Germinating Seeds Quickly: Complete Guide

Starting seeds is one the most exciting and enjoyable parts of gardening and you can do it in winter. Each seed pack contains little miracles that in your hands will develop into beautiful mature plants, provided you follow the simple steps outlined in this post. 

I have personally germinated over 2,000 different varieties of plants using the methods in this guide. It is much easier than you think and the tricks and procedures detailed here will work for vegetables, flowers and even trees.  Grab those seed packs and let’s get started.

seed just poking its head above soil

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Over mulching Trees | Mulch Volcanoes Kill Trees

As Penn State puts it: “Mulch Volcanoes are Erupting Everywhere“, and they are killing trees. It is a slow death, but one that is almost inevitable. Gardeners and landscape professionals see over mulched trees everywhere and they copy the method, not knowing that they are mulching incorrectly.

The main cause of death has been attributed to increased trunk rot, but that is a myth. This post will debunk this myth, explain the real cause of death, show you how to mulch trees and shrubs properly and how to fix the problems caused by mulch volcanoes.

huge cone shaped pile of mulch around a thin tree
An extreme mulch volcano. Notice that all of the trees in the background are also over mulched, source: Paul Hetzler, Adirondack Almanack

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What is Hydroponic Fertilizer?

Hydroponics has become more popular especially with the invention of the aerogarden systems, like AeroGarden. DIY home hydroponic grow systems are also popular, as are Kratky methods. All of these systems require hydroponic fertilizer which is quite a bit more expensive than regular soluble fertilizer. It begs the question, can you use regular fertilizer in place of hydroponic fertilizer? What makes hydroponic fertilizer special and what should you be looking for when you buy them?

hands holding lettuce plant showing roots
Lettuce grown hydroponically, source: Farm

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How Long Does Grass Seed Take to Grow?

Most grass seed starts growing in about 10-14 days but it can take as long as 30 days. Here are some tips and tricks to speed up the growth of grass seed, as well as advice on starting a new lawn.

small grass seedlings
Lawn grass seedling growing fast, source: CSIRO

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How to Keep Cats Out of Your Garden

Do you hate strange cats using your yard as a personal litter box?  You’re not alone. Keeping cats out of your garden is a big problem that comes up all the time on social media.

In this post I’ll examine the many proposals for controlling cats to see which ones actually work. Spoiler alert – most suggests are just myths and don’t work or are not practical, but some are worth trying.

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It’s Seed Starting Time

I know it is still snowing, but this is perfect weather for winter sowing. It is also a good idea to look at your seeds and figure out which are still viable using my simple seed test. You should also start getting your equipment ready. Is this the year you order new LED lights?

Below are some excellent videos that answer many of the questions you have about starting seeds including my most popular video about using the baggy method for seed starting which now has 1.2 million views!

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Soil Calculator | How Much Soil Do You Need?

Automatically calculate the amount of soil you need in both imperial and metric units. This soil calculator shows the amount for both bulk and bag purchase and can be used for any type of material including topsoil, compost, mulch, and gravel. Automatically calculates the soil needed – give it a try to see how easy it is.

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18 LED Grow Light Myths You Should Know About

LED Grow Lights are becoming very popular and they are a good choice if you are buying a new grow light system or upgrading your old florescent fixture. This post about LED grow light myths will save you time and money.

As with any new technology there are many myths about LED grow lights. Some are started because of a lack of knowledge by the general public, but many are started by manufacturers who are trying to sell their product. Some of them prefer to keep us in the dark so they can make outrageous claims, but the better companies don’t do this. We need to do our part and become educated consumers so that we can properly evaluate both the message being broadcast and the product itself.

Don’t go shopping for LED grow lights until you read all of this post.

LED grow light myths, showing a red and blue LED
LED grow light myths, showing a red and blue LED

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Best Seed Starting Mix, Including DIY

You work very hard to grow the very best seedlings you can. So start them off right and give them best seedling mix you can. I have grown over 2,000 varieties of plants from seed and wrote the book Soil Science for Gardeners. In this post I review the best commercial and DIY seed starting mixes and give you my opinion on starting your babies off right.

Two hands potting up a tomato seedling
Use the right seed starting mix

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What You Should Know About Composting Cat Litter

Composting cat litter can help keep it out of your garbage while turning the waste into something beneficial for your garden. Composting litter though is not as simple as composting food scraps and there are special risks you need to understand. However, done right it is easy and safe to compost cat litter.

cat on the toilet holding a paper towel roll
Composting cat litter is a bit harder than just sitting your cat on the toilet, photo source: flamsterette

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Can You Compost Dog Poop?

The number of dogs and cats in North America has skyrocketed and pet waste is becoming a huge problem. Can you compost dog poop?

In an urban area, leaving it where the animal dropped it is not a good idea. Collecting it and putting it in the trash bin has its own problems as you will see below. That only leaves composting, but there are also warnings about composting pet waste. Is composting really a problem? Is there a safe way to compost it? As a gardener it seems like a real waste not to use dog poop in the garden.

Dog standing on its hind feet, with a shovel and rake, picking up dog poop
Should You Compost Dog Poop?, photo source: Shmula.com

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Does Planting With The Moon Work?

The idea that the Moon affects plant growth is an old one that is believed for many moons. It can be found in the folklore of ancient societies ranging from the Celts in Britain to the Maoris in New Zealand. Roman historian, Pliny the Elder, in his History of Nature, Book 18, gives much advice on planting by the moon phases. Today, it is still a rural tradition and in most countries you can buy moon gardening calendars.

The lunar experts suggest that you pick fruit at the full moon for the market as it will weigh more and pick at the new moon for personal consumption because the fruit stores better. Seeds also germinate faster when planted under the right phase of the moon.

A picture was posted recently in a Facebook Group showing a Planting by the Moon calendar on sale. I made a comment about being surprised people still believe in such things. That was a big mistake. Dozens of people jumped on me for not being a believer. How dare I say anything derogatory about what granny believed. Not one person came to my defense. The belief in planting by moon phases is still very common.

Planting by the moon phases
Planting with the moon phases

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