Category Archives: seed starting

Boredom is the Mother of Invention

I was playing around with my garden plan yesterday.  Originally I was looking to expand my potager and come up with phases to eventually nearly eliminate the lawn in the backyard.  My plan expand started to fall apart when I started worrying about cost – soil, compost, peat/coir, mulch, not to mention physical labor – it started to add up.  So I downsized my plan so it would fit into what I have right now.

Tomatoes will stay where they were last year.  I was researching on whether rotation was necessary and it seems for the small home garden that it is not unless disease becomes a problem.  I will try peppers again this year, and will try quite a bit from seed.  I made a mistake last year and probably started my seeds a month too early.  Everything got leggy and I got burned by a late frost, so I wound up having to purchase replacement plants.  I’m still considering wintersowing.  I don’t know if it’s too late to start or not.  I figure if I can’t find enough containers for it, that Gladware would do.  I just don’t really want to futz with the setup I had last year.  Plus my house tends to be dark, drafty, and cool – not the best combination for seedlings.  In fact, today I’m going to dig out my seeds, possibly get some soil and get my containers going.  Given that I’m looking to plant many multiples of marigold (which are damn easy to start from seed) and herbs, instead of going broke I can potentially get what I need through wintersowing.

What is it about this time of year that triggers gardening fever?


My Babies are Growing Up!

I spent a few days last week potting up my seedlings.  My tomatoes were the first to graduate to plastic cups and they are thriving with the added nutrients and room to stretch their feet.  Most of them look like actual tomato plants now, with lovely stocky stems.  The broccoli and cauliflower seem to be happy as well, growing quicker and straighter.  A few days ago, the peppers, cilantro and dill moved up.  They seem to be stretching out and enjoying their newfound freedom as well.  The cilantro is no longer laying on it’s side, and neither is the dill.  Could be that I yelled at them and told them that lazy seedlings don’t get to go out to the garden.

Real estate under the grow lights is starting to become a problem though.  If anything else needs to be potted up in the next month, it will have to grow by a windowsill, which in our house is still relatively shady.

The experience of starting these plants from seeds has been far more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.  Last fall, when the idea to start a vegetable garden took root, I thought for sure it was a whim, the enthusiasm for which would fade.   If anything it has grown.  The idea that I can feed my family tasty, nutritious, fresh, organic food from something as tiny as a tomato or pepper seed is amazing.  God help the poor bunny or squirrel that decides that my plants are a salad bar.  They have become my little green babies.  I check on them multiple times a day, talk to them, pet them, rotate them.

I have big dreams for my two little square foot gardens.  I have dreams of adding more, and dreams of converting my family to fresher whole foods instead of the processed crap we have all become accustomed to.  My dreams went so far as to look into the possibility of raising chickens.  Alas, that one will not happen, as the regulations here prohibit it with our parcel of land.  Maybe I can invest in my friends chickens when they move.  They are building a house and along with the three quail she currently owns, is looking to add chickens.

Does everyone get so delirious after reading Michael Pollan?  I’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and am nearly finished with In Defense of Food, and have found that I already follow some of his suggestions, and have done so out of instinct.  Years ago, I gave up on margarine, somehow I just knew butter was better.  I’m currently trying to find sources for stuff like real yogurt (sorry Dannon and Yoplait, you don’t qualify) and local eggs.  I could get more local milk, but unfortunately with two growing kids, I can’t really afford it.  It’s twice the price of “regular” milk (but tastes twice as good as well).  My ultimate goal is to wean my family off of convenience foods full of preservatives and goodness knows what else, and back to more whole foods.  I’m sure there are still times in our busy schedule when McDonald’s really is the only option, but with some careful planning, perhaps I can wean us off of that as well.  Not surprisingly, we all feel better when we eat real food, and we tend to lose weight and be healthier as a consequence.  I’ve lost more weight using olive oil and butter, and eating good cheese than I ever did using reduced fat margarine, or low fat cheese.  After only once eating fresh shredded parmesan, I can never, ever go back to the stuff out of the can.

Interestingly, I think the whole catalyst for this shift in thinking sprang from my trip to Paris a year ago.  My husband and I ate very well there, and after the second day we noticed something.  We noticed that the food tasted so good.  Better than anything I had in a long time.  Not only that, but we noticed that after a meal we felt good.  Not just good, but great.  Too many times after eating out here at home, we leave the restaurant overfull, bloated, and headachy.  Some of that I’m sure is from the huge portions, but I suspect it is more from lower quality food.  Since that trip, I am still in search of the perfect baguette.  I’m thinking I may have to learn how to bake bread and make it myself.

Go Grow!

Finally got my rear in gear and planted my seeds. Part of my ghetto set up is a heating pad for the seeds. I’m going to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t get too hot, but I think it will be ok. I have it sandwiched between some ceramic tile so it’s not directly in contact with the plastic seed flat.

For whatever reason (probably that last snowstorm), I haven’t been in the gardening mood. Today I figured I need to bite the bullet and get started. I never really put much thought into starting seeds before, so I usually got these spindly things that didn’t do well. This time I have a heat source AND a plant light, so we’ll see how that changes things.

Looking at my plans, I made a last minute substitution and threw in Sugar Baby Watermelon instead of the zucchini. If it does well, it will get a much better reception in the household than a vegetable type crop.

Peas are supposed to be planted outside soon. It was actually snowing a bit this morning and I haven’t tried to work the soil that was frozen last time (where the peas need to go). The weather is showing it’s usual schizophrenia for this time of year and I’m not quite willing to suffer the cold to try to get that soil ready. Maybe today….maybe.

One Thawed, One Frozen

I took advantage of the unseasonably warm tempuratures to amend the soil in my square foot gardens. Well, garden actually. The one 4×4 at the back of my property is in full sun and the soil was moist without being saturated and it was thawed, so I could work in the peat and vermiculite. I got cocky so I dumped the second block of peat in my other SFG and when I went to work it in, encountered soil that was still frozen solid. So in the interest of not having the peat fly away in the wind and trying to thaw the soil, I covered it with a tarp. I might not get a chance to work it again in the next week or so, but at least all I’ll have to do is work in that peat.

The one that I was able to work makes me so happy! The soil is fluffy, yet moist and should be a dream to plant in. I hung the trellis yesterday on the SFG I was able to work in. I’ll put the other one up after it thaws.

As far as seed starting, I was planning on waiting until March 1st to start seeds, but I’m getting impatient, so I might jump the gun and do it by this weekend. And if everything goes well, I’ll be able to pot up and have sturdy seedlings to transplant once the threat of frost has passed.

In the meantime, I’m trying to decide what I’m going to make for critter control. I’m leaning toward a chicken wire cover mounted on 1×1 wood, so I can lift it on and off of my garden, yet it will keep the wild things from eating my seedlings.

It’s Good to be Ghetto

I found myself in Target this morning, veering off course from the girls clothes I was there to procure.  As I was wandering, I spied a petite metal shelving unit for around $15 dollars.  It stands roughly three feet high and has three shelves.  I scooped that bad boy up and ran to the registers, better to get out while I was ahead.  Then I made the fatal mistake of stopping at Ace Hardware.  I swear that place is going to be my downfall.  I grabbed some larger peat pots for when my seedlings are ready to pot up.  (See how I’m all optimistic that I’ll actually have seedlings to pot up?).  While there I also picked up seed starting mix, a small bag of vermiculite (gotta get it where and when I can), two large-ish bricks of peat moss and a bag of perlite.  A few seed packets found theie way into my cart (cucumbers and cauliflower) and I found a plant lite stick (that’s what it’s called) for about $25.   Using a few ball bungees I had laying around the house and trays I had in the garage (which now house a LOT of dead bugs, eww), I present my ghetto seed starting station.  The only thing missing is a heat mat, and I may just rig a heating pad somehow to keep them warm, how wonderfully ghetto would that be?

Ghetto Seed Starter