Urban Homesteading - Seed Starting

| 1/14/2010 4:35:28 PM

Tags: urban homesteading, seed starting,

It’s melting!! After the historical snow and cold the Midwest has experienced, sunshine, temperatures above 32 and puddles of melted snow are a welcome sight. Does this signal that spring is right around the corner? Well – not quite.

But as would be expected, this change in weather towards more hospitable conditions has triggered a plethora of conversation about seed ordering and starting, which catalogs are the best and just how much we each plan to grow this year. A group of us at the office have joined forces to order six different varieties of potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, Maine. The company offers 18 potato varieties. We’ll share the seed potatoes so we all can grow each kind. I have just 24 feet of space in my potato patch, but that shouldn’t limit the varieties I plant. It will be such fun in the late summer to dig up the potatoes and find a wide variety of colors and sizes.

Our editor-in-chief, Cheryl Long, designed and built a bookcase/grow light for seed starting. The office gardening group has plans to start some tomato and pepper seeds to get our gardening off to an early start. A seed packet always contains more seeds than I can use – especially with my four small 4-by-8 raised beds. I planted six tomato plants last year that grew like weeds. But they were so close together the tomatoes struggled to have their faces in the sun. By sharing the seeds and starting them here, we each can take home the number of plants we have room for.

To continue this share-the-load group effort all growing season, we’re considering gathering for lunch once a week to discuss our gardening successes and failures. As the weeks progress, I’ll share some of the most interesting developments with you.

How is your garden planning coming along? What are you doing to prepare? Let us know by posting a comment below.

unusual farm chick_2
2/20/2010 6:13:39 PM

I planted a pot of Dragon toungue beans a few weeks back. I could not help but get going early on a few things. I usually start a small portion of seed in February, despite our first frost free day being mid to late May. I start the rest of the garden seeds the begining of March and on into the month according to moon planting guides. I set up a hanging shop light with grow light bulbs in a corner of my living room and use an old folding dinner table to keep them at waist height. I also have a 3 tier metal wire shelf I start the earlier seeds on. There is a small 2 ft grow light hanging from the top shelf and seed trays rotate every 12 hours between the 2 shelves. This way, I need just the 1 light. the 2 trays keep rotating to get their 10-12 hours of light until they no longer fit between the shelves. Then I just transfer it out with slower growing trays from my shop light big table set up, until plant out time. The dragon tongue beans grew amazingly fast. I plan to rig up some twine going from the the high curtain rod in the South window down to the low coffee table beneath it. This way, we can have garden greenery before the bliss of getting dirty can be indulged. We are also experimenting with window potatoe growing along with a few other things so I can just transplant them to the "early house" aka solar pit, for early food goodness. :)

papillion gardens homestead_2
2/2/2010 10:14:05 PM

Oops sorry, didn't mean to post that as my comment! We start lots and lots of seeds and use a majority of them and give away a ton of seedlings. It's just a great way to get through the winter. I make almost all of my seed starter containers recycling toilet paper cores that many in the community save for me...and then stapling them in "6 packs". Sometimes I broadcast seeds in the plastic "shoe box" containers then transplant those seedlings....we did that today, over 100 bell peppers. Liked the mini-blind plant tags comment. Works great and they are usually cheap at a garage sale or occasionally I have friends who give me several when they are cleaning out their garage. Those last for years. After I get a 4 leaf plant we transplant if they were not already started in their own container....then into the cold frames they do ....cinder blocks with recycled old windows on top. Not real pretty but they work great! Just hoping the weather calms down in South Texas sometime in March. At least starting my own plants allow for a late planting if need be.

papillion gardens homestead_2
2/2/2010 10:07:32 PM

Come with us on our journey to create a CSA farm in an effort to become partially self sustaining and to provide farm to table product to the community. Also, our trials and tribulations with an ongoing project to create a bird, butterfly and hummingbird sanctuary on our little farm.

dawn pfahl
1/25/2010 9:17:35 PM

I'm urban gardening in a 13x13' dirt patch bordered by patio, shed and fence on all sides. This year I'm experimenting with small raised beds and have my plants picked out, my bed layout done and am just waiting to order my seeds and figure the details of building the beds. I snagged a few generic seeds from walmart, salad mix and the like to start indoors in the next week or two, and my first round of seeds from Johnny's will be ordered shortly!. I just need to find a spot with enough light, because I can't afford a grow light setup yet!

troy griepentrog_1
1/25/2010 11:23:19 AM

Hello, You can find lots of information about what to plant when here: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/What-To-Plant-Now.aspx. Thanks, Troy

1/23/2010 10:01:29 AM

I'm in Canada just a half hour north of the US Minnesota border. I'm fairly new to gardening and am planning on expanding my garden this year. I need to learn more about when to start seeds and when to plant seeds in my zone...does anyone know of some good resources for this information?

1/21/2010 11:20:56 PM

I am going to be ordering Stupice tomatoes (heirlooms) for Bountiful Gardens and Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, Golden Bantam corn, Yugoslavian Red Lettuce and Chataney Demi Rouge carrots (these are all heirlooms)from D. Landreth's and will start them under growlights. I live in CA, so I have things in the garden now. I have brocolli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, lettuce, snap peas, onions, scallions, carrots and radishes out in the garden now.

robin mcfarland
1/21/2010 2:00:57 PM

Kristen use old mini blinds. Tin snips will cut the old metal ones to size and sissors will cut the newer plastic ones. Cut them to the size you want and use a permenant makers to label them. They will last a long time and you can use them year to year.

robin mcfarland
1/21/2010 1:56:55 PM

Kristen: I use old mini blinds; you can get hundreds of label from one. Use tin snips to cut the old metal ones to size, or just use sissors for the plastic ones. Use a permanent maker for writing and they are good year to year. I have some that are 10 years old and still going strong. Good luck

1/21/2010 10:21:07 AM

this is my second year for gardening where i live now. i'm going to make all raised garden also. i ordered a gardening book last year and read it,and this year,( my first year to grow potatos) i'm going to grow them in tires. it said plant the seed potato in mulch and straw inside the 1st tire, and water. then when it gets as tall as another tire, put another one ot top, and fill it with straw and/or mulch..so forth and so forth, keep stacking, till the leaves die out on top,at that time,i should be able to remove tires, and start "tatorhoggin" out. wish me luck,and good luck to all you other gardeners out there.

kristin ratynski_5
1/21/2010 10:10:43 AM

Here in the Detroit area it is still cold and snowy but the gardening bug is alive and well. This fall and old abandoned house next door was taken down and I am buying the lot. The down side --the hole left by the house was filled with brown clay. Even so I plan to plant like a crazy lady this year-42 types of tomatoes, mostly heirloom and lots a things I've never planted before. I will start between 12 and 16 flats of tomatoes, peppers celery , cabbage, and anything else to strike my fancy. Fall will bring cover crops and a heavy planting of diakon radish over the site of the house to help biodrill the clay and maybe some fava beans in unplanted areas. I'm hoping to make a few raised bed this spring for starters as time and money allow to allow for some root crops that will hate the clay. If anyone has suggestions for labels for seedling I'd be grateful--I generally plant about 3-4 of each variety and most of the labels I see just are too big. I'm sure to share some plants with the community garden on the next block and like to be able to tell them what variety I've given them. I have also invited all the gardeners I know to come dig in the dirt with me if they don't have room at home--if you come help, you can harvest what you need and if we produce enough--I'll teach them how to can.

1/21/2010 9:42:32 AM

Rachel, I have used the mulch method to grow potatoes. The only tricky part is to be sure that, later in the season, the mulch does not become thin and let in some light. Good luck.

1/21/2010 8:48:40 AM

I've made plans of what to plant but not quite where to plant it! We've just moved here so I've had to change some things when it comes to gardening. I've kept the organic seeds from last years garden but decided to go with the gardening by the foot routine. Last fall I covered a 12x24 plot. We'll see how it goes. Have figured all the best planting times, for the year, by the moon. Just yesterday I planted onions, pansy's and the first dozen great lakes lettuce seeds in peat plugs. They sit in the south facing window of the kitchen. I've made a booklet to record my planting and harvesting for this year as a guide for years to come. See more here: http://reneetheneohippy.wordpress.com

1/21/2010 8:30:53 AM

My family and I have gardened together for about twelve years.We thoughroly enjoy it.Although the summers in Virginia are hot,humid, and fairly long making the work harder, I find it relaxing caring for something that I have actually grown and will enjoy later.It all pays off.We do have one problem:this year we are starting EVERYTHING from seed and I am very worried about them growing.Regularly we buy young plants to set out but we want to grow an heirloom garden and no place here sells heirloom vegetable plants or the catalogs.We plan on building a small greenhouse to start them in.Does anyone have advice about starting heirloom vegetables from seed?Wish me luck as I go out on this venture!Happy gardening to all!

carmen ortiz
1/20/2010 7:51:27 PM

This is a stressful period for me since I live in Central Minnesota. I start quite a few vegetables indoors (and end up with too many since I can't bring myself to pinch off the extras). I decided to go through all my old seeds, got rid of the ones that were way past their viability period; scheduled starting, transplanting and seeding outside dates for the whole year; where to plant what and what section of lawn to get rid of this year. And, now I wait inpatiently. I do some indoor gardening, my tomato plants are starting to flower, the taros are growing fine, as are the herbs, sweet potato vines and tropical fruit trees. I have walls of windows in my living room and walk-out basement. I built a seed starting unit that can handle twelve flats at a time, plus I have another shelving unit that can hold twelve more by the basement glass sliding doors. I grow potatoes but I never use straw because I remember the ones a neighbor gave me years ago that actually had straw inside them. I only have two more weeks to wait before I start the onion seeds. I guess I can go start some sprouts and pretend I'm gardening.

ann _1
1/20/2010 7:03:58 PM

Every year my garden gets bigger and bigger. Last year almost an acre, probably not much more this year, plus we built a 50 foot greenhouse which we are growing tomatoes, peppers and some herbs in there this winter, and I have a great country kitchen with lots of light and windows, so I start my tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers from seed in February. Right now I am growing a new batch of tomatoes for the greenhouse and lots of new herbs. Cant wait to plant them. I live in Virginia and a warm day in the winter gets me so excited about the summer garden coming up.

1/20/2010 5:41:00 PM

Rachel-I have used the straw method for growing many varieties of heirloom potatoes and would not go back to the "old" way for anything. It saves so much time and work and I have never had a problem with it. Hope you have good luck and lots of fun with it!

jake freivald_1
1/20/2010 3:35:46 PM

I'm going to start my first garden this year, so I'm not sure of what I'm doing -- and I'm wondering whether I'm overplanning or not planning enough. I just ordered a bunch of heirloom seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, which should arrive just in time for me to start my indoor broccoli and cabbage seeds. I have a notebook with columns for each crop and rows for each weekend, so I know when I'll be planting this or transplanting that or harvesting something else (though I expect harvesting to be a bit less planned and more ad hoc). I still have to figure out exactly where I'm planting what, but I still have five or more weeks to do that. Since it looks like the last frost date is guesswork -- or at least not as precise as I'd like it to be -- I'm planning three successional plantings (two weeks apart) of my early crops instead of two; hopefully, if the first ones are damaged by frost, the next two won't be. It's interesting. We'll see how it pays off, and what changes with experience.

rachel chaput
1/20/2010 11:35:14 AM

I will be starting my earliest seeds on Feb 15 - have been cataloging them all and designing my plan for what will go where. i have a question about potatoes, speaking of potatoes. Ruth Stout, the american organic gardening columnist, said several decades ago in her column that for potatoes, she did not bother to dig. since her 'thing' was very very thick hay mulch, she simply threw seed potatoes on top of the ground in the spring, wet them a bit, covered with thick (~10") hay mulch and then LET THEM BE. i am fascinated by this. i'm considering growing potatoes for the first time and i want to do it her way - however first i'd like to hear if anyone else has done it this way, and if so, how it went. Ruth Stout did not really offer a tremendous amount of detail. thanks for any comments!

1/20/2010 11:14:49 AM

As the cold winter days show a hint of spring with warmer temps and sun during a mid January thaw we start thinking about gardening. So a couple weekends ago I planted some lettuce, radish, beet and Swiss chard seeds in our attached greenhouse. They have sprouted and are growing. In a few weeks we will be eating early veggies while we are still covered in snow here in Maine. My husband's aunt gardens but has no place to start her own tomato and pepper seedlings. So we do it for her in the greenhouse along with our own seedlings. In return she gives us most of her seedlings for our own garden as she only needs a few plants. It feels good to help someone else and in return get varieties we might not otherwise have tried. Happy Gardening from Windy Acres Farm!

1/20/2010 10:31:16 AM

I'm going for it big time this year and buying a small greenhouse. I'm growing at least 10 varieties of heirloom tomatoes organically, and I'm going to grow extra and sell them to friends to recoup the some of the cost of the greenhouse. I just sent in my seed order to Fedco, by far still my favorite seed supplier. I also spent some time with friends planning the garden rotations for this year and adjusting how much of certain crops I'll be growing (still working on eating all those extra frozen sweet peas). Since I live in Minnesota, my seed enthusiasm is a bit premature, but this is usually the time of year I get it due to all the seed catalogs. 3 more months to go!

1/15/2010 1:30:47 PM

I have purchased potatoes, seed and other products from Wood Prairie. They are fabulous!

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!