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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Growing Ornamental Sweet Potato Vines - Propagation


The deep lobed leaves of the sprawling vine of the Ornamental Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) continue to be quite a show stopper in the garden. It's a great way to add a tropical feel to even the northern gardens.



They are considered to be perennial in Zones 10A through 11B. In Zone 9 and north, they are grown as an annual plant which needs to be propagated or overwintered to last year to year. The vines grow to 6” high, and have a recommended spacing of 18” apart.


Types of Ornamental Sweet Potato Vines


The two most popular leaf colors of the ornamental sweet potato vine are chartreuse, like in Margarita and Bright Ideas Lime, and the deep purple to black leaves of Blackie and Bright Ideas Black. Red and tricolored leafed varieties are also available, but for my money, the combination of chartreuse and deep purple can’t be beat.


Caring for your ornamental SPV



Sun/Heat Requirements

Ornamental SPV can be planted out after outside temperatures reach at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Optimum growing temperature range is 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.


They can grow in full sun to part shade, though their leaf color will vary depending on their siting. During the hottest days of summer, the SPV will thank you for some respite from the hot sun.


Soil

Any well-draining healthy soil will do, however they are intolerant of highly alkaline soil.



Fertilizing

Fertilize the SPV once in the spring and once in the summer with a balanced fertilizer at half strength to keep them healthy and happy. Be sure to fully water the plant after fertilizing to get the fertilizer to the roots.


Water


Moderate watering is fine with well-drained soil. Just be sure not to leave the SPV roots too soggy as they are prone to root rot.



SPV in Containers

The Sweet Carolina series of ornamental SPV were bred for container use.  This variety has smaller tubers for less vigorous growth.  It comes in several colors including yellow, green, red, purple, bronze and lime green.  But any variety of SPV will spill over a window box or hanging basket nicely.



Here’s a few care tips for container plants.

  • Fertilize once a week with a balanced fertilizer at 1/4th strength.
  • Check soil for dryness daily.
  • Remove dead or dried out leaves.
  • Trim the vines back as needed.


If you want to get a mounding pattern or you want the plant to branch out, make a cut just above a pair of leaves to encourage it to split and branch off.


Propagation

By Seed


Because SPVs don’t produce many flowers, they don’t produce many seeds, and the seeds they do produce may not be viable. Rooting cuttings is the preferred method of propagation as its easier and faster.


  
Roots Growing where leaves pinched off

By Cuttings


Snip off 6 inches of a branch right below leaf nodes.  (I will note that in my experience, cuttings much longer than 6" are more difficult to pot up in 3-4" pots later.)  Then pinch off the leaves of the lower two to three rows of leaves. This is where the new roots will grow.


Submerge the cuttings in lukewarm water making sure the stems are submerged but not the leaves which will rot in the water. Roots will start to grow in four or five days. As the roots grow, keep them under the water. Change the water every two to three days.


 


Place the rooted cuttings in indirect sunlight or a windowsill. If the leaves begin to turn brown and crinkle on the edges, they are getting too much light. Filtered light is the best.


Cuttings can also be planted in a pot of soil to root. They can even be planted right in the ground. However the cuttings will root faster in water. Onamental SPV cuttings can live indoors with a grow light or sunny window during the cold months and be ready for the spring growth spurt.

 
SPV tubers ready to overwinter

By Overwintering Tubers


Like edible sweet potatoes, the ornamental sweet potatoes vines form tubers underground. To save them year to year, you can dig up the tubers making sure not to slice into them. Brush off the excess soil and place them in peat moss, sand or vermiculite making sure the tubers don’t touch each other. Store them in a cool, dry place. In spring, watch for sprouts.

  


Very few garden plants are so beautiful yet so easy to grow and care for. The fact that they’re so easy to propagate can give any gardener a lot of bang for their buck. And that’s just a few of the reasons why ornamental sweet potato vines remain so popular!

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Where to go next!





 

Love hostas or know someone who does?
Visit SunsetHostaFarm.com
Great hostas at affordable prices!


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Growing Pumpkins for Fall Decor




If you've priced the cost of buying pumpkins and other winter squash for your Fall display lately, you've probably discovered that growing them from seed would definitely be worth your time. 


Pumpkins and Winter Squash are some of the easiest vegetables to grow from seed. The information in this article references Pumpkins, but the growing information is the same for winter squashes.


Pumpkins need three months or more of frost-free growing time. They are very frost sensitive both at the beginning and end of the season.
There are two ways to start your seeds; direct sowing and indoor sowing.




Timing your Pumpkinsfor a Fall harvest




Direct Sowing


You can safely direct sow your pumpkin seeds into a full sun area of your garden after all danger of frost has passed. The optimum soil temperature for seed germination is 70-90 degrees, the warmer the better.


In the warmer areas south of Zone 6, this is usually late May. For areas north of Zone 6, this is usually mid July. I am located in Zone 6, and my go-to time for sowing pumpkin seeds is early to mid June.


Sow the seeds 6" apart at a depth of 1 to 1 1/2 inches. If the soil temperature is warm enough, expect the seeds to germinate in 6 to 10 days.


A few weeks after the seedlings appear, remove the weaker ones by snipping them off at the soil level with scissors. Keep the healthiest ones. Your final spacing should be 12" apart.

Timing the direct sowing of your pumpkin seeds is important because if you sow the seeds outdoors too early, the seeds may rot in the cold or simply not germinate. If you sow the seeds too late, you may not have enough time to get the crop you wanted.







Indoor Sowing


Two to three weeks before your average last frost date, you can sow your seeds indoors. Avoid sowing them any earlier as older plants do not transplant well.


Sow the seeds in a container filled with 4" of soil. You can space the seedlings close together as you will be plucking out only the strongest ones from the bunch to transplant when the outside soil warms. Place the containers under grow lights. Applying bottom heat will hasten germination.


Keep the seedlings inside under the grow lights until the outside soil has warmed to over 70 degrees. Then transplant the seedlings into your garden careful so you don't disturb the roots more than necessary. Final spacing is 12”. (small large)





Take a tip from the picture above and plant marigolds near your pumpkins to draw in the pollinators.


  


Care for your Growing Pumpkin Vines



Give your pumpkin plants plenty of room for the vines to spread. Small and medium-sized varieties like Jack Be Little (orange) and Baby Boo (white) can be grown up a strong trellis. 


After some growing time, you will see secondary vines that grow from the main stem. These secondary vines will feed the growing fruit. Prune away any vines that grow out of the secondary vines, as these will fuel plant growth but not fruit growth.


If you're trying to grow the largest pumpkins you can, let only one or two pumpkins develop on that vine.





Soil


Your soil should be rich in nutrients, as pumpkins are known to be heavy feeders. Before sowing your seeds, you can amend any poor existing soil with aged compost or rotted manure in generous amounts.







Water


Heavy watering throughout the growing season is recommended. When the plants are 1-2" tall, a good layer of mulch will help retain that moisture.



Fertilizing



If you’re new to growing pumpkins, a very basic 5-10-5 fertilizer applied moderately all through the growing season is a less intensive method that should yield good results.


For those who are interested in a more detailed fertilizing plan, here is our recommendation.N= Nitrogen P = Phosphorus K=Potassium
The higher the number of N P K on fertilizer packages, the more concentrated that nutrient is in the fertilizer. 


For example, 20-20-20 is a balanced fertilizer. A 20-5-5 package contains four times more nitrogen than phosphate and potassium.


Apply a weekly nitrogen-heavy fertilizer early in the growing season to produce a healthy plant. Nitrogen promotes green growth, making for plenty of vines and leaves.


Once the flowers start to form, switch to a phosphorus-heavy fertilizer for plentiful blossoms.


When the actual pumpkins appear, use a potassium-rich fertilizer for healthy fruit.







Harvesting the Pumpkins



You will know your pumpkins are ready to harvest at the end of the growing season when the vines begin to die back and the leaves shrink. At this point the pumpkin rinds should be firm.


Cut the pumpkins from the vine leaving several inches of the stem attached to the pumpkin to avoid early rot.


If the pumpkin is harvested without stem damage, it can last for 8-12 weeks before it rots. That's plenty of time for your Fall display.







Storing Your Pumpkins



If you intend to store your pumpkins, it's best that you cure them first by setting them outside in the sunshine for ten days. This will help to harden their skins. If there's a chance of frost, cover them or move them into a shed or garage.


Further store them at 50 degree temperatures where it is moderately dry.








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Now that you know how to grow your own pumpkins from seed, why not give it a try? It will save you money, it's easy and it's fun.  Pumpkins are a great way to dress up your home for beautiful fall decor!
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Where to go next!



If you love hostas like we do, visit our website.
We'd love to see you!
SunsetHostaFarm.com

Monday, September 30, 2019

You Have Winter Sown Seedlings! Now what?


So you’ve tried the winter sowing method and found out that it’s easy and it works. Mother Nature woke the seeds out of their sleep and now you’re getting lots of little seedlings popping up in their snug, cozy containers.

  

Winter Sown Lettuce Seedlings


So now what?


Although winter sown seedlings at this stage are already much hardier than seedlings grown indoors simply because they have already been acclimated to the outside temperatures, there are ways now to ensure that your seedlings not only survive but thrive in their container until they’re ready for transplant.

Here are some of the most important considerations.


  

Winter Sown Containers in Sunnier Early Spring  Area


In Early Spring


It wasn’t critical where you placed the winter sowing containers in the winter while the seeds awaited Mother Nature’s cue to germinate, but now that some of your babies are “hatching” (usually seeds of cold hardy plants will germinate first,) container placement becomes more important.


It can still get pretty cold in early spring, especially at night, so a south-facing area that gets some sunlight to warm up the container is ideal.



  


It’s important now to check the soil to be sure it’s draining properly and add more holes to the container if necessary. Above is the amount of holes I normally drill into the milk jugs.  Young seedlings’ roots are small and can rot in soggy soil. At this time, the containers will only need watering if the soil is very dry.

Early Spring is also the time to be cautious about late unexpected freezes, frosts or just unusually cold temperatures. Throw a blanket or cardboard over the containers over night for extra protection if colder weather is expected.


  


In Mid Spring


As the warmer weather begins, your seeds of heat-loving plants are beginning to germinate. The soil begins to dry out more quickly now, so caution now turns to making sure you check the soil for dryness. It may only take some top spritz of water early on to keep the seedlings happy.

Moving the containers to a half shade/half sun area is ideal now.



  

Tops off and bottom watering


In Late Spring, Early Summer



As the heat of summer arrives, if the seedlings are not ready for transplant, it’s a great idea to open up the container for more air flow. You can do this in a variety of ways. Cut out a little window in the front or sides or cut the top of completely.

The soil will need more water now, too. If the seedlings are still small, top watering could dislodge the seedlings from the soil. If you have several containers, a great way to water them is to bottom water several containers at one time. Let the containers soak in a few inches of water for ten or fifteen minutes, then take them back up.


    


Fertilizing


If the potting soil you used has some starter fertilizer in it, you may not need further fertilizer while they’re in the containers. If you used something without starter fertilizer and the seedlings look weak or are struggling, you can give them a feeding of one fourth strength balanced fertilizer for a little boost. 


Whether you need fertilizer or not will also depend on how long you keep the seedlings growing in the container before they’re transplanted.


  

Cucumber Seedlings Ready for Transplant


Transplanting


When the seedlings look healthy and are strong enough to be handled by their stems, you can transplant them into their final garden space. If you’re in doubt about whether they’re ready for that, let them grow on.

As different plant types grow at different speeds, there is no general recommendation for transplanting time. Seedlings of cucumbers and other curcubits grow quickly, whereas seedlings of Basil and lettuces grow slowly. As long as the seedlings are happy and healthy in the container, there’s no rush to transplant.


  


Transplanting on a cool, cloudy day is always best. If it’s a sunny day, you can always put a cardboard tent over the transplants which gives them respite from the sun and is still open at the sides for airflow. I have left this shelter on for over a week at times.



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So that’s it. Really nothing to it once you get the hang of it.


With some careful attention during the first stages of growth of your winter sown seedlings, you can ensure those seedlings will grow into healthy plants that will be a great addition to your garden!


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Related Articles

Winter Sowing 101
Winter Sow Your Vegetable Seeds



Where to go next!

Love hostas or know someone who does?Visit SunsetHostaFarm.comGreat hostas at affordable prices!


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