Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Seed Starting

I have spring fever bigtime, and so T and I have been planning our summer garden--the garden will be a big step towards self-sufficiency for us, plus growing things is happy and figuring out how to grow things for cheap/free + with little waste is a challenge.

A freecycle ad landed us a jackpot--50 varieties of vegetable, herb and flower seeds for free from an organic farmer. We are SO GRATEFUL for these seeds, I can't even tell you. It's a small farm's worth. I'm still trying to figure out what we will do with the surplus seeds.

We made a successful dumpster run to TJ's a few weeks ago, which yielded several dozen muffins in plastic muffin containers. These containers and empty egg cartons have been converted into mini-greenhouses to house those seeds that we are starting indoors.

Now, we spent some money on growing medium, but not a lot. We bought a bag of perlite and a bag of potting soil (which, as it turns out, we can't use because it is full of dustmites and makes Tristan sneeze uncontrollably). Instead, we are using natural compost from under the trees in the backyard. We put a little soil in a mixture of mostly perlite (we are using the Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner theory for starting plants, which recommends a light soil that is not too rich for starting seeds).

To ensure that the seeds get enough light, we're using a full-spectrum growlight (compact flourescent) that Tristan used to cope with life in a cubicle back in Philly. If you were to buy this, it would be a substantial purchase by our standards ($25 or so). We cleared a shelf and lined the walls and "ceiling" with tinfoil to maximize the light's reflection, and placed our mini-greenhouses on the shelf.

In accordance with my timeline, we currently have kale, collards, lettuce, tomatoes, 2 kinds of chile, onion, kohlrabi, lemon balm, chives, and chamomile started. We also started broccoli, even though it's too early, because we got antsy.

And when the seeds are ready to transplant? We've been reading up on companion planting and are fortunate enough to have a large established garden in the front yard. But because our lease is up at the end of June, we will be experimenting with planting in containers as much as possible. We scored a 5-gallon planter from a plant store dumpster and about 20 2 gallon planters from TJ's. We also have two recycled wooden boxes that we may use as beds for shallow-rooted things like lettuce. Though I wish we had more very large containers, we will try to make do with the 2-gallons and see what happens. We plan to plant in the garden as well, and either get permission to return to the house for harvest or simply leave the crop for use by the people who remain at the house. Hey, the seeds were free, and gardening is fun.

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