Seeds Be in Da Hooouuuse! (or How to Plant Seeds Inside)

It’s time to plant your seeds, peeps!

How to grow seeds inside

Okay, here’s how I plant my seeds inside in early Spring for later transplant into my garden.

What I use:

Garden plan – I need to know how many plants I want to grow. See: You Mean I Actually Have to PLAN a Garden?  My first year I went crazy and planted extras thinking I would find room for them. There’s no room. I was begging people to take my plants. Plus it costs money for all that potting soil later. Now I only plant what I need, maybe a couple extra.

Seeds – I make sure I know when to plant them. See: When Do I Plant These Seeds, Yo?

Seed Starter mix – You can use potting soil, but I always use this stuff. I read that it doesn’t have any nutrients in it, so you need to give it some fertilizer later, which I do. And don’t be dumb like me and go buying three bags of seed starter. When you need to transplant to a bigger pot, you’ll need potting soil, not seed starter. I bought three bags of seed starter three years ago and I still have two and half bags.

Peat pots or plastic seed flats – I use both. Peat pots allow you to just transplant the entire pot right into the ground, thereby reducing transplant shock (I’ve never really had a problem with this. I think it depends on the plant). The roots penetrate the walls of the pot and then the pot disintegrates, leaving you with the peat that enriches the soil (I googled that part). I also use the plastic flats because they come with my tray and dome.

Plastic tray with clear dome – This is a handy way to keep all my seedlings together. It makes it easier to water them and the dome keeps the moisture inside.

Seed Markers and permanent ink pen – I record what I planted where unless because it’s hard to identify seedling leaves when they’re still babies.

Items for mixing the soil starter: A spoon from my kitchen (tablespoon size) – don’t tell my husband – large cup or bowl (I use a large plain Greek yogurt cup that’s going on its third year, but feel free to use any kind of mixing container), and water.

Image

(I didn’t have a picture of all that crap, so I’m using this)

1. I set up my pots/flats in the tray and write the plant names on the markers.

2. I put my seed starter in my Greek yogurt cup. I mix in some water until it’s moist, but not sopping wet. The first time I used seed starter I filled all the little cups on my plastic flat with the seed starter and then poured water in. That didn’t work. The seed starter repels water like I wish my stupid all-natural bug spray repelled mosquitoes. So I had to mix each little cup individually – what a pain. I ended up spraying the tray with a mister, but it took for-evah! Just mix it all up in a bowl…or Greek yogurt cup.

wet seed starter

Here’s my Greek yogurt cup (should Greek even be capitalized here?)

3. I scoop the moist, not sopping, seed starter into the pots. I put one to three seeds in every pot and insert the marker. I make sure that if I use pots or flats that are attached to each other that I either split them up ahead of time or I make sure to plant seeds with similar germinating times next to each other. (Germinating is a fancy word for green part sprouting out the of the seed. It makes me feel like I know what I’m talking about, so I use it.) Pepper plants can take two weeks to sprout, so I make sure they’re not in pots attached to tomatoes which take much less time.

Seed starting in peat pots

These look a little wet, but they turned out okay. This was taken last year.

4. I follow the directions on the seed packet about how deep to plant the seeds. Then I put the dome on.

They kind of look like prisoners.

They kind of look like prisoners.

5. I put the tray on top of my refrigerator for warmth, until they sprout. I check them everyday to make sure they’re moist enough. If they look like they’re dry then I spray them with a spray bottle, so I don’t drown them.

I also check for sprouting. Once the seeds have sprouted (green poking up through the dirt) then I move them to my homemade grow light system. I’ll show you how I made my light system next time. I can’t put all this goodness in one post.

Overall, it’s pretty simple to plant seeds if you have the right materials. It makes a mess, so lay down some newspaper or plant them in an area where you don’t care about messes. Also, this is a great thing to let your kids help with. Just remember the mess part.

When Do I Plant These Seeds, Yo?

when do I plant seeds

I’m still trying to recover from that last post. I still haven’t seen any of my poor worms. Granted, I haven’t really looked, but…it’s like I’m expecting them to be having some kind of loud worm party and be all disturbing and I call in, “Pipe down in there! I’m trying to watch Jimmy Fallon on Youtube.” Worst worm mom. Ever.

But we’re not talking about worms today, we’re talking about seeds.

You bought some seeds. But you still have snow on the ground and probably will for another few weeks. Your growing season is too short to wait to start the seeds outside, what do you do? You start them inside, of course – unless you want to pay the money to buy the already-grown plants in late Spring, but if that’s the case then that’s your problem because I’m too cheap for that.

So when do you plant your seeds? Well it depends on two things:

1. Where you live.

2. What you’re growing.

I live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5, which is like, I may as well live in Alaska. No joke, there are sections of Alaska that are Zone 5. So I basically can’t put anything in the ground until August. Okay, that’s a joke, but seriously, I can’t put tomatoes in until almost June. Same with peppers. And those are two of my favorite things to grow – because they’re the easiest…and they taste pretty good, well at least tomatoes do. Peppers, I have to cook those in order to enjoy them. Otherwise, bleh – they’re like peppery and stuff.

1. Okay, so figure out the zone you live in…hold up. You don’t even need that. Just skip to #2.

2. Figure out the average last frost date (the approximate date of the last day you’ll see frost for the winter/spring season) where you live. Click here: Farmers’ Almanac – this site is great, just enter your zip code. Heck, you don’t even need to read this post anymore, just go over there and they’ll tell you exactly which plant you need to start inside on what date. Although sometimes I don’t totally agree with everything they say because I trust Bill, my nursery guy, and sometimes he says different stuff. And heck if I know what they’re talking about with that whole planting by the moon stuff. All it did was made me start singing Aquarius…like out loud. When the moooooon is in the seventh house…Aquaaariuuuusss…Aquariuuuuussss!

Alright, so you used the almanac to type in your zip code and figure out your last frost date. Our average last frost date is May 1st to 15th (I checked other sources too). That’s late. OMG, I want to live in North Carolina or something. My aunt grew her first tomatoes in a pot in NC last year and I was all jealous because she was getting flowers on her plant and I hadn’t even gotten mine in the ground yet. Whatevs.

If you want to figure out your planting dates on your own without fully depending on that almanac site then once you find your last frost date, look at the back of your seed packet. All plants vary. The back will tell you when to start these seeds inside. Look at where that giant red arrow is in this photo.

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You need to count back (grab a calendar) that number of weeks (for these seeds, 8 to 10 weeks) from your average last frost date (that you got from the Farmers’ Almanac site, mine is May 1 to 15) to figure out when you’re supposed to plant your seeds. Well, holy crap, based on my calculations some of you should have already started! Then this post is a complete waste of your time. Sorry, southern folk. You’re totally screwed if you haven’t already put your seeds in some dirt – just wait a few weeks and go drop a buttload of money on some plants. But if you live in Alaska or you’re still under a four feet of snow like I am then you’re totally cool. So we’ll continue.

For the packet of bell peppers in the picture, in the Chicago area, backing up 8 to 10 weeks puts me at…somewhere between March 6 through the 20th to plant the seeds inside, if I use the May 15 last frost date. If I go with the May 1 last frost date, then I’m looking at February 20 through March 6th. I haven’t done any planting yet, so we’ll stick with March 6th-ish.

Now you just do that for every seed you need to start indoors. Mark the dates on your calendar so you don’t forget when to plant.

I guess I’ll need to show you how to plant the seeds pretty soon then. And I’ll have to show you my sweet homemade lighting set-up. Next time.

Later Taters!

Worst Worm Farmer EVER

worst worm farmer ever

I’m pretty sure I killed 99% of my worm community via neglect over the past month.

Worm castings (worm poop) are supposed to be great organic matter for your garden, so I asked for a worm farm two years ago for my 10-year anniversary. Yes, wedding anniversary. I’m pretty easy to please. That’s actually a lie, I’m not that easy to please. I’m a perfectionist. A lazy perfectionist. Anyway, Steve (my husband) got me the farm from some website, it included the dirt, the food, the worms, the container and a piece of burlap to cover them. Perhaps to keep them warm? To keep the soil moist? No clue.

He got me the kit, I put it together and left it in my basement on top of our non-functioning  freezer. I gave them water every week and fed them every 10 days like the instructions said. I threw on a few banana peels and other delicacies. After a few months I took half the organic matter (castings/poop) and put it in my garden. I did that twice. Then I got lazy.

My worms have died in their own filth. It was also a tad on the dry side. It’s been four months and I finally removed some of the organic soil stuff and put in some plain old soil from the yard (that I had saved from before there was two feet of snow on it). I only saw two worms  in the entire section that I moved (at least half of my farm). Before, I would have easily counted 50. The entire colony is dependent on those two worms to bring it back . It’s like my own little Jamestowne. They’ll have plenty of food that’s for sure, as there’s no competition. Plus, don’t they mate with themselves?

Anybody else have a worm farm? How often do you remove the castings?

Here’s a gross video of my worm farm when it had maggots in it. I really am the worst worm farmer ever. I guess this means  I somehow got meat or dairy in there accidentally. Or maybe it was the plethora of banana peels. Mmm.

If you dare, you can just watch the first five seconds and get the gist of it. I was too lazy to edit it. Note: This is not an indication of what kind of parent to my children I am. At least I don’t think it is. I do bathe them occasionally and our house isn’t full of literal crap, so there’s that.

You Mean I Actually Have to PLAN a Garden?

Plan a garden

I’m planning my garden, yo! I have two 4×6 square-foot vegetable/fruit gardens and a random garden patch next to our house. Because I’m anal, I created a layout of my gardens in Excel. Here’s what it looks like.

square foot garden plot

Every year I print it out and write the vegetables I’m going to grow in each square foot. Some plants require more growing room than one square foot, so I plan accordingly. Here’s last year’s layout:

2013 square foot garden plot

It looks like a mess, but I understand everything. B.S. = Brussels Sprouts

The 3×5 garden on the right that says “POTS” is actually the garden next to my house. It’s not a square-foot garden, but I plan it like it is. The dates in circles (e.g. 4/27) indicate when I planted seeds directly in the ground. Most items I transplanted from seedlings I grew in my basement. I’ll show you my basement set-up in an upcoming post. Some of these are perennials and grow back every year. The onions I grow from sets I buy from my buddy, Bill, at the nursery.

The main things you need for a good garden:

Good soil – Since I’m a perfectionist and it seemed like such a pain in the butt to figure out what kind of ground soil I had the first year we were in our house, I decided to do a square-foot garden. I went out and bought the book by Mel.

Square foot gardening book

Click HERE to buy the book.

Then I did everything he said to do to set up my garden…except the soil. He said to use one-third each of vermiculite, Sphagnum peat moss and blended compost. I went to buy the ingredients and had trouble finding vermiculite. I went to my local nursery and Bill (the owner I’m “tight” with) gave me a different recipe to use that included topsoil, compost and torpedo sand (a coarse sand). I can’t remember the ratio of each, but I checked around the internet and saw 2:2:1. Since that first year, all I’ve done every year is just mix in compost (I buy some and I make some of my own) until the dirt is level with the boards.

Good water – I water every day for about 20 minutes with a sprinkler once the plants are in place. I don’t think this is the “right” way to water. I’ve heard you need to water deeply and infrequently (one inch of water per week). Whatever. This worked for me last year, so I’ll keep doing it. The year before I watered every other day and my plants got limp on day two. Many will say that you shouldn’t get the leaves wet and that you should only water the dirt around the plants, but I’m lazy. Make sure your garden is close to a water source. Your hose should be able to easily reach the garden. Tip: to know how much water you’re sprinkling on your garden, set up a bucket to catch the water near your garden, then measure the water depth.

Good sun – Your sun-loving plants need at least six hours of direct sunlight. More is better. If you’re limited on sunlight, afternoon sunlight is better than morning sunlight…so I’ve heard. Some plants don’t need a lot of sun. I think you can grow lettuce and mint and a few herbs and some other things with partial sun, but for tomatoes, peppers, beans, most things, you need at least six hours of direct sunlight.

Some things to think about when planning your garden:

  • How much of each item do you want to grow? Don’t grow something you don’t like just because it’s cool or pretty and you think you should eat it, like I did. I was stupid. If you’re growing a garden for the first time, start small. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself so much that you quit. What I have is considered small. It’s a good start. I’d make more gardens, but we don’t have enough sunlight. And I’m lazy.
  • Companion Gardening – Some plants shouldn’t be planted next to each other while some plants benefit from being planted next to others for controlling pests. Here’s a list I use from GardenGuides.com.
  • Crop rotation – What did you plant in that spot last year? You don’t want to plant the same type of plant in the same spot year after year. You’ll deplete the nutrients in the soil. Plus you increase the chance of soil-borne illness. Rotate. Here’s a link I use at Growveg.com.
  • Make sure you can reach everything in your garden when it comes to harvest time. My back kills me when I have to reach far into the garden to pick green beans. Consider where you plant.

Further reading: Here’s a link to the Square Foot Gardening Foundation.

What’s Up Next?

  • When do I start growing these stinking seeds you suggested I get?
  • Okay, now I know what I’m going to plant and when, but how do I grow these seeds?

Disclaimer: I’m not a Master Gardener. I just pretend to be one…when I’m alone in my garden. So what’d I miss or screw up? Tell me in the comments so we’ll all learn.

Get Your Seeds, Yo!

That stupid groundhog saw its shadow, so I guess that means six more weeks of winter. Whatevs. I’m looking out over the two feet of white stuff on my lawn not even able to see any remnants of my garden save for that one dead kale stalk that I was too lazy to pull when it finally lost its will to live after Thanksgiving.  But now is the time to think seeds!

get your seeds

People still grow plants from seeds?

Yes, they do.

Why would anyone do that?

  • Well, I do it because I’m cheap. There, I said it. I say it all the time on my other blog, but it’s time to get that out in the open here – eighty percent of my wardrobe is from Goodwill – it could be 100 percent, but they don’t sell underwear and socks (that’s disgusting…and it’s a joke…well maybe not the underwear part). Growing from seed is cheaper than buying a starter plant.
  • You can say, “Freakin-A, I grew that!” There’s something fulfilling and miraculous and exciting about growing a giant food-bearing plant (or any plant) out of a little tiny seed.
  • You can grow unique fruits and vegetables. Typically, you’ll find the standard fruits and vegetables wherever you shop for plants: red tomatoes, red/green bell peppers, orange carrots – booorrrriiiing. But you can get all kinds of unique fruit and vegetable seeds. I grew ground cherries for a few years. They’re little round yellow-green fruits that grow in papery husks – kind of like tomatillos, but smaller and they taste different. I thought they tasted yucky, but they were unique and fun to grow and I had the seeds, so I grew them – my kids ate them. I’ve grown purple beans, a yellow tomatoes, chocolate peppers, white carrots, lettuce, kale, herbs, broccoli, cauliflower, etc., from seeds. You can grow all kinds of stuff.
  • Some fruits and vegetables grow better from seed – meaning they’re not good to transplant. Carrots, corn…I’m sure there are others, but I don’t know what they are because those are the only ones I can think of right now. One of the plants I did not bother growing from seed was the strawberry plant. I just dug them up out of someone else’s yard – takes too long to get fruit.

Where do I get seeds?

  • Seed Catalogues – You can get some crazy stuff from catalogues. Just make sure you know what USDA Plant Hardiness Zone you’re in. (KNOW your zone). You don’t want to buy avocado seeds if you live in frosty Chicago. I love when my seed catalogues start filling up my mailbox in January. I dog-ear the pages, dreaming of all the fun new things I’m going to grow. Then reality hits and I remember that all those dog-eared pages equal work – so I just get a few packets…or none, because I’m lazy. You can order free seed catalogues on the Internet. Here’s a link to a good list of organic seed catalogues. I receive a number of these catalogues.
seed packets

Some of the seed packets I keep in my fridge.

  • Internet – You don’t even need the catalogue now, just go straight to their website. But there’s still something special about flipping through all those pages. I found a site called WinterSown.org. They’ll send you free seeds (different kinds) if you send them a self-addressed stamped envelope and a couple stamps. I did this three years ago and I’ve grown the tomatoes they sent me every year since. Love them!
  • Local Nursery – At first, I was intimidated by my nursery. I felt like a junior higher on the first day of school. I made Steve (my husband) go with me the first time, just like I made my dad go with me on my first day of 7th grade – yes, I did. Now that I have some gardening experience under my belt I strut all up in that nursery and I be like, “Hey Errybody! Katie in the green hooooouuuuse.” I’m tight with the owner – like he says to me, “Oh…you’re the one with that square-foot garden, right?” Tight. At least now I can tell a tomato plant from a pepper plant and they don’t even need to have the fruit/vegetable hanging from them.
  • Home Depot or other hardware store – I impulse buy when I go to these places (because they’re cheap!), especially if I haven’t mapped out what I want to plant yet. I usually end up wasting money. I still have corn seeds I’ve never grown that I was just dying to plant because I had spring gardening fever three years ago and I wanted a fresh ear of corn picked straight from my garden. Then I found out that corn is hard to grow because of pests and now I just want to throw the seeds to the squirrels and forget about them.
  • From other people. Find a seed buddy. Ask them to trade seeds. If you’re new to gardening (which you probably are if you’re reading this blog…or you’re my mom and dad) just tell someone you know who gardens that you’re ready to start and they’ll give you seeds…unless they’re a jerk.

After writing this I’m totally getting garden fever. Who’s with me? Screw that groundhog!

What’s up next?

  • You mean I actually have to plan a garden?
  • When do I start growing these stinking seeds you suggested I get?
  • Okay, now I know what I’m going to plant and when, but how do I grow these seeds?

Disclaimer: I am not a master gardener. I am a humor gardener. Leave a comment telling me what I said wrong…or if you have any questions. Let’s get a conversation going!

What To Expect From This Blog

Allow me to set your expectations low, that’s my forte.

I am not a Master Gardener. I am a fumbling, took a few gardening classes, trial and error, Gardener.

I grow things I can eat. I can’t grow grass. My husband and I typically kill it, as evidenced by this photo.

weed and grass killer

But I can grow vegetables and fruit. I’ve been growing them for six years.

I once asked my husband what he thought I was passionate about and his first response was “your garden.” I was pretty surprised at that. I didn’t think I was that passionate about it. But I guess the average person doesn’t have four compost bins, a worm farm, and a room devoted to their seedlings and gardening supplies.

At my other blog, Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine?, I write mostly humor, so to continue with that theme I’ll be writing about gardening with humor. Because there’s some funny crap (literally) going on in the garden.

Here’s what you can expect me to write about:

– my foibles and the mistakes I make and have made, like that time I planted a watermelon seed and a sunflower came up.

– my worms and their poop. Because who can resist worm poop?

– my grand attempts to compost.

– what seeds I use, my soil composition, how I keep pests out, how I killed my blueberry bushes, how I grow seedlings, and other things gardening minds want to know.

I’ll post at least weekly when the growing season is happening…at least that’s my plan. Until then, I will post sporadically. So if you garden and you like to laugh then you’ll want to subscribe via email, so you don’t miss any posts. How’s that for a smooth plea?

Check out my About page if you don’t already know me from my other blog and to learn a little about my garden.