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Gardening Answers

Do you have a gardening question that is not listed here? Send an email to food.hero@oregonstate.edu. Or, Master Gardeners can help!

If you are in Oregon visit this Ask Master Gardeners page.

If you are outside of Oregon, contact your local Extension office, or you can submit your question online.

What are some ways that roots help plants?

How roots help plants

What are some ways that roots help plants?

Roots help plants by:

  • holding the plants into the ground.
  • helping the plant take up water and nutrients from the soil.
  • storing energy and nutrients for the plant.

Root vegetables taste great too!

Am I watering my seeds the right amount?

Water from below

Am I watering my seeds the right amount?

Try using a spray bottle, just a few sprays to get the soil moist and you are good to go! When your plant is much bigger try watering it from below!! Fill a bowl or deep dish up with water and place your tray or pot in the water. Depending on the size of the plant and pot you till need to leave your plant in the water until is absorbs water to the roots. 

Should I use my full seed packet at one time?

Radish Seed Packet

Should I use my full seed packet at one time?

A full packet of seeds might be too much for planting at one time in a home garden.

Seed packets vary in the number of seeds they contain. A packet of watermelon seeds might contain only 4 to 6 seeds, whereas a packet of carrot seeds might have 200.  

There are many different ways to extend the whole packet and make it useful in one or two seasons.

  • If you have a type of seed that ages well, such as leafy greens, or is currently not past its expiration date you can store it for the next year.
  • Space out the packet and use it throughout the year through succession planting. Succession planting is spreading out (staggering) the start date of your plants. For example, starting in spring, plant carrot seeds every two weeks. That way, once your first crop matures, you’ll have new carrots ready to harvest every two weeks.
  • Another option is to harvest your first batch of carrots, then right away plant the next batch in that spot.
  • Once you’ve planted all you want in your garden bed, take the left over seeds and try growing microgreens indoors. It’s a great way to keep a little fresh produce growing year round. Learn how to grow microgreens at this link: https://foodhero.org/microgreens-garden-tips-and-how-grow.  

Why are my seeds coated?

Easy to sow coated zucchini seeds

Why are my seeds coated?

It can be surprising, exciting, or maybe even worrisome to open a seed packet and find brightly colored seeds.

Some seed companies apply a colorful shell around their seeds to help them germinate (begin to grow). In fact, these are called "easy to sow" seeds. The coating is an all-natural mix of clay, perlite, and FDA-approved food coloring. It makes direct sowing/seeding into an outside garden (versus seeding inside first) easier, and helps you see where they seeds are going when you are spacing them in the soil to plant. However, the coating does add a few days to the germination time as compared to uncoated seeds.

Can flowers help me grow food?

Summer flowers

Can flowers help me grow food?

Some people see flowers only as beautiful plants that may smell nice. But flowers can increase the health of your garden, and help you grow more food.  

Different flowers attract different types of pollinators such as bees and butterflies, which help food crops to grow.

Some plants, like eggplants, tomatoes, and all fruiting trees and bushes, need or will greatly benefit from pollinators or else they will produce very few or no fruits or vegetables.  Tomatoes can self pollinate by pollen being blown from one flower to another, but it produces a low yield or harvest.  

So please, when you plan your fruit and vegetable garden, consider planting some flowers, too. The happier your pollinators are, the happier your plants and soil will be.

How do I store my extra plant seeds?

Extra Radish Seeds

How do I store my extra plant seeds?

Save seeds directly from plants or those you don't use from a seed packet.  

Learn more about seed expiration dates here: https://foodhero.org/healthy-food/should-i-throw-out-my-seeds-their-exp….  

Tips for storing seeds: (except for tomato seeds directly from plants as they are very different to save)

  1. Before storing your seeds, be certain the seeds are fully dry, to the point of being brittle or breakable.  
  2. Place dried seeds in a paper envelope, which will absorb any moisture that might get in, and label it with the seed name and year.  Another tip is to save silica packets that can be found in some food or packages and put them in with the seeds to help absorb moisture, but keep them away from children as the packets can be a chocking hazard.  
  3. Label and date the envelope.  If you are saving unused seeds from a seed packet label the envelope with the expiration date from the seed packet.  
  4. Put the envelopes in an airtight container out of direct sunlight. Store the container in a cool, dry place. A refrigerator or freezer is a great storage spot.

Should I throw away my seeds on their expiration date?

Older seed packets

Should I throw away my seeds on their expiration date?

Seeds have an expiration date on them, just like food. The dates on seed packets are guidelines to help you figure out if your seeds are getting old, but it does not mean you have to throw them away if they are past their expiration date.

Every plant is different. Some, like lettuce, last longer, and others, like onion, go bad very quickly. Still, most seeds remain good for about 2 to 3 years.

Practice good seed saving techniques to extend the life of your seed.  

Also, seeds from past growing seasons work great for growing microgreens, which are plant sprouts that have been allowed to develop their first leaves.  If you are unsure if old seeds will grow, test some of them out as microgreens. Learn how to grow microgreens at this link: https://foodhero.org/microgreens-garden-tips-and-how-grow.  

Do cucumbers grown from "pickling cucumber seeds" have to be pickled?

Food Hero Recipe: Refrigerator Pickled Cucumbers

Do cucumbers grown from "pickling cucumber seeds" have to be pickled?

All types of cucumbers are good to eat fresh and all can be pickled. Pickling cucumbers are well-suited for pickling (before they get too big) because they have fewer seeds and are a bit firmer than slicing cucumbers. But most people don’t know the difference.  You can pickle any cucumber you grow using our Food Hero Recipe: Refrigerator Pickled Cucumbers.

Also see our Cucumber Food Hero Monthly that features recipes and cooking and shopping tips in a magazine format. 

Where should I plant nasturtiums?

Nasturtiums in a container

Where should I plant nasturtiums?

Flowers can help vegetables grow.  Nasturtiums are tasty flowers you can eat (edible). They're also great for controlling garden pests. Plant them several feet away from your fruit and vegetable garden and they'll attract aphids (bugs that damage crops) to a different spot! 

 

Are there flowers I should be careful with in my garden?

Foxglove Flowers

Are there flowers I should be careful with in my garden?

Please be aware that some flowering plants should not be eaten by humans, pets or livestock. These include Morning Glory, Foxglove, and the Sweet pea flower plant (not the pea producing plant!).  Although these flowers are beautiful and harmless to have in your flower garden, please keep them out of feeding areas for animals.

Planting Tip
Plant your morning glories or other non-edible flowers in a container to keep them out of reach and to help reduce the possibility of natural re-seeding.