Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Starting seeds, the cheap and easy way.

I'm poor. I want a big garden, but I don't want to spend a lot of money. After a lot of reading on the internet, and a few inspiring YouTube videos, I decided to start my tomatoes, basil, bell peppers, and jalapenos indoors by seed. Home Depot has many fancy seed-starting kits, but a few websites showed me I can start them with whatever I have laying around.

So far my seed-starting operation has been successful, but let's go back to the beginning. One thing we had laying around (actually neatly organized in a kitchen cabinet) is a set of dixie cups. The handy thing about using dixie cups is what you don't use for planting, can be used to drink out of. I took five dixie cups and filled them about a third to halfway with a potting soil and compost mixture. Next, I put a little bit of water in so the soil would be nice and moist for the seeds. On each cup I wrote what seeds I planted, the variety, and the date planted. In each cup I planted two or three seeds. I planted a cup for each of my three tomato varieties, and two cups of basil seeds. To keep in moisture, I taped a little piece of saran wrap over the top. I put them on a table and crossed my fingers they would germinate. This first set was planted on March 31st.

Over the weekend, Sara and I went to Kansas. When we arrived back home on 4th we had a few sprouts coming up. Today is the 7th and we have four 2-3" tomato shoots. Putting them outside right now would probably kill them of shock. Having no access to a sunny window, I picked up a full spectrum compact fluorescent light to put over them for a while until I can start putting them outside to adjust and prepare for transplant into the garden.

Yesterday I picked up a pack of seed starting pellets. Drop one in a cup, pour in warm water, and it expands to fill the cup with loose coconut fiber based soil. I planted another round of tomatoes and basil but this time leaving the tops uncovered and placed the cups in small plastic containers with a little bit of water to keep the soil moist.

Today I read about putting seeds in water for a day to speed up germination. Tonight I believe I will experiment and let a few bell pepper seeds soak overnight before planting tomorrow to see if they sprout quicker.

Garden Update

I am feeling relieved. Everyday that went by without a green sprout poking through the soil made me a little more nervous that this wouldn't work. Luckily, the garden looks a little bit different everyday. The first two rows of corn we planted have several sprouts breaking through the ground, all of them 1" or less. The potato rows have a couple sprouts coming up, but those were planted deeper than everything else. We have around five of six garlic sprouts coming up, a couple already 3" high. As for the onions, I'm not sure. They don't look much different than when I planted them so we'll watch and see what happens.

Monday night Sara and I went out to water and check up on the garden. We found a small problem. Fire ants are taking over one of our potato rows. I researched our fire ant problem and found a cheap organic repellent we already have a lot of: coffee grounds. They seem to hate coffee grounds and will move away from it. This also explains why they haven't been on any of the other rows. Everything else has coffee grounds mixed in or on top to soak in during rain or watering. Somehow we missed this row. Today I went out, watered the problem row, and gave it a light dusting of coffee grounds. Hopefully they will set up shop somewhere else.

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