closer to your kitchen. Whether you’re growing herbs as houseplants year-round or just to get them through the winter before they go back outside, indoor herb gardening is rewarding as long as you are able to provide the care they need to thrive.  In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for all aspects of indoor herb gardening — from seed starting and care of newly purchased potted herbs to indoor/outdoor transitions and drying and cooking from your homegrown harvest.  Featured question: germination testing of old seedsFeatured plant segment: borage Closing gardening tip: removing hazardous ice without harming your garden’s soil. Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at Background Reading  How to keep potted herbs from the supermarket alive longer: Soil for potted plants: Preserving herbs: Cooking with herbs: Germination testing: Borage: Breaking the ice:
In the first and second World Wars, Americans were called to till, sow and start victory gardens in place of lawns and vacant lots to feed a hungry nation. In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted people to stay home, the tradition was reborn to localize food production in the face of supply chain disruptions and uncertainty. Less time commuting meant more time at home, so many beginner gardeners rushed out to build raised beds, arrange containers and clear fallow corners of the yard to plant a spring garden for food, beauty and a bit of garden therapy. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz discuss the history of victory gardening, gardening trends and how New Hampshire and UNH Extension adapted to the pandemic.  Featured question: winter compostingFeatured plant: paper bark maple (Acer griseum)Closing gardening tip: holiday gift plant care after the holidays  Connect with us at @askunhextension on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to the monthly Granite State Gardening newsletter. Email us questions, suggestions and feedback at Background Reading:  In the latest edition of Radius Magazine, Emma Joyce tells the story of New Hampshire’s victory garden movement this spring:  Emma Erler’s question of the week on winter composting, in blog format:  Learn about the paperbark maple:  UNH Extension’s fact sheet on care of flowering gift plants in the home:  More information on victory gardens from the New England Historical Society:  Information about the Victory Garden at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth:  Some basic guidance on planting a victory garden:  How the Wright Museum helps battle hunger with its Victory Garden:  Learn about the Cornucopia Project:  Information about UNH Extension’s Free Seed Program:  Meet the NH Master Gardeners:  UNH Extension and COVID-19: TRANSCRIPT[Nate B] Greetings Granite State gardeners. Getting acquainted with the newest podcast from UNH Extension, how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted gardeners and gardening, the history of Victory Gardens from past to present, highlighting victory gardens and the Master Gardeners who cultivate them. We'll discuss all these topics and more on this edition, the first ever episode of Granite State Gardening.Okay, our goal with the Granite State gardening podcast is to explore the world of gardening and help you achieve success in your garden. We're sticklers for research based information here at UNH Extension so you can count on us to share proven tips and solutions. We want to meet you where you're at as a gardener. So we're going to count on your feedback. What topics do you want us to explore with you? Is the information we're sharing to advance to basic or just right, email us at GSG.pod@ And let's get started and hear from my co host Emma.[Emma E]   I'm [Emma E]rler and I am one of the horticulture experts for UNH Extension . My job is to help home gardeners and landscapers solve gardening issues, as well as teach workshops, write articles, and regularly appear on WMUR's Grow It  Green TV segment. I've been interested in gardening for as long as I can remember, I began helping my mom with her vegetable and flower gardens, starting seeds weeding, transplanting and eventually growing plants of my own. I still have a few house plants that I started in elementary school actually. Before I came to UNH Extension, I worked at a few different public gardens on the East Coast as a professional horticulturist. However, I found that my true passion is education, which brings me here. I'm really excited to be joining my friend and colleague Nate on this podcast.[Nate B] And again I'm Nate Bernitz. I'm part of UNH Extension's home horticulture team and have the privilege to work with Emma and New Hampshire Master Gardeners. And also make sure everyone who has questions gets answers. I lead outreach efforts for Ask UNH Extension and Granite State Gardening and increasingly becoming an avid gardener myself. You'll mostly learn from Emma on this podcast, truth be told, but I hope to bring you some knowledge and laughs along the way as well. Before joining UNH Extension, I honestly had more experience gardening with oysters and clams than fruits and vegetables. But frankly, you can't work on this team and immerse yourself in the world of gardening without picking up a thing or two. I'm excited to co host this podcast and perhaps selfishly learn a lot myself right along with you. Okay, let's get into it.[Emma E]   A segment of this podcast that I'm really excited about is the question of the week. Through our Infoline service, Nate and I get dozens of questions every week from home gardeners about various topics. And my goal is to focus on one of these questions each week really break it down and discuss the most important parts of it. So this week, I want to talk about winter composting. Basically, what it sounds like composting through the winter, getting started with composting for the first time in the winter. A lot of people just started composting for the first time this year. And something we've been asked a lot is whether it's possible to compost in the wintertime, or whether you have to stop for a while and begin again in the spring. So if you have already started, the answer is absolutely yes, you can totally start composting right now or you can keep composting. So the way composting works is that it's this decomposition process that happens with a variety of micro organisms and larger macro organisms that that decompose that organic matter. So in the wintertime, decomposition slows down, but it doesn't totally stop or at least not for long. When the compost pile is completely frozen, then nothing is breaking down. But as long as the core center of that pile is unfrozen or if we get any warm spells throughout the winter, then it's going to start right back up. So in terms of the organisms in the pile that are doing that work, I have bacteria, you have actinomycetes which are actually filamentous bacteria that resemble fungi and these are the critters that are responsible for giving compost that earthy smell. You also have fungi, so molds and yeast, as well as some larger decomposers I mentioned, like sow bugs, pill bugs, earthworms, all of these creatures can survive in compost piles year round, their populations might not be very high, they might not be doing all that much work. But bacteria can increase their populations rapidly as soon as conditions are right. So as soon as it warms up enough, and that's kind of true across the board. So you can absolutely keep composting, there are a few things that you're going to want to pay attention to, though. First, it might be a little late for this. But it is important to harvest your finished compost to make room for winter additions. Because decomposition slows down so much. The materials that you put onto the compost pile from your kitchen over the winter can really add up because they're not breaking down very quickly. So taking finished compost out is important. You'll know if your compost is finished, if you really don't see any signs of the original materials that went into the pile anymore. If it's very dark, crumbly if it has an earthy odor, that means it's done. So a lot of times in the fall, people will go through and turn their compost pile and actually separate out the stuff that's finished. And either use that in their garden right then and there. Maybe spread it as a top dressing, use it in their lawns or vegetable gardens or flower beds, or you can save it for use in the spring. So sometimes it's helpful to put it in a bin to cover it with a tarp so that it doesn't get too soggy over the winter months. But you'll have it available to us as a garden amendment come spring. So once you've done that, once you've cleared some space in the compost area, you're still going to have to pay attention in the wintertime to greens and browns. So if you're familiar with composting, you've probably heard this term before. But basically there are two types of materials you can put on a compost pile, you have brown materials, which we call our carbon rich materials, these are really going to provide a lot of aeration to the pile. So going to keep that airflow oxygen is important and part of this decomposition process. So browns are going to include things like leaves, pine needles, sawdust, newspaper, maybe some some fine sticks or branches that have been chopped up. For green material on the other side. Those are very soft organic materials. So think grass clippings, or anything that comes out of the kitchen. So vegetable scraps, fruit peelings, those are all greens. When you're composting, it's important to mix the two together. Number one, so your pile doesn't get too smelly. Number two, so that you are increasing the oxygenation of that pile, those green materials are going to break down a bit faster. But it's important to have some of both. So in the wintertime, you're probably not going to be having a whole lot of brown materials to add necessarily, you may just have a whole bunch of kitchen materials. So stockpiling brown materials to be able to layer over your greens is really key. So that could mean piling up leaves in the fall putting those near your compost piles specifically to use in composting. Or it could mean getting some other materials on hand. So shredded newspaper works really well for composting, straw, sawdust wood chips, if you can get any of those materials on hand, that's really helpful. common mistake I guess some sometimes people will make is adding only greens in the winter months, so only kitchen scraps, and what you end up with is basically a stinky wet mess in the spring once the pile thaws out. And that's, that's not necessarily a deal breaker or really a bad thing. But for most people, you don't necessarily want that that real smelly pile. So adding some browns throughout the winter is helpful. If you do forget or if you don't have brown materials, that's fine, you can keep adding those greens, so those kitchen scraps through the winter. But in the spring, once the pile is thawed, you probably will want to add some more browns. So turn the pile, add some of that newspaper, add some of those wood chips, the leaves, whatever, you have to increase the aeration. And then finally, really through the winter, an important thing to do too, is reduce the size of the greens and the browns you're putting on that pile. The smaller that you can make the particles that go in the pile, the faster they're going to break down because you're increasing the surface area where these decomposers can actually feed on these materials. And really, a couple more things I'd add here is that you should wait to turn your pile until the spring once it's thawed. Every time you turn the compost pile you actually end up releasing some Heat. So in the winter months, that's something that you want to avoid. So go ahead and wait until the spring. And if you have a wood stove or a fireplace, you really want to be careful how much wood ash you add to your compost pile. Wood ashes can quickly raise the pH and actually bump it past the optimum range for microbial activity in that compost pile. Most of the beneficial organisms that are decomposers do best when the pH is neutral to slightly acidic. So adding some wood ash once in a while might be okay. But definitely don't put all of it on the compost pile, it's not going to be a benefit. But in summary, Composting is absolutely possible in the winter. If you already have a compost pile, it's something you should keep up with. And if you haven't started composting before, there's no reason you can't get started in the wintertime.[Nate B] Emma, we want to talk in this introductory episode about COVID. And how that has impacted the world of gardening. We really couldn't start this podcast any other way. You, as part of your work, do some education and outreach with professional growers and garden centers, as well as the home gardening public. I'm curious, what have you and your team noticed that's been maybe a little bit different about this year versus other years.[Emma E]   Overall, pretty much universally in spring and summer of 2020. It was the best season in a long time for New Hampshire growers and garden centers. That wasn't entirely expected. Some growers were actually considering scaling back production, because they didn't know if the growing or green industry was going to be considered essential. But most growers continued with their pre COVID production plans. And at the peak of the retail season, getting plant material was actually a challenge for some gardeners due to very high sales volume. A lot of people are out shopping this year for plants. And one of the interesting things is that this applied to flowering plants, trees and shrubs, not only vegetables, because they think we think of a lot of people as growing vegetables this year. And presumably, this is because people were spending a lot more time at home instead of going on vacation. So they were happy to make their homes and their yards more pleasant places to be. Also from the consumer side, it got pretty hard to find seeds and certain garden supplies this spring because things sold out. So you had to wait a long time or certain plants were simply unavailable. So we don't know yet what next spring is going to look like. But you know, most people that are growers or retailers are hopeful that some of these COVID converts - these people that really got into gardening this year - will become lifelong plant enthusiasts.[Nate B] I guess, safe to say these "COVID converts" are going to be ordering their seeds a little bit earlier than they did last year, we can remember that this pandemic really became what it was starting in March. And for experienced gardeners, their seed orders were already placed by that point. So by the time we got to March, which is really the start of when gardeners might be starting seeds. You know that that was really well into that period already. What have you heard in that regard? Or what would you anticipate in that regard, as far as you know how people are going to go about their gardening, maybe in a different way than they did this year?[Emma E]   My hope anyways, and I think this is probably true that a lot of people are going to be trying to plan ahead a bit more this year. Thinking about ordering those seeds earlier having had the experience of not being able to get what they want not being able to find seeds. Same goes for seedling trees and shrubs. I think people are learning that a lot of these plants too. If you're hoping to grow, say fruit trees in your home garden, you really actually need to be ordering those as early as December, January, February. So if you wait till the spring, your only option is probably going to be to buy larger trees at the garden center, which is okay too. But they're definitely more expensive. So I think people probably learn from their mistakes, shall we say? And I think most people were still able to have the gardens they wanted despite some shortages earlier in the season. But I hope Anyways, that folks are planning ahead a bit more.[Nate B] I think that there were shortages on more than seeds, right. I think throughout the growing season, we heard about shortages on so many different things. What else do you remember about what was perhaps in somewhat short supply at times?[Emma E]   I think some of the other general gardening supplies could be hard to find at certain points. So some people might have had trouble getting the exact irrigation equipment that they wanted, perhaps landscape fabrics, trying to find mulches that were appropriate for their gardens, it was kind of across the board. So one nice thing is that a lot of people probably have been able to purchase a lot of the equipment that they need, at least for things that are reusable, and have maybe thought about some of these renewable materials and their own homes that they can have stockpiled for their garden next year. So people have started composting. So compost is great for the garden, a lot of people are thinking about using leaves a little bit more. So materials that are on their property that can be used as a mulch. So that's going to be really helpful. But this coming year, with gardening, it really does take a bit of experience to figure out what's gonna work and what isn't, and exactly what you need to have when. So for those that started for the first time, this past year, it was a big learning curve. But I think a lot of people, you know, even if they weren't super successful this year are still enthusiastic enough to try to do things a little bit better this year, now that they've learned so much.[Nate B] compost is a really great example, right? If you go to the store, and they're out of compost, that's a really great incentive for you not to have to go buy compost and to make it yourself And fortunately, that's something that you can do. Just kind of shifting gears a little bit away from the home garden, is something that's really important are 1, school gardens and 2, community gardens and with school gardens, you know, many for obvious reasons were sidelined because of the pandemic. Right? If students and staff are not at school, and staying home to be safe, it's gonna be tough to keep the garden weeded and watered and well, sort of the the reason it's there changes, right? You know, one, one example, in the ConVal district of southwestern New Hampshire, the Cornucopia Project, assists teachers and students with garden projects and curriculum. So, you know, they're one organization that really pivoted. You know, we also saw community garden plots, unlike school gardens get really, really popular. I mean, that's  been a trend, I think for longer than just this year, maybe there not being as many community garden plots as there are interested hands, but especially this year, plots where people can grow their own food really filled up across the state very quickly. And it became very apparent that there weren't enough community gardens to meet demand. There's a reason for that. I think there are a lot of challenges associated with organizing community gardens, many of them don't last, for various reasons. And actually, that that's a good place to spend a minute, what are some challenges that that you see with community gardens and why they don't always last?[Emma E]   Well, one of the biggest challenges I think, is that they're almost always volunteer organized. So a lot of times when a community garden starts, you might have a core group of people that are really passionate about the project, it can be exciting, easy to raise some funds to get a project like that started to do the actual construction of fencing and raised beds. But as time goes on, it can be challenging to keep things looking good, to keep people excited and involved to actually be the ones in charge of working with people to get their beds set up keeping things well maintained. And when you don't have that volunteer support, then it gets challenging to keep it going. But fortunately, there are a lot of examples of community gardens in New Hampshire, that that do have incredible volunteer support, or things have been able to keep going. Some of the other challenges too, with with community gardens, that I think are fairly universal is that it can be really difficult to deal with with certain pest issues, let's say weeds, and insects and diseases. And in order to have a really successful garden with a lot of different people involved so that everybody kind of has to be on the same page in terms of how they're managing these things. So if one plot or a couple plots are being ignored and the weeds are taking over, There is potential for some spread there. Same goes for insect and disease issues. If somebody's not scouting their plants regularly, handpicking disease leaves or insects because of course, if you're on a community garden, it's not allowable to be spraying any sort of pesticides using any sort of pesticides if it's not property you own. So you really have to be very, very diligent by doing most of this pest control by hand. So in order to for everybody to be successful, everybody has to be really invested in the community garden. And, you know, it's, it's hard sometimes to have the same buy in from every single member.[Nate B] That reminds me a little bit of something we heard from Master Gardeners Suzanne McDonald, who reported that at the community garden at Wagon Hill Farm in Durham, nearby to the flagship UNH Durham campus, of course, there were over 100, or I'm sorry, over 55 gardeners participating this summer, and that the gardens were well cared for because people weren't traveling as much. They were at home, and they were more focused on growing healthy and nutritious food for their families. So some of those challenges weren't as significant for that community garden and presumably others because of people's mindsets and the fact that they were just able to be there more often. I will just add as an interesting aside at that garden, there is a food pantry plot managed by another Master Gardener, Lynn Howard. The plot produced 70 bushels of produce for two local food pantries in the area. And even other gardens, donated excess produce to the pantries as well some devoted a row or two to donate from their community garden plots. So they felt like the year ended up being a huge success, despite all the challenges, one being voles, and and many others that you mentioned. And, you know, UNH Extension, the Master Gardener program, we kind of pivoted towards supporting community gardens in some different ways. This year, we have something called a free seed project. You are involved with that Emma, that typically provide seeds to educators at schools, youth centers and other nonprofit organizations to use for education about plants and related topics. But during the covid 19 pandemic seeds Additionally, were shared with 4-H students, Nutrition Connection clients, which is another Extension program, community garden participants and others. And one kind of interesting example, through a connection from our colleague Jonathan Ebba, the agricultural supervisor at his mansion ministries, a faith based Addiction Rehab Center in Deering, New Hampshire, offered to sprout some of the seeds in their greenhouse and make seedlings available to those in need. So community gardeners in Manchester received over 30 trays of vegetable seedlings from this greenhouse that they planted and grew to then provide fresh vegetables throughout the summer and fall, including again to food pantries. You know, we also worked with the Nashua Housing Authority Grow Nashua community gardens, new Ipswich food pantry, Keene community gardens, Sullivan county food pantries donating you know, well over 1000 seed packets to just you know, some of these groups. So it's, it's been, it's been an amazing year, one with a lot of need. And just an amazing and inspiring response from Master Gardeners.[Emma E]   Oh, absolutely. It's one thing that that has absolutely blown me away. A lot of the initiatives that Master Gardeners started or at least the dedication that they have to to feeding their communities, to making agriculture accessible to their communities on fresh food, most importantly, so really, really wonderful.[Nate B] Another food pantry garden was the garden In Littleton at the mount Sacred Heart convent where nearly 5000 pounds of produce was produced. And because of the storage capacity and types of food raised fresh produce was then provided to those in need every month of the year from this garden. That project was led by master gardener, Evelyn Hagen in the Littleton New Hampshire area, which is in northwestern New Hampshire,[Emma E]   which is fantastic. I always think the more we can connect people with their food, the better especially when it's younger kids so they have the opportunity to see what a tomato plant actually looks like. What a carrot looks like how it grows. COVID also had a big impact on the work of UNH Extension, particularly in our food and agriculture team, which you and I are both a part of Nate. we had to shift the way we delivered programming. One of our hallmarks is typically being able to offer in person programming, to be able to engage our audiences, whether it's farmers, whether it's home gardeners, but that really wasn't an option anymore, when COVID started up. So you know, when you think of that, Nate, what do you think one of the most significant changes was[Nate B] translating quickly changing programs, information and regulations, to formats and language that was accessible and timely, in a few ways through daily FAQ update emails for growers and producers, online farmer forums that connected growers with service providers and each other, where they discussed obstacles and did some problem solving. These were happening, I think, on a weekly basis, kind of at the the peak of adaptation during the pandemic, you know, over the summer, and spring. You know, the issues ranged really widely from food safety, to protecting workers in a COVID pandemic environment, to new market opportunities and safe ways of conducting CSAs, farmers markets and pick your own operations. The other thing is over the course of the pandemic, there's really been a regular flow of new complex rules and regulations federally at and at the state level. So Extension has worked diligently to interpret those new laws and work with state and federal partners to ensure agricultural businesses have the information they need in a timely manner, including new funding and relief opportunities,[Emma E]   critically important and stuff when you know, in the middle of the pandemic, that's that stuff that farmers didn't necessarily have the bandwidth to be working on. So being able to have Extension, figure out, you know, some of the go through some of the red tape to figure out what farmers needed was was really important.[Nate B] Well, I was just gonna say another strain on farmers were their supply chains that they've come to rely on farmers that might normally be selling produce to restaurants, and, you know, other businesses that were also impacted by the pandemic, you know, maybe school systems being another right like, there were there was a real drop off in some supply chains, and then really an increase in demand from individual consumers. So, Extension teamed up with the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture to gather farm listings and actually build an interactive farm products map, which helps connect consumers to buy directly from New Hampshire growers and producers, that included local meats, produce, dairy, cut flowers, hay, compost, seedlings, soap, candles, and much more. In the map, which is still up and running on the UNH Extension website, by the way, farmers are able to share up to date information about pickup locations, delivery options, payment methods, product listings, even purchasing incentives and eligible food access programs. That sounds really complex. And that's because it was. it was really complex to figure out for farms that might not normally have done very much in direct retail sales, how to sell food to people who wanted it in a pandemic environment.[Emma E]   we think back to, you know, at this point, are the shelves are pretty much fully stocked in the grocery store. But earlier in the pandemic, back the spring, early this summer, it was really hard to find certain things, whether it was meat, whether it was produce. And I think a lot of people were interested in buying locally, you know, just the fact that supply chains were interrupted. I mean, it's that's less of an issue when you're buying your food from just down the road.[Nate B] And there was also just an unknown, you know what's going to happen next week, right, and people are also limiting their shopping trips and didn't necessarily want to be in crowded grocery stores more than they had to, spending a lot more time at home. So perhaps cooking more, and of course, gardening more. You know, the other thing about buying food is that we had significant economic impacts. So there was a real increase in need for access to food. Right. So food banks and pantries saw a lot more demand, there were a lot of people that hadn't normally relied on those sorts of programs. And all of a sudden they were and they didn't necessarily know where to find access to subsidized or, or free food and just sort of other food access programs. So that's another interactive map that our colleagues in the youth and family team at UNH Extension developed. So and that's still online as well, the food access map because those challenges persist, even now. You know, and I don't know about this one as much. But we also produced a local seafood finder online map to connect consumers with local fishermen. And aquaculture s for local items, like oysters grown in New Hampshire's Great Bay, from, you know, I think there's about 14-15 oyster farms, operating most of them very, very small. And again, most people are consuming things like oysters in restaurants, which, you know, even if you're doing takeout from a restaurant, you're not going to get raw oysters take out from a restaurant, right? Like maybe you'll get something else. So, you know, they had to figure out again, how to pivot to selling items like that to individuals. So just in many ways, Extension was doing a lot of work to connect consumers, to producers in new creative ways that really met the moment. And that kind of brings us to where we are right now because Emma and I teamed up from really March through November to produce the original iteration of Granite State gardening, which were facebook live videos. And now here we are starting the Granite State Gardening podcast.Reading pesticide labels for breakfast and using chemicals as a last resort are just part of Rachel Maccini's daily routine as UNH Extension's pesticide safety education coordinator. Now, for Rachel's Integrated Pest Management (IPM for short) featured tipRachel Maccini   Hello, an integrated pest management program approach employs pesticides in a targeted way along with non chemical control methods and cultural practices such as choosing native plants, while pesticides can be used as part of an IPM program, it is a good idea to limit their use and thereby your exposure. pesticide should be used only as a last resort and carefully chosen carefully used carefully stored and carefully disposed of. If you do plan to use pesticides, you will want to make sure you are only applying products to land you either own or are leasing. You cannot apply any pesticides to public property without securing a pesticide license from the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture markets and food division of pesticide control. When chemicals are being considered, you'll want to look for the least toxic products and always read the label before applying.[Emma E]   Changing gears a bit here with COVID-19 a term I started hearing a lot more was Victory Garden. So Victory Garden I think of as being more of a a historical thing. But perhaps I'm wrong on that. You know, I know that you've done a bit of research on this. So what can you tell us?[Nate B] Well, the history of victory gardening is really interesting. Its origins really go back to addressing some very specific problems. So back in the day, we're talking World Wars now. You know, there were issues with access to tin for canning, and distribution of food was limited because of the war. There are also high food costs, low supply of produce, at times actual rationing at stores. And not to be understated was the fact that Victory Gardening gave people a sense of purpose that they were helping the war effort. At the time, The USDA developed actually significant volumes of pamphlets, recipes, posters and hand books to support and promote gardening. Agricultural companies started educating gardeners as well. You know, talking World War 2 here in Boston, the parks department and school teachers supervised what from what I understand 49 different community gardens in the city, including one very famous one on Boston Common. gardeners also at this time started to grow new vegetables that they hadn't really grown before finding that it was quite easy to grow vegetables like swiss chard and kohlrabi.[Emma E]   I have always thought of victory gardening is being related to World War 2. But am I right in thinking that it actually started a bit earlier than that?[Nate B] Yeah, its origins were really in World War 1, the victory Victory Garden movement expanded significantly for World War Two, but was very much a thing in World War 1as well. It's funny, something like meatless Mondays, was actually created in World War 1, as were wheatless Wednesdays and porkless Saturday is to encourage Americans to eat less of items that were in demand, like meat and wheat. There was debate over whether to increase food supplies by either 1) sending people off to work farms, or 2) encouraging people to grow food on vacant lands. Ultimately, they went more with the latter. So originally, actually in the late 1800s, Detroit Mayor Hazen Pingree, who was originally from Maine, by the way, created something called the potato patch plan that allowed people to plant gardens on vacant land. And this inspired other cities to do the same. So come World War 1, the potato patch plan was revived and led to urban gardens being referred to as Victory Gardens as well as Liberty gardens. Charles Lathrop Pack also from Michigan, formed the US National War garden commission to inspire and educate Americans to plant victory gardens and again created pamphlets, posters, and even lesson plans on gardening. President Woodrow Wilson started the US garden army funded by the War Department and the national curriculum for gardening was developed by the Bureau of education. The effort envisioned "a garden for every child and every child in a garden", which I think is a nice sentiment we can still get behind.[Emma E]   So this was really an organized effort. This wasn't just people taking this upon themselves to grow food, this this was really a true national movement.[Nate B] Right. So in COVID, the Victory Garden movement was very much organic and grassroots. It wasn't driven by the top it was driven from the bottom. But in World War 1 and World War 2, they were both top down efforts largely to promote gardening because it was desperately needed. Just to bring us back to New Hampshire, efforts were made to reach every child in the state, and ultimately, an estimated 40,000 Granite State children were enlisted in the school garden army by 1919, in World War 1. And I was actually able to find the stated goals for New Hampshire at that time, "to make the Granite State a garden state to give to the young people of the new generations the sturdy qualities, which were developed in those early years when New Hampshire boys and girls were reared on farms and went southward and westward to become leaders in new communities to bring into the schools the vital interest found only in experience with realities." It was intended to reach every child in the state.[Emma E]   Wow. It's That's incredible. And and interesting that even back in 1919, we're talking about bringing this sort of education experience to kids that are not raised on farms. So I think that that's something now we think of how few children have exposure to to agriculture, per se directly, but this is a conversation that we've been having for a long time, it seems.[Nate B] Yeah. And to go back even further in the history. Now this is predating Victory Gardens but certainly not predating gardening. So in the 1600s and 1700s. And we're talking New England here, but farming was mostly aimed at household subsistence and exchange with neighbors. So farm wives typically kept kitchen gardens and flocks of backyard poultry, and processed food from the fields where farmers grow crops like corn, rye, beans and potatoes, and often managed large orchards to produce hard cider, which apparently was the everyday choice for beverages at the time, and no produce was imported. So you were eating what was grown locally. And then in the late 1800s, kind of getting back to where we were, with the origins of kind of gardening on vacant lots like we were talking about a minute ago. market gardens surrounding cities were also highly productive and helped recycle urban wastes like stable manure. So World War 1, there were an estimated 5 million Victory Gardens. World War 2 was the true high point of home gardening, even in urban areas, and came at a time where regional agriculture unfortunately was already starting the decline that has, you know, really continued. But it's estimated there were more than 18 million Victory Gardens nationwide, during World War 2. And just in New Hampshire, there were over 80,000 registered Victory Gardens, often on converted lawns, and vacant lots. So, you know, I was looking back as well at, again, some of the way that this was promoted and marketed, there were slogans, including, "Grow vitamins at your kitchen door", [Emma E]   Oh, my gosh [Nate B] and "you are what you eat", you know, kind of so going back to World War 2, you know, there, they were using slogans like that, to get people gardening. And at the very peak of Victory Gardens, in World War 2, close to 50% of the nation's food was grown in these gardens.[Emma E]   That is so incredible. And clearly something we're not reaching right now. But during COVID, a lot of people were getting more interested in growing their own food. But perhaps we didn't have the same organization or push to get people to do that in the same way. But, gosh, still still incredibly interesting. So I mean, in terms of, you know, what's going on today, you know, in terms of our food, you know, I mentioned that we're not producing that much food on our own at our own homes. But, you know, like, how are our farms in New Hampshire meeting that demand more locally?[Nate B] Well, I don't have updated figures from this year, I doubt it's changed too much in the aggregate. But in, you know, in modern times, about 5% of food consumed in New Hampshire is actually grown in New Hampshire, the percentage that's actually grown in New Hampshire Gardens is significantly less than that, of course. But you know, the trend that we saw, you know, in the last century, certainly continues with farms and farm land, both continuing to decline and be repurposed for other uses. You know, but CSAs and Market Garden operations have risen in recent years. And when I say recent years, I'm talking decades, not like the last few years, not exactly sure, what's happening right now, in that regard. It's, it's sometimes difficult to get that information, you know, in the current moment, but we can look at some more recent trends. And, you know, there's one organization that is associated with UNH called food solutions New England, and they have a vision that includes increasing the percentage of farmland in New England, from about 5% to 15%. By I think 2040. And that vision includes, you know, 5 to 15% of urban and suburban land, being reclaimed for things like private gardens, small scale community and, and community farms and permaculture. It's, it's really interesting, I'd actually encourage people to, to go to and, and look at their food vision. It's fascinating, it certainly kind of puts into context. We are what we're doing the connection between gardening and farming, and why I think Extension's role, along with the role of other organizations in promoting this and you know, what, you, you know, listeners at home, you know, why what you're doing is important too, because it's all part of a grander vision for the role of gardening and farming in, you know, in New England lives.[Emma E]   Right. So even if we're not producing enough food, even with that, that, you know, 5 to 15% even if we're not producing all the food, we need in the England for our population, there's a lot of benefits to buying things locally, to having more exposure to farms, to gardens, you know, just just for people learning a bit more about what it takes to grow foods. I think I said earlier, you know, where foods even come from, I'm always amazed with adults that I speak to friends and family that don't know that a tomato plant is a vine, let's say, or, you know, all these examples where you don't even know how something actually grows. So having that connection to food, I do think is quite important.[Nate B] I think there are a lot of benefits. I mean, so if you think about a community garden, that is, you know, one, you know, getting healthy, locally produced food, you know, it's going to increase people's consumption of produce, but it's also fostering community. It's, frankly, a form of exercise. It's, I think anyone can really attest to the sort of mental therapeutic benefits of gardening, it's, you know, it's a great land use, right, it's like, what would be there, if not, for that community garden, and that's been sort of an ongoing historical tension on the land side, you know, community gardens being, you know, removed in, especially in urban environments. And, you know, not typically replaced with something that's going to foster community in the same way, you know, and then at home, I mean, gardening means something a little bit different, I think, to everybody. And we do it for different reasons, certainly, some people garden to actually try and save money on food, that's a potentially tall order. But even if you're not saving money, there are still a lot of benefits, and, you know, kind of going back to, you know, to kids, and so many so many folks have sort of viewed gardening, I think in COVID, as a chance to kind of marry the, you know, sort of the benefits that come of gardening and also like having, having their kids at home, really integrating gardening into their education and seeing that the garden is an amazing classroom.[Emma E]   So silver linings here, in terms of getting outside getting into the garden. In terms of, you know, New Hampshire, if if somebody wanted to see a more historically accurate Victory Garden in action, you know, is there any place you can go?[Nate B] I know of a couple, and folks listening might know of others. One is at the Wright Museum of world war two in Wolfeboro New Hampshire in the Lakes region, which is maintained by Master Gardener volunteer Kristen Kaiser. So typically, they actually partner with Spider Web Farm to start seedlings in their greenhouse, they weren't able to do that this year, because of COVID. So the varieties, you know, that they were doing were, were limited this year. But that's a really cool partnership they have in general. And, you know, talking to Kristen, she said, you know, she kind of estimated 60% of the visitors she spoke with from behind their seven foot tall deer fencing, were new to gardening, but trying to grow something now. And you know, often combined again, with homeschooling in the time of the pandemic, as well as an increased interest in canning. And, you know, we heard, you know, stories of people, you know, not being able to find things like canning lids, and everything because when you start gardening, you realize, you know, if you kind of get it right, all of a sudden you have way more produce than you can eat or even give away, so it kind of naturally leads to an interest in food preservation and canning.[Emma E]   Another ongoing segment that I am thrilled to be able to offer is our featured plant. So basically every every time every time we have an episode, I am going to be telling you all about a really cool plant that's either native to the New Hampshire landscape, that's something that could be grown indoors as a houseplant, or something you might put into your landscape in general, so your garden, your yard. Anybody who knows me knows that I'm a big plant buff. I love talking shop with plants. So this time, I'm going to tell you a little bit about one of my favorite trees, which is the paperbark Maple or Acer griseum If we want to get fancy with the Latin. Paperbark maple is a tree that's actually native to central and eastern China and mixed forests. So that means it grows alongside other deciduous trees that lose their leaves and trees that have needles. Its range is actually pretty small. So you'll just find it really in a few regions in China. This plant was brought to the United States in the late 19th century as an ornamental because it is incredibly beautiful. It's considered a small shade tree, because it grows about 15 to 30 feet tall and about the same width, so 15 to 30 feet wide. It grows pretty slowly. So it's not something that you put up that you where you want to have a whole bunch of shade right away, but it's something that you'll enjoy over the years. It's a tree that likes full sun to part shade, so it will do quite well in the sunniest part of your landscape. Or you can grow it and more of a woodland garden setting so where it's more of an understory plant beneath taller trees, it does prefer a moist soil, but also well drained. So it's not going to like the sandiest dry soils in New Hampshire, it's actually intolerant of drought. But if you have a good loam in your yard, this is a tree you could consider. What makes this tree such a nice ornamental plant is that its trunks and its limbs have a really really beautiful exfoliating cinnamon, reddish bark that peels off in these large curls that stay on the tree. So it's not messy, the bark does stay attached. But it's really interesting looking on this tree pretty much always makes the list of plants that provide, if you will, winter interest because it is beautiful all year round. And you really get to appreciate that beautiful bark in the wintertime once the leaves have fallen. Now the leaves on the tree are kind of interesting, too. So this is a maple. But it has a three parted trifoliate leaf, not unlike poison ivy or say raspberries or blackberries. The upper side of the leaves is kind of a greenish, dark greenish color. But the bottom is more of a blue gray green, which is actually where the species gets its name. The Latin word griseus. Remember the Latin name for this plant is Acer griseum means gray. So that refers to the leaf undersides. So fun fact for you there. It also has really good fall color. So this is one of the things I like about paperbark Maple is that you do tend to get a nice orange or red color that is pretty consistent, you know, some years that may not be quite as vibrant. But this tree has multiple seasons of interest. So it's also a good fall plant. Because this Maple is introduced from China really doesn't have any natural insects, or disease problems that affect that. So you can consider it to be a pretty problem free plant. And it should be hardy to at least zone five, I have seen it grow successfully in zone four. So more northern gardeners can push the limits a bit more, it's definitely going to be happy in Southern New Hampshire. And, you know, I mentioned early on this is a tree from China. So clearly it's it's not native. But one of the perks of this plant is that I don't see it as being much of an invasive threat, because approximately 95% of the seeds that it produces aren't viable. So that means the majority of the seeds that come from that tree, have no chance of germinating to begin with. So, you know, that's great. Some other invasive trees that have been introduced do seed quite well are quite prodigiously so even Japanese maple, you know, depending on where you are in the US Japanese maple, we'll see then quite readily throughout New England, and really down the east coast. The paperbark maples that I've had the pleasure of working with and around have, at most maybe produced one or two seedling trees a year. So this is not a plant that I'm overly concerned about becoming a pest in the garden. The only other downside maybe is that it can be a bit on the expensive side. But I do think it's well worth the investment if you have the room for it. So paperbark maple, really cool tree really cool specimen tree. Excellent for small properties, like I said for woodland gardens near a deck near a patio. Definitely one that I would recommend.Well, I'd like to close things off today with a final gardening tip. A lot of people for the holidays end up either either through their own purchase or from a friend might end up with some sort of holiday plant. You know whether it's an amaryllis, Christmas cactus, maybe a Norfolk Island pine. And you might be curious how to keep that plant alive after the holidays can be a bit challenging, especially if you're if you're not real keen on keeping houseplants. First off, if you really want to keep this plant healthy, and everything I mentioned so far can can live for years and years, you need to pick the right location to keep it in your house. All the plants that are sold as holiday gift plants tend to like bright sunny spots. So if you have a south or a west facing window, it's best if you can put it close to that that light source. Next, you're going to want to make sure that you keep this plant away from drafts as much as possible. So keep it away from appliances, keep it away from doors that are going to be doors to the outside that are going to be opening and closing a lot. And heat registers too can be an issue. So some of us have our windows right next to our heat registers are. But if it's possible to have it located not directly above that source of hot air that can be really helpful to keeping the plant going a bit longer. Temperature is also important. These plants will like a bit warmer temperature. So as long as you keep your house about 60 degrees or so they should be fine. They're going to be happier if your house is 65 to say 80 which you know that that's excessive for for most of us in our homes in New Hampshire. But keeping it about 60 is going to be good and trying to make sure that overnight temperature is not going to dip below too much below 50 degrees definitely the the closer you get to freezing the unhappier most of these plants are going to be. watering to is going to be important to keeping things going. Proper watering means watering when the plant is almost completely dry. So you can see that the soil is dry, you can feel that the soil is dry with your fingers if you actually stick a finger down into the soil. One easy way to kill a houseplant, really any of these gift plants is to water them too much, which often happens or watering them too little. So keep eyes on them. There's no schedule you need to be on. Because it really depends on the conditions in your home, how quickly they're going to dry out and what they're potted in, the pot that there have been planted in. So just keep an eye on it may be necessary to water once a week, maybe twice, you know, maybe once every week and a half or so. One other thing to look at is that most of these plants come with some sort of decorative foil wrapper. And these don't have any drainage in them. So excess water that comes out of the pot when you do water ends up collecting inside that wrapper. And what can happen when the plant is just sitting in the water for a long time is that its roots aren't getting enough oxygen. And it is drowning essentially and root rot becomes more more likely. So either punch some holes in that foil wrapper, get rid of it entirely, or make sure to empty it out after you've watered. And finally I'll say there really shouldn't be any need to fertilize your plants in the winter months. They're not going to be putting on a whole lot of new growth when the when they're not getting a whole lot of light because our days are short when temperatures are cooler. But once we get into the spring so once we get into say April or May it's time to bring out the house plant fertilizer. But if you follow all those things, pay attention to location watering. And then later on in the season come spring giving it some fertilizer, your your holiday gift plants going to be really happy and hopefully you'll be able to hold on to it for year after year.[Nate B] In the beginning of this episode, I asked you to email us with your ideas about what you'd like to hear us cover on the podcast. A couple upcoming episodes that we've already planned are growing herbs indoors and growing citrus trees indoors, perhaps outdoors in the summer. But again, email us at with your ideas and your feedback on this episode. Did you enjoy this podcast? if you're listening to this podcast on the UNH Extension website, make sure to subscribe to the Granite State Gardening podcast on the platform of your choice. as a brand new podcast we would greatly appreciate if you would share this podcast with fellow gardeners. And if you enjoyed this episode, consider giving us an effusive five star review, wherever you're listening. Until next time, keep on growing Granite State gardeners. Granite State gardening is a production of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension anequal opportunity educator and employer. the views expressed on this podcast are not necessarily those of the university's, its trustees, or its volunteers. inclusion or exclusion of commercial products in this podcast does not imply endorsement. The University of New Hampshire, US Department of Agriculture and New Hampshire counties cooperate to provide Extension programming in the Granite State. Learn more extension.unh.eduTranscribed by
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