Monday, March 1, 2010

Seed Starting Basics

It's nearly spring and everybody I know has Spring Fever. We ALL want to get outside and dig in the dirt. Lucky for us, we've had a lot of moisture, but digging in mud isn't good for the garden or the gardener.

How about starting a few plants from seed this year? It's really not as hard as you might think. Let me share a few tips that I've learned over the past few years.

Step 1: Choose your seeds. I realize this could be an entire blog post and I may write up something. What you need to know is: your growing zone and what you want to grow. I prefer growing Heirloom seeds (i.e. not genetically modified) because I can save seeds from this year's crop and grow them again next year, and eventually, it will be a zero-cost garden.

Most seed packages will tell you if you should direct sow or start indoors. Finding the last frost date for your area is a simple check of google. Count backwards the # of weeks indicated and then you'll know when to start your seeds indoors. Suffice to say, don't wait until May to decide to grow tomatoes from seed - there's just not enough warm season left to do this (well, it CAN be done, but it takes more work!)

Step 2: Now that you've gotten your seed, what do you grow it in? A few years ago, I stopped at the seed store and picked up several flats: sealed bottom, perforated bottom, divided and clear dome lids. Now, you don't need to go to this expense. Prior to that, I started seeds in leftover plastic containers (think salad bar to go boxes) and plastic wrap. ANYTHING that will hold soil will be fine to grow seeds in. I just upgraded so I'd have the uniform flats to re-use. All I need to do is wash them with a bleach/water solution prior to using. For growing medium, I use a mixture of Peat Moss and Vermiculite. You can see that I buy the X-LARGE bags of each. I use a lot of growing medium as we start over 600 plants each year. You may be fine to get the smaller bags, but for savings, get big bags and share w/ other gardeners. I mix at a 50/50 ratio in a large rubbermaid tote and wet it down as I go. TIP: mix outdoors! It's a very dusty!

Depending on the seed, I will use different inserts. For tomatoes and peppers, I prefer the 9-holes. For onions, I prefer an undivided tray. My son prefers the peat pots (we also were intrigued by the cow manure pots - but that's for another year.) After you fill your pot/flat with the peat/vermiculite mix, tuck the seeds in. Spray until the surface is dampened and cover it. I do not use heat mats of any kind as we have a large picture window that is south facing. It heats up quite nicely and I've not needed heat mats.

TIP: Leave one spot open in the middle - it'll be very helpful for watering later on. You can also leave a corner spot open. It's just easier to water this way vs. lifting the edge of the tray. (The growing tray is inserted into a sealed bottom tray to contain the water overflow.)

TIP: Use old mini-blinds for plant markers. Just cut to fit inside the lids and mark with a sharpie.

Step 3: As soon as the seeds sprout, REMOVE THE LID and water from the bottom only! Let the surface dry out. If you don't, damping off can occur. See above plant - the roots are literally growing above the soil line. There isn't much hope of saving plants when this has occurred. It's best to chuck them and start a new batch of seeds. Watering from the bottom will encourage plant roots to grow down. A lot of seed growers use oscillating fans to help keep the surface dry. Fans also strengthen the plant as it gets blown around (similar to outdoor conditions.)

Step 4: Once the plant has it's leaves formed, it's time to get them under a grow light. You CAN grow in window light, but you'll have more spindly plants and you'll want to turn the trays daily to avoid the hard lean that develops.

TIP: You can make your own grow station. I have this wire rack shelf I got from Target for around $35. It hold 6 flats on the 3 shelves with lights hooked to underneath shelf above via S-hooks and tiny chains. I can raise/lower the lights as needed. I set my lights to about 2" above the plants and move them up as needed. I purchased the lights from Walmart and have grow bulbs in them - not florescent bulbs.
In a few weeks, I'll share updated photos as this is not the only grow station we'll have. Our living room gets so stuffed with plants that by April, I'm stir crazy to get them outside. I do have a mini-greenhouse plus a cold frame where they all hang out until it's time to plant.
Happy Growing!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Happiness Project: Aprons

Miss Aubrey modeling my fave apron.

When I cook, I make a mess. I don't mean to, but I work in a very small kitchen, usually with a few helpers & various pets wandering about. It's inevitable that I flip around too fast and knock something over. LOL

That's why I started wearing aprons. I have a few I've bought at estate sales (and a few of them have been swiped by the girls). But, my favorite is a cherry red apron with the cutest crocheted cherries on it. Problem is, it's just a half-apron. (What is the correct term?) What I need is a full apron, one that covers my shirt too.

Apron courtesy Flirty Aprons

So, when I saw this contest over at The Suburban Jungle, I knew I had to enter and share my love of aprons with you. My choice, if I were to win, would be the Sassy Red apron, because, I LOVE red and *ahem* have been known to be sassy. :D

Which one would you choose?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Happiness Project: Photos

It's already 2/3 way thru January. I had intended to post more often *ahem*. Well, let's just move forward, shall we?!

Sticking with "things that make me happy", you may have deduced that I enjoy taking photos... of my kids and pets. What I really love, is taking photos of things people usually don't see.

Radish Flower

As we missed pulling a few radishes, we decided to let them grow, just to see what would happen. These delicate blossoms were the result. They grew on very long stems and waved gently in the breeze. So pretty!

I really LOVE photographing buildings and their details, especially windows & doors. Here's an old warehouse. I always wonder what was manufactured in them. Who worked there? When was the last day of business? What does the inside look like? Who painted the awesome antique themed mural on it's north side? If the building could talk, what would it say?

This is a photo from one of my favorite buildings here in town... it's an old train station. When I was a little girl, our family traveled via train to go to our home state. Plus, my grandpa was a train conductor, so I am still enamored by all things train related. :D

If you've ever traveled via train, you might recognize the platform. This place amazed me with all the people bustling on and off trains, the smoke, the smells and most of all, the anticipation of the trip. Even though we no longer have a train station in Wichita, the platform is still there. :D I think I may have to have this one blown up and hung in my office. Looking at it always makes me smile.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010: The Year of HAPPY

2008 was the Year of Loss

The year I lost my idyllic mom-life. The year I lost my business. The year I lost dear friends. The year I lost my trust in the system. The year I lost so much.

(In way way, it was the year of gain: I gained 35 pounds by not dealing with the loss.)

2009 was the Year of Grief

When I suffered one loss after another, instead of dealing with the emotions that surrounded the events, I stuffed it down, way, way down. Buried deeply so I could just motor on, moving thru life, dealing with the day to day stuff that consumed me.

But when you stuff, eventually, it has to come back out. And it did. Hard, fast and overwhelming. Over and over, the grief came out. It made me physically ill. It brought my life to a grinding halt for months. It was the most painful year of my life. One that I vow I will never repeat.

But in the grief, I did find joy. I found many things to celebrate and I found my self. My true self. The one who deserves so much more.

I no longer will be a people pleaser. I will no longer go with the flow, not questioning what my gut is screaming about. I will no longer suffer silently. I will no longer give to others at my expense. I will re-frame my life and my dreams. I will rebuild what was lost. I will reclaim what is mine. I will rise above and soar.

On New Year's Eve, I declared 2010, the Year of Happy
I will only do things that make me happy.

Before After

As a tribute to my resolution, here are a few things that made me happy in recent days:

I re-did my laundry room. No more ugly yellow wallpaper, in stages of removal. No more reminders of the project I abandoned 5 years ago. I chose a gorgeous shade of purple plum, despite what others commented on, because it makes me happy.

I grew loofa.

I took photos.

I raised puppies.

In the upcoming year, I will share other things that make me happy. Stay tuned.