Monday, March 22, 2010

Starting Seeds Indoors

A huge number of you (166) voted in last weeks poll which asked if you would be planting a vegetable garden this year. Overwhelmingly, 71 will be increasing the size, while an additional 45 will at least be keeping it the same. I was thrilled to see so many that were going to give it a try for the first time!

If you're just starting out, keep your expectations reasonable and jump in there and try some easy to grow items such as radishes, sugar snap peas, zucchini, and of course, the beloved tomato. It will give you confidence while getting your feet wet (or shall we say, your fingernails a bit dirty?). And hopefully, you can get some great tips from other bloggers, either here or on their own blogs.

Because of our ground squirrel problem (and moles, etc.), in the past I've stuck to gardening in raised beds with chicken wire on the bottom. I'll still be using these, but this year, I am going to increase the size, planting right in the ground. With the economy and our house for sale, I don't want to spend more money on raised beds right now, but I feel the need to increase the amount of food we grow. I'm hoping that the cats have now gotten the pests under control somewhat. They killed a lot of the little critters last year!

My growing season on the mountain is a little shorter than most areas, so starting seeds early indoors is really helpful. Recently, I spent a bit of cash to purchase some grow lights to start seedlings indoor because last year I went crazy running them around from window to window. Since the shelving and lights are portable, if we move I will still have my investment for the next homestead. 

My husband opted for these metal shelves because they could be reused for many things during the year out in the garage (hope I get them back next season!). A simple dowel will allow us to raise the lights as needed when the plants get taller. These could certainly be constructed out of scrap wood, too! 

Here's what I'll be doing today as I homeschool... making paper pots for planting.

You don't need a little wood pot maker. You can use a can or any other cylinder shaped item in your home and Thy Hand Hath Provided has an excellent tutorial on how to make these. I just love the fact that you can recycle paper to make them and that they compost right in your garden. I've tried the peat pots, but it seems they are almost too thick and the pots hinder my roots a bit. Perhaps they work better for others, but the newspaper pots are my favorite so far.

If you've never heard of soil blockers, you might want to watch this short video over at You Tube to see how to make blocks out of soil without any container. You must make an initial investment in the soil block maker, but it's a really practical option for those growing a lot of seeds, like for a small farm.

Jill M. Nicolaus has posted a series of 5 articles on Seed Starting 101 over at the Dave's Garden website. If you're new to seed starting,  you've had trouble in the past, or if you just need a refresher, I recommend reading through these before you begin. Her information is really good!

So, I better get to making pots. Don't forget this week's poll. And I'd love to hear your favorite seed starting tip!


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