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Watermelon, Greenhouses & Indoor Gardening

Sugarbaby Watermelon Shidonna Raven

When we decided to start our garden, as you know, it began humbly with a mere 2 packs of seeds destined for the kitchen window. It quickly grew into over 30 seeds. We planted each one. Some where successful and others were not. But, as Eliot Coleman will tell you, even the experienced farmer learns through trail and error. When we started we began in our mini greenhouse, which is really our garage with 3 windows. We were so excited to get started that we begun at the end of the winter season, which was at the very very beginning of the growing season for many of our seeds in our zone (Virginia, USA). When you began before the last frost has past, you must start inside with the seeds that can be transplanted. Then once the frost has past and its growing season has begun one can transplant them outside. So, because we began early we started in our mini greenhouse and got a jump on the season. Greenhouses can be used year around for various reasons. However, they are key when you want to grow outside of a seeds growing season by either starting early or extending the season.

Pumpkin Flower in Bloom
Pumpkin Flower in Bloom

The watermelon you see (1st image) in our outside garden started as a seedling in our mini greenhouse. The mini greenhouse presented several challenges to us with its high moisture and low light. We discovered there were many other factors that were hindering the success of some of our seedlings. When we had questions and were left scratching our head when our seedlings ran into trouble, we turned to Richard Bray’s book “Greenhouse Gardening” for answers to our questions. Understanding greenhouse gardening is understanding how to garden indoors whether one has a kitchen herb plant or a simple house plant. He helped me to understand factors such as heat, ventilation, watering and sunlight. This book was a tremendous resource that helped us grow our watermelon successfully. We had to sow her several times. At first she did not sprout successfully. But, once we understood greenhouse gardening more, we were able to grow her successfully into a plantling. Now she is in the garden outside thriving. We located “Greenhouse Gardening” for an absolute steal. We love deals around here. Click the link below to get yours. We can not wait to see her fruit. I know someone who is a huge watermelon fan! So we are happy to report that she is doing well and in the same row as pumpkin. Stay tuned to see her progress.

What information do you find helpful? How did “Greenhouse Gardening” by Richard Bray help you? Email us photos to share with the community. Which one do you prefer: pumpkin or watermelon? We have big fans of both. As usually, we are all waiting to taste!

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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When you purchase a packet of seeds, typically you will see a color coded map with a key to help you identify your growing zone. The USDA divides the United States into 11 separate planting zones. Each growing zone is 10 degrees (fahrenheit) warmer or cooler than the adjacent growing zone during an average winter. Near the color coded map there should also be a key with months in it. These months tell you the months in which it is best to begin planting or sowing seeds based on your growing zone.

While these maps do not tell you what is ideal to grow in your zone, it is important to know which plants will succeed in your growing zone and which will not. Where the map does come in handy is informing you of when to grow a particular plant. Some plants will grow into late fall just fine while other plants will not make it into the late fall months. Some plants can be started in doors before the traditional planting season and some cannot simply because they do not grow in containers well or they do not transplant well. Typically, plants cannot be started until the inside location (greenhouse) you have them in can remain above frost temperatures when temperatures dip.

Be careful to keep an eye out for cool summer nights when the last frost is already thought to have past. April is the big month to start sowing seeds in Norfolk, VA where we are (growing zone). Nonetheless, I have gotten more than my fair share of calls warning me about an ensuing frosty night. If you would like to learn more about protecting plants from frost, read our article “What do bed Sheets have to do with it?” dated May 2, 2020. To learn more about reading seed packets and the valuable information you can find on them read our article “Sow” dated May 12, 2020.

It amazes us how far we have come in such a short time in our journey. We have learned a lot together and in many ways our journey is just beginning. Our pest problems seem to be disappearing and the garden seems to be getting the start it needs. What has been the best part of the journey so far? How has your health changed? They say you need at least 30 days of consistency to see a change. What would you like to see in this journey? We have been getting a lot of comments, questions and positive feedback from everyone. And we would like you all to see what each other is saying, so feel at ease to leave your comments and questions here so the whole community can benefit. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep growing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Flower of Hope

With all that has been going on in the garden with pests, we have felt a little behind schedule with the sowing season. Not to mention, we have been feeling very frustrated. Nonetheless, we have remained calm and we know the best thing overall when growing anything is to work with rather than against nature. Least the very thing you are trying to grow is also adversity effected. This morning we just were not sure what we would find. It seems to be one day after another that a plant is attacked and eaten by either ants, vole or flies. The plants are not even big enough to harvest yet and the flies are snacking away. We got the Mole Max and some other Organic Remedies that we are trying. The Mole Max should have charged one more day. We could not wait for results so we went a day early and it seems to be operating fine.

Although it is still very early, we saw fewer flies today due to the Neem Oil. We also saw fewer attacks on plants. But what we believe is a vole, seems to be attacking less. We can not see it so we have not been able to identify it. We had our eye out for the culprit and then eventually went to our local gardening center for help. We were at our wits end and coming up on the close of the sowing season for our Zone. Like my father stated “its some type of mole or golfer”. He is a hunter and very attuned to animals and their signs. Hunters are great at spooring. A vole is mole or golfer like and remains pretty unseen. So far, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Although the ants are still out in high numbers. We will be persisting with our Organic Remedy Regimen, knowing that pests are pretty persistent. It was good to see that Green Bean thus far has survived and is blossoming rather than seeing another plant fatality after watching it grow for weeks. Once the plants bare their flowers pollination should take place and the fruit of the plant should not be far behind.

Stay tuned for updates on how the other plants are progressing and how things are going with our Organic Remedies to pests. In order for this garden to get off the ground. We must get our pests problem under control soon. The season is going on and it is time for these plantings to grow up into full fledge plants. Which flowers are your favorite flowers? Do they come from a fruit or vegetable plant? What did you learn today? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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What’s Sprouting?

Seedling Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Since April sprung, we have been sowing some seeds directly in the ground. We started out in doors in the mini greenhouse, so it is pretty exciting to see the plants grow directly from the ground and not in a pot. We are learning a lot about spacing when it comes to sowing seeds and may have a few crowing issues. Crowing can discourage growth. One plant will typically dominate and grow while the other plants will not survive and have enough resources to grow in a crowded environment. Yet, we sow on and observe learning from our experiences.

So far we have identified Carrot, Chamomile & Dill have sprouted from being sown directly in the ground. Roots like Carrots, Radish and Beets will be very interesting for us to grow, observe and harvest since they are underground and a little more difficult to observe. Herbs can grow quit large when not hindered by pots and other containers. So, we are hoping to see the herbs in a whole different light now that we have them outside in the ground with plenty of space for their roots. There are a lot of plants that just did not do well in our garage, which we also refer to as our mini greenhouse. The garage presented many challenges such as being, what we believe, mold loving. The mini greenhouse also had a lack of good air flow and limited sun light. The Soil Blocks allowed us to sow a lot more seedlings with a lot less space once they were out of their pots. We attempted to rid the plants of any mold in their environment by cleaning the pots individually with a bleach and water solution. However, we think some unseen mold still remained leaving disease lingering among the plants. So we moved all the old seedlings out and brought in the Soil Blocks along with some fresh air. We think it is helping. But, as with anything we need to give it time to see results. I can see from the newly sown or re sown sprouts that the sprouts themselves are a lot bigger, healthier and stronger looking.

How can you help your seedlings grow in their tender state when you cannot see them yet? How can you identify when your plants is beginning to get in trouble? What ways can you nip disease and pest problems in the bud assuring a fruitful harvest? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Progressing Plants

It is always amazing to see what the plants are doing from day today. We often get questions and visitors who are curious about the progress of a particular plant or the garden overall. Those waiting for a harvest typically have a favorite vegetable or fruit in mind. Yesterday was an amazing day to be in the garden observing the plants as they are progressing in amazing ways. So, we thought we would take advantage of this platform to share the progress of a few plants doing some simple yet amazing things in the garden.

CABBAGE – came to us straight from the store as a plantling. As we shared, some of the plants experienced shock because we put them straight into the ground from the store. Since then we have improved our transplanting progress, which now includes a 3 day acclimation process. The plants have responded to this improvement very well. They experience less shock and stress. We have also seen almost no signs of pests at all. Save a few mold outbreaks due the fact that our mini greenhouse, as we like to call it, is actually a garage with a big unobstructed window. We also had a army of ants when the plants went into shock. We were able to resolve all pest concerns organically and naturally. The plants have been nurtured and maintained in good health and consequently we have seen very little pest. We are thus happy to report that CABBAGE is doing very well and growing beautiful and thick deep green leaves. She has grown quit a bit from the little plantling she was when she first came to us.

PUMPKIN – came to us as a fresh saved seed if you will. She came fresh from another pumpkin and was not purchased as a seed. It took her a while to sprout but when she did she was one of our largest and most beautiful sprouts. We have a few fall babies who are partial to PUMPKIN as it is commonly associated with fall. PUMPKIN did well the whole time until an unknown culprit took both of her leaves leaving only a stem from which no more leaves grew. We were very disappointed when this happened. PUMPKIN was resown and we were all hoping she would return successfully in time enough for fall. We had a few seeds we were saving for next season. So we cleaned up the remaining seeds we had and resowed her for this season. We still have a few seeds saved for next season. PUMPKIN has indeed returned and we believe in time enough for fall. As always she is our biggest sprout sporting thick and deep green leaves. Once she has come out a little more she will go back into the garden where she has plenty of space to grow her vines. We expect to put her in the ground by the end of this week or the beginning of next week. Her come back has been much anticipated. Stay tuned for updates on this manmouth plant. We think she is going to look great in the garden and the back yard.

SWEET PEPPERS – was a transplant that went through our 3 day acclimation process. She did very well in the mini greenhouse and has done very well in the garden. She took some time to sprout but when she did she came out strong. She has been strong every since. She stayed fairly small in her pot, so we were anxious to get her outside in the garden to give her roots time to develop so that she would increase in size. When your plant starts getting bigger after moving outside, that is a good sign that she is developing a strong root system underground bringing her the nutrients she needs to grow and thrive. SWEET PEPPERS stalks are strong and upright, which we love because she is looking very healthy indeed. She has also started to grow tall and wide, which again is a good sign that she has taken root and completed the transplant process very well. We have found that it takes several days before a plant starts to show signs of a successful transplant completion. Just when you are concerned that they are not doing well they come back strong. We will also be trying a new technique of loosening the ground beneath the transplant to help its roots develop when we transplant. Stay tuned to find out if this new technique helps them develop a larger root system faster helping them to successfully complete the transplant process quicker.

ROMA TOMATO – she is a favorite of a lot of people. She is also suppose to be very good for making sauces as she has very few seeds. We believe that our selection of tomato varieties is a direct reflection on how much everyone we know likes tomatoes. If there is one vegetable we kept getting a lot of, it was tomato. ROMA is also an Italian favorite. She came to us as a plantling straight from the store. She is another one that was planted straight into the ground and did not go through our new acclimation transplant process. She was on the row by herself for some time. We think because she did not have any other plants on her row she came through the stress and shock of transplanting better than her other co transplanters. She has done very well and begin growing big and tall. She was the first plant to sport brilliant yellow flowers. Tomatoes are perfect plants meaning they pollinate themselves without any outside help. We can see here that she is either sprouting more flowers; still pollinating or about to bare fruit. The amazing part is we will have to wait and see what she is actually doing. We get to watch nearly the whole process. We of course were not there when she sprouted. Stay tuned to find out exactly what ROMA is doing. She maybe the first plant in the garden to bare fruit.

KALE – is a major favorite around here because it is rich in iron. Iron is just what we need in our diets. She looked great in the mini greenhouse. She was a little leggy and on the thin side. So, we brought her on out hoping that giving her roots more space would encourage growth. And her leaves are growing larger each day. Your seed packet should tell you how long it should be grown inside before transplanting outside. If you are not sure, just ask us. We kept her inside a while because we still have an unidentified culprit attacking the leaves of the smaller transplants, so we wanted the transplants to get as big as possible before putting them in the garden. She will probably go into several salads, Stay tuned to find out how we mix up a kale salad straight from the garden.

CAYENNE PEPPER – took a little while to sprout but when she did she stayed strong and healthy. She went through our 3 day transplanting process very well and is now in the garden as you can see. She is beginning to take root and is growing tall in the garden. We know a few people who like it hot and have been inquiring about CAYENNE. So, we wanted to let you know that she is doing very well. We are keeping our eyes on her. We look forward to the day when she grows up into a plant bearing her delicious peppers. So, if you like it hot like June & July stay tuned. CAYENNE is a wonderful and fresh way to spice up all the foods you like when you use CAYENNE as a spice from your kitchen cabinet. Only thing is this one was not found in a container on the grocers shelf. She will come fresh from the garden. Stay tuned to see how we cook her up. Better yet, we will be looking for you to share your recipes and photos when we give you a few peppers to take home and cook up.

SPINACH – we love watching SPINACH grow. She is another plant that is rich in iron. That is just what we need in our diets, so we have a lot of salads planned for SPINACH. Our first SPINACH plant shot up beautiful and bold However, she was tender, as SPINACH is known to be, and we think the first SPINACH plant did not make it because of a mold outbreak we had to address early on. We believe the combination of the garage and the paper products we were using encouraged mold. And the mold was too much for this delicate plant to survive, so we resowed SPINACH. The second plant grew by leaps and bounds. We could hardly contain her in her pot. She was one of the plants we wanted to get transplanted fast. She is growing bigger every day. Stay tuned. We think a strawberry and spinach salad is on the horizon.

We also removed all plants from the mini greenhouse that were not growing. We are not 100 percent sure why all are not growing, but we have some good ideas. They are outside on the side of the house so we can continue to watch them and learn. Plants can surprise you. One day you think it is all over for the plant and the next day its thriving. We wanted to remove them from the same environment as the healthy and growing plants to prevent any disease from spreading. We also opened the mini greenhouse up to allow a free flow of air to discourage any disease. Plants also need good air flow.

We also put out Delicious Tomato and Cabbage, which were resown, for transplant. They are in the process of getting acclimated to their new outside home. Delicious Tomato never sprouted. Cabbage was originally sown in a pot with no drainage. When we put her out in her container and it rained, she drowned. Big lesson learned. Pots should always have proper drainage and plants must be monitored while being transplanted and acclimated . We also finished sowing all the seeds we will put out into the garden this season. One of our gardening cohorts came over just in time to help us expand our rows to fit a couple more plants. So we may sow a few more different plants before the planting season for our Zone wraps up.

What are your favorite fruits and vegetables? Which plants’ progress are you tracking? What have you learned that you will use in your own garden? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Sow you decided to get started and you went out and got everything you needed to do so, now what? Wonderful! If you decided to get started, you probably got a few things:

  • seeds
  • spade (outdoor) or pot and potting soil (indoor)
  • water

At this time of the year we are making a couple of guesses. More than likely you will be planting right outside because the last frost should have passed. In our gardening Zone (Norfolk, VA, USA) now is the time of year to sow right outside. In which case you will need: seeds, spade and water. If you are planting indoors or in a container, you will need: seeds, potting soil and water. Most of these things are self explanatory. You will need the spade to dig in the ground to plant your seed. We also recommend loosening the ground underneath the seed to promote root growth. And of course once you plant you want to give the seeds a healthy dose of water. If you are planting in a container, we recommend a clay pot that is well drained (has holes at the bottom of the pot). This will prevent the plant from being over watered. You will also need potting soil. Some potting soils are only recommended for a few months as they are only used to give your plants a start before transplanting. These soils do not have enough nutrients to sustain a plant beyond the recommended months. And of course water to give the plants a kick start after sowing.

All these supplies are pretty straight forward and most people know. The seed packet is probably the most detailed supply you will pick up. Do not skip reading the seed packet. It will have a lot of detailed and specific information regarding your seed. The University of Nebraska Lincoln has a clear and concise breakdown on what you can find on pretty much all seed packets although they vary slightly from one supplier to another. Click on The University of Nebraska Lincoln to learn more about how to read seed packets to dispel any confusion and intimidation of the seed packet and gardening in general. As you begin to learn more about your seeds, plants and how to care for them the mystique of gardening will dissipate affording you the opportunity to begin growing your own foods and plants.

Remember Jim Ulager of Beginning Seed Saving for the home gardener tells us that although seed packets have an expiration date, seeds are often good for a lot longer than suggested. Like many businesses, seed suppliers are often wanting you to buy seeds every season although the seeds you have are plenty and just as good or still good beyond the suggested expiration or sell by date. What keeps you from starting your own garden? Do you find anything intimidating about gardening? What information would you like to have before beginning your own garden? Ask! Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. We really enjoyed sharing with you today.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

Peppermint Seed Packet
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

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What do Bed Sheets have to do with it?

I got a late night call a few weeks ago from my father. He is not a late night kind of guy especially these days. So, when he called I was curious. Luckily so. He was calling with a weather watch warning. Although we were well into April, he told me that the weather was going to dip to frost levels. Once you get into April you figure you are safe. But, being from Massachusetts, I have seen it snow in July. Albeit snow flurries. It still snowed on a beautiful July day. I typically keep an eye on the weather mostly to see when it is going to rain. But, it is a good idea to know the weather for the day regardless, having a garden. There are several weather apps that come with or that you can put on your phone. So, keeping up with the weather is fairly easy to do. These apps are typically very user friendly and very informative. You will find that many of the things you learned in science class will come in handy when you begin to garden.

So what do bed sheets have to do with this anyway. Everything, as my dad pointed out. Bed sheets are a good way to keep the frost away as plants brave the chilly night frost. Most gardeners will tell you if a frost is coming or other inclement weather that may damage your crop, harvest all you can because your crop may not make it through.

Grab a few of the bed sheets that you were planning on replacing anyway. Preferably the ones without the elastic edges. And spread them lightly over your plants covering the tops and sides of your plants completely. Relax any spots weighing down heavily on the plants and protect plant stalks from damage or breakage.

Needless to say, when we got our weather watch warning we did just that. Of course before the frost. The next day we checked for any signs of frost. I was happy to thank my dad and to let him know that the plants showed no signs of frost. Launder your sheets as needed and place them with the rest of your gardening supplies for the next unexpected frost. What did you discover about gardening that you did not expect? Who are your gardening cohorts? Who do you know who also enjoys gardening? Share this site with them. Have some useful gardening tips and experience? Tell us all about it by leaving a comment or sending us an email. Have more questions than answers? Ask. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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True to Transplanting

This season we have been true to transplanting for a couple of reasons. We started our gardening season in February prior to the last frost. When you begin planting before the last frost, you must do so inside where the plants can survive the frost weather. We also wanted to give our plants a head start before going into the ground. We were also planting seedlings to go to other homes and possibly kitchens, so we put them in pots so they would be ready to roll once they were plants. Many of these plants were herbs who did not fair well from the mold outbreaks in the mini greenhouse aka garage. Since then they have been resown. Many herbs have been resown into soil blocks. Stay tuned for more on soil blocks.

We enjoyed the transplanting route. However, many plants such as dill and carrots do not like being transplanted nor can not be transplanted (respectively). So, the transplanting process is not for every plant. Read your seed package and do the research to find out if your seedlings will tolerate the process. It is worth noting here that soil blocks can make the transplanting process easier and less stressful for your plants. If you have questions about transplanting just leave us a comment and we will get right back to you. And stay tuned for more on soil blocks.

Green bean is one of our successful transplants. All of our transplants were successful. However, once outside it is a whole new ball game. These plants have to be able to withstand the weather, the outside elements and the pests that come along with it. For instance pumpkin and the first green bean plant did very well. Until a culprit took their leaves right off leaving just a steam. The ants are good but we don’t think they are that good. So, we are still looking for the pest that was responsible for that. Outside of ants the plants have had no real outside dangerous or pests. But it is worthy to note here.

Because of the conditions outside we decided early that we wanted the transplants to be on the bigger side when they went outside. We also wanted them to be in a healthy state. Good health in your plants is important in transplanting because you do not want pests to attack your plants once you put them in the outside environment. Regardless of how well you transplant, your plants will experience some degree of stress during the process. So, you want them as healthy and strong as possible for the process.

When you get ready to begin the transplant process you want to begin by acclimating those strong and healthy plants you have elected for the transplant process. During the acclimation process you leave your plants outside in their well drained pots in an area close to your garden if not in your garden. You will leave them outside for part if not the whole day. You may decide that only part of the day is good enough to have your plantlings out and the other part of the day may be too much for them to become acclimated to. Or the weather conditions during part of your transplant days may not be favorable for transplanting. During these times you can bring your plantlings in. The idea of acclimation is to get your plants acclimated to their new garden and thus mitigating the shock and stress of the transplanting process. Up to now your plants have been set in an inside environment and shielded from outside elements and for the most part pests. Going outside into the ground is a big deal for them.

Plants that undergo shock can become sick and be attacked by pests and die. A friend brought me a couple of plants straight from the nursery and we put them straight into the ground. This was a big no no and we lost about 3 – 4 plants because of it. We had an ant attack and a few other plants had to be nursed back into good health. In retrospect these plants should have been brought inside thus mimicking the environment they had just come from and then acclimated to their outside environment. Nonetheless, with care and organic pest treatments most of the plants survived.

I typically give my plants three days to become acclimated to their outside environments. During this time I give them some shield from the outside environment (like a wall on one side). I constantly check on how they are dealing with the acclimation. Are their leaves high or droopy? Do you see adverse affects on your plants or are they about the same or better? Of course I water them with a light mist and make sure they have proper drainage. If any plants show stress I bring them back in and bring them into good health and strength. I may let them grow more. I basically get them to a point where they are ready to begin the transplanting process.

For those plants that acclimate well to their new outside home in the pot. I turn them over; give the bottom of the pot a tap to loosen them from their pots and place them in a hole level to the top of the soil of the transplant and then cover them with a mound. We highly recommend putting compost in the hole before putting your plant in. Once the plant is in the ground, give it a generous helping of water. Making sure to water the roots and not the leaves. Also, when you bring the plant out of the pot check for any pests or infestations. Check for any problems.

Once the plant is in the ground continue to water it each day with a healthy dose of water. Check the plant daily for any signs of stress or pests. Remedy any issues fast. Once your plant has begun to grow and looks healthy with no signs of stress, then chances are your plant has successfully been transplanted. Continue to nurture this plant as you would the other plants in your garden. We are excited to share our experience with transplanting with you. If you have begun transplanting then that means you have a full garden outside. Curious to know if your plant is transplant friendly? Leave us a comment. Think carefully when selecting a spot for your garden. You want to make sure it will have everything it needs for the type of plants you will be growing. Do you have questions? Ask us. Looking forward to learning more about soil blocks and how they can help you with transplanting? Stay tuned. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.