01 March 2009

A head start on spring

Today is the first of March, and my little notebook says I can start seedlings in March, based on our 'typical last frost' date of May 7. So ... I started!

I have a little wooden gadget that makes pots from newspaper: it is a wonderful device, you buy it once and thereafter you have pots for your seedlings from waste paper! The seedlings grow well in the newspaper and can be planted without having to dump them out of a plastic container, so the roots are not disturbed. And, unlike peat pots with their thick side walls, the roots can very easily break through the disintegrating paper once transplanted.

So, I found some flyers in the burn bin and tore them into strips and started rolling up some pots. Those got filled with a mix of peat moss and vermiculite (some day I want to try using our own topsoil or compost, but we're just not there yet), seeds were tucked in, and then each pot was labelled with a sharpie (another advantage of the newspaper pots - they are really easy to label!).

It can be tricky keeping everything properly watered, but at some point in the past I purchased a felt watering mat, and I have that laid out underneath the little pots to keep them moist.

I have a Seed Keeper from Lee Valley and I've sorted out my seed packets (and the bean and pea seeds I saved from last year) into the little plastic pockets. However, when I went to the shed to retrieve my plant stand, I found a stash of very old seeds of various types! They've not exactly been stored in the preferred environment for seeds, but hey, they might germinate and there's no way of knowing unless they're stuck in some dirt. So ... several of the surprise finds were potted and we'll see what, if anything, sprouts. More of the surprise finds are plants that do best when direct-seeded come spring, so it'll be interesting to see what happens!

There are a few tomato plants started, some cucumbers (we had terrible luck with cucumbers last year), dill, catnip (which is apparently a good tea-like beverage for humans, without the dopey effect it has on kitties), corn (one of the surprise finds), lovage, green onions, and an egg carton full of strawberry seeds that have been around for several years while I got up the nerve to attempt to start them. The instructions said to put the flats in a plastic bag and leave them to sprout ... I couldn't find a clear plastic bag, so I planted them in a clear egg carton instead. I figure it probably has the same effect of keeping in the moisture.

Now I just have to settle on a final plan for where to put all this stuff once spring arrives. I have reworked the garden plan several times and I have the feeling it's up for at least three more revisions before I settle on something. Well, it's easier to change a drawing on paper than it is to move the beds around once they have been dug, so I guess that's a good thing!


  1. Good ideas. I have a wooden pot maker (from Vessey's seeds) but I also read somewhere that you can use empty toilet paper rolls. They will break down just as well as newspaper and I thought I'd try and start pumpkins and squash using those. I even have friends saving them for me. Don't have a seed book though. That looks like a really good idea...

  2. Anonymous11:12 am

    Ah dreaming of sharing all your harvest in the fall! Vancouver Island aunt gardens very successfully in raised beds and I'm looking forward to seeing how your plan works out. Don't forget the beets - GA loves beets.
    the gram

  3. I am late in starting seeds - they get so spindly and I almost feel like not starting any at all, and just planting direct to the soil as early as I can!

    I really like your newspaper pot maker - I will have to see where I can get one of those, or what I can use that I already have...

    Just can't wait for Spring!

  4. Theresa, I too dread the 'tall spindly' thing with starting seeds, but I know that if I don't get them started now, they won't have enough time in the garden! I have room on the shelf and lots of big buckets and such that I can keep them going indoors, but dealing with cloches or row covers outside is just more than I can cope with. Last year I put out my pumpkin starts and lost them all in a frost ... I'll wait until it is good and warm and THEN plant things!

    The Almanac says we're in for a wet and soggy fall, which I figure means a head start would be a good thing.

    I believe I got this potmaker at Holes ... you might check there, or Richter's has it (I think that's the link I put up, they're in Ontario).

  5. Hm. Well, tall and spindly is better than frost killed in the fall, that's for sure. I have been looking for an excuse to go to Holes - thanks ;)


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