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  • Jenny Hill

Garden Tips: Seeding, Thinning, Tamping

While hardy (and understandably grumpy) Minnesotans weather yet another rain/snow “event,” steadfast gardeners like Dave and Anna at Happy Dancing Turtle carry on calmly with their seasonal plans. Here is a look at what they are working for April, along with some tips helpful for experienced gardeners, beginning gardeners, or even aspiring gardeners.

Onion Planting

Dave and Anna are using white onion sets and direct seeding (which means putting them directly here they will grow until they are harvested) in the HDT hoop house. “Technically, what we refer to as green onions are just immature onions. We use the tops as green onions. They can be any young onion that is harvested after a few weeks of growing.” The HDT gardeners use white onion “sets” or young onion bulbs to provide green onions. “White onions are cheaper than red or yellow onions,” said Dave. “They do not keep for long periods and can get very strong or hot tasting when mature if not a sweet onion like Vidalia or Alsia Craig. Sweet onions are not good keepers for the root cellar and should be eaten first.”

Dave and Anna are planting 75-80 every other week in succession for the growing season to have a weekly supply. See more on succession planting below.

Thinning Seedling Tomatoes

The good news is your seedlings are growing! The bad news: you may have to remove some seedlings in order for the others to thrive. “We put two seeds in when we plant to increase our germination rate,” said Dave. “But then we have to do thinning. We cut out the least desirable looking seedling with scissors.” The process is shown above. “We use the scissors instead of pulling out the seedling because this could damage the roots of the other plant we want to grow.” While you could try and split apart the seedlings which does work if you're careful, Dave does not recommend this route because of the stress to the remaining plant. “It will stunt that plant’s growth, putting it behind a few weeks,” he said.

Loose Leaf Lettuce

Last month’s garden tips blog talked about succession planting which is seeding things (like lettuce) at regular intervals to ensure a consistent supply throughout the season. ”We seed loose leaf around every 20 days. Loose leaf lettuce is a cut and come again lettuce. so we can harvest it 3-4 times before it gets too bitter to be good eating,” Dave said of their planting schedule. “Romaine or head lettuce is seeded every 10 days for a continuous supply.”

Above are some photos of Dave’s steps to planting loose leaf lettuce. First he waters the furrows, then seeds. The reason for watering the furrow first (especially if the soil is dry) is to eliminate the possibility of the seeds floating around and not keeping the rows uniform.

After watering and seeding, it’s time for that important step: light tamping. Now raise your hand if you are a beginning gardener (like me) and the term “light tamping” is kind of self explanatory, but also kind of not. Speaking from personal experience, it’s one thing to read the back of the seed packet and another to have those delicate little seeds in your hands. What does “light” really mean? Well, here is a video to guide you through that!

Giving Ginger a Go

Something new in the HDT hoop house this season will be ginger. Dave and Anna started the ginger tubers in the Atrium at the beginning of March. During that time, the trays were on a heated garden mat round-the-clock until germination occurred. Now the sprouting tubers are getting stronger and will be transferred to the Hoop house once the night time low temperatures are above 50 degrees. In our Northern Lake area, that is around or after Memorial Day weekend. “But we are always prepared to cover our crops with row covers just in case we get a cold snap,” said Dave.

What are your garden successes or stresses? Let us know and we will try to feature them in future Garden Tip blogs. Send your questions and comments to In the meantime, hope you can get your hands dirty outdoors as the weather warms up!


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