Thursday, February 26, 2009

Container Garden: Seed Starting

Now that I've settled on the three plants I'm going to focus on in my container garden it's time to get started with seeds. I thought about buying heirloom organic seeds. I saw some on Burpee's website, for example their Brandywine tomatoes. Seeds of Change sells only organic and has 15 heirloom tomato products. But then I was in Home Depot with a gift card burning a hole in my wallet and the seeds were right there and my carbon footprint would not be enlarged due to shipping since I was really there to buy a shovel. So I bought three seed packets: tomatoes, parsley, and basil. All three are Ferry Morse brand. The sweet basil and the beefsteak tomato are organic and cost $2.27 each. They didn't have organic parsley so I got conventional Italian parsley which cost $1.59.

The parsley packet suggested soaking the seeds overnight in warm water to speed germination. I figured if it's good for parsley it probably can't hurt basil and tomato. I placed four of each type of seed into a different depression in an old metal palette. I labeled each depression with the first letter of the plant. I warmed up some water and spooned it into all the depressions so the pan as a whole would be a little warmer. Then, I soaked a dishtowel with water, put it in a bowl, and microwaved it for a minute. I put the palette on top of the dishtowel to keep it warm.

I left this setup uncovered on my kitchen counter for 24 hours. Occasionally I lifted off the palette to reheat the wet towel. This was probably entirely unnecessary - definitely the reheating, and probably the soaking.

Meanwhile, I washed out a plastic clam shell container that once held a super yummy Uptown Turkey sandwich from the Corner Bakery to use as an indoor seed starting greenhouse just like Re-Nest suggested, because sometimes I really do follow through on all those random ideas I post here.

And I took that re-used action one step further by using the dubiously named "PotMaker" to form newspaper into small containers for dirt.

I bought the PotMaker AGES ago and used it to make a TON of seed-starting containers at once. So long as you cut the strips of newspaper the right size (about 3x10") and immediately fill them with dirt, it works awesomely. If you try to make all the paper pots, then fill them with dirt, some of your pots might undo before you get them filled. But once they have dirt in them, I've never had a PotMaker-made paper pot fail. And don't worry about wrapping the paper around the form tightly - it'll come off easier if it's not and the pot will be just as stable.

Also in the theme of re-use, I placed one of these little shaker tops from old spice bottles underneath each paper container to facilitate drainage.

Given the low weight of the containers and the curve of the bottom of the clam shell container, this isn't strictly necessary as they would probably drain just fine. When I watered them the excess immediately drained to the moat around the edge of the clam shell. But I just happen to be sowing the seeds on the counter next to my spices and saw all these little shaker tops and couldn't help myself.

Put it all on the the shelf next to the sliding glass door in the kitchen and we are GO for seed starting!

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