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Updated: May 11, 2023

It’s seedling time soon for transplanting and planting in your garden. I have a few casual techniques and few stories in my book, Casual Gardening. Here are a few new hints. Treat your seedlings kindly. They like humidity, light or sunlight by the window and mostly liquid food. First feed your seedlings rice and oats water, diluted milk. Simply mix a 1 to 5 mixture with water of any of the above and spray the seedlings lightly. Let the rice or oat water soak over night and strain off the kernels and use again or compost. This works for pretty much all seedlings and for new transplants.

Here’s neat trick to transplant your tomato seedlings to a bigger, say 4” plastic pot you saved in the shed from last year’s bought plants. The seedlings should be about three inches tall. Using loosely filled compost soil or potting soil, make a deep hole with the erasure end of a pencil in the pot, lay the tomato seedling across the hole. Then take the erasure end of the pencil and press gently in the middle of the seedling until the roots are fully covered in the hole and just the first set of real leaves are showing. Compact the soil a bit and voila! Your seeding will grow a ton of roots by the time you set them in the garden.

Make sure you set your plants outside for increasing periods of time to harden them off before setting them permanently in the garden. This prevents plant shock. AND! And don’t rush Mother Nature! Don’t plant outside until after the last frost. Be casual. Don’t worry. Plants planted late will catch up when the sun, moon and soil temperature are in alignment.

Water your transplants with any of the above (rainwater works good too) when you transplant them after the last frost. And add a little calcium to the tomatoes and peppers and such. My formulas for tending crops versus pests is in the book. Organic pest control works best. I use two pest controls: diluted neem oil in a sprayer won’t hurt the bees, ladybugs, praying mantis but manages stink bugs, squash and bean bugs and Japanese Beatles. Second way to control all pests is to warm a bar of Irish Spring soap and cut it into ½ inch cubes. Place the cubes at each corner of your garden boxes. That smell will keep away every varmint, rodent, bunny, gopher and the like from your garden and friends away if you bathe in it!

The best pest control for casual gardens is birds. Provide water in the dry season and they and the ladybugs will stay around to feast on your pesky bugs. I grow a batch of catnip so’s the neighbors’ cats will hang around to keep the vole problem under control. As for the bears and deer? Well, as the Bible says, grow a little extra to share.

If you have a Ruth Stout no dig/no water garden as explained in my book, there is pretty much nothing you have to do but pull up your Adirondack chair in the shade with some sweeetea and watch your garden grow. And for goodness sake, talk to your plants. I find they're interested, listen and rarely talk back.

tom tenbrunsel

The Casual Gardener

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