Welcome 2014… winter seed sowing

Remember this idea I referred to last Mother’s Day? I had first seen it on Pinterest, and then tracked it back to this blog. In general, Kevin Lee Jacobs describes creating miniature greenhouses in reused plastic milk jugs. He also attributes the idea back to Trudi Davidoff. Thanks, Kevin!

We started saving our gallon milk jugs in the fall. It seems we’re always nearly out of milk, so I was really surprised that it took several months to accumulate 24 jugs. When they were emptied, we rinsed them out so as not to be too heinous-smelling come winter. Using Kevin’s directions, we cut them in half with a knife (kind of time consuming), leaving about 1″ hinge. KP used a drill to create the drainage holes in the jugs. We then used big tubs and put drainage holes in those too.

Recycled jugs for winter sowing.

Recycled jugs for winter sowing.

I filled each with 3-4 inches of seed-starting soil, and then sprinkled a healthy amount of seed into each little bed. After covering the seed with about another inch of soil and dampening with water, I quickly (!) labeled each one with the plant, species, and date of planting.

For the first batch – 12 jugs, I used 3 different kinds of celery (from Rare Seeds), two colors of cleome (collected from the uni), white nicotiana (seed from Lynch’s), two kinds of beans (leftover from the summer’s failure planting), and asclepsia collected from my garden. KP was most assured that we didn’t need to duct tape them as Kevin had instructed. Since we didn’t have any duct tape on hand, I went a long with it :).

Wouldn’t you know those damn raccoon varmints got in the seed and just mucked things up! Needless to say, there were beans all over the deck and in the asclpsia jug, and dirt every-where. I should know better! Remember this?

So, then we went to get duct tape. All that was available at the grocery store was day-glo PINK. See all the dirt mess inside the tub? Amazingly, as soon as the jugs were taped, I could FEEL the temperature difference between the air outside the jug compared to the air inside the jug!

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Varmint-proofing the jugs

Varmint-proofing the jugs

…and here they are, all “varmint-proofed”. Twelve jugs are starting, and when I’m back at the garden, I’ve got at least 12 more ready to go! …very exciting and I have visions of sharing lots of baby plants in the early spring.

Ready for keeping the seedlings warm and growing

Ready for keeping the seedlings warm and growing

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Happy Mother’s Day

Being a mom is a lot like starting seeds. The progeny require much more time and nurturance than you can ever imagine. These babies took twice as long as I anticipated and what coaxed them out of their own little wombs was a lot of rain and sun. So many mornings I sat outside, peering into the little pods, anxious to see any stirrings of maturity. Ever so gently, I watered every day, but nothing. Finally ready to let go and let them mature or not, we had four rainy days with a sunny one in the middle. Life has its own timing. We have to continue nurturing, loving and trusting until It – our babies, our pets, our friends, our endeavors – arrive when ready.

Image tomatoes big time. Always have and probably always will. Tried about 6 plants last year I had bought from Home Depot. Unfortunately, I put them in a spot that didn’t have enough sun and by August, they became unwieldy, beastly vines that beared little fruit. This year, with the garden getting more sun, I decided to try again.

So I ordered some seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds on 4/1. I ordered these varieties:

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and started them in decomposable seed pods in organic seed starter on 4/8. In the NE this year, it’s been a cold, but sunny spring with very little rain. These guys were sucking up water like mad, requiring a good soaking every morning. Most nights were cool (between 45-50˚) so every night for weeks, the trays would come in and then back out in the morning. Weeks and weeks went by, but nothing! Uncle Mark Bagby was the first to finally show signs of life around 4/29, followed closely behind by the Celery Tendercrisp.

Now, it’s mother’s day, 5/12 – for crying out loud – and I’m just finally seeing signs of arrival! I think what has brought these babies to fruition is the last four rain-soaked days punctuated by a full day of hot sunshine.

Here are some snaps:

First, the Uncle Mark Bagby:

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Here’s the Paul Robeson at 5 weeks. (Sorry for the blurry pic. Still snapping with the phone.)

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These little darlins are baby celery plants. If you don’t grow celery, and can, you DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE MISSING! Throughout the summer, I hack off bits here and there for salad, pasta, pretty much everything. It’s fresh and tangy, and I use it like I would parsley. But being able to snip what I need without destroying the entire plant and without the waste created by not using an entire bunch bought from the grocery is a blessing and convenience. And better yet, it grows through October and will even give you some love early the next spring!

The nursery, in situ:Image

Here are the other seeds I purchased. Most probably, I’ll sow these directly when I can get back to the garden next weekend. Hopefully.

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Keep watch for future posts on these blessed seedlings. Please remind me if I forget.  Next year, I want to try this Snow Starter idea:

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Recycled plastic jugs as seed starters in January