This year is the first one in a while I have been excited about my garden. Working from home for the past few months due to the Corona virus has greatly reduced my commute time from 3-4 hours a day to nothing and this means […]
It has been a while since I have done a gardening update so I though I would take a few pictures and talk a little bit about them. Our family has been super busy with travel, kids, work and the frequent birthday parties that happen […]
Indoor Seed Starting Time
It is that time of year again when I start to think about what seeds I need to start indoors. This is our third year gardening at our house and the second year for us starting seeds indoors. Last year we started tomatoes, ground cherries, spaghetti squash, sunflowers, cucumbers, zucchini, louffa, gourds, pumpkins and watermelons. Our biggest successes were our squash plants and the beans we direct sowed into the ground. This year we have decided to just buy our tomatoes and ground cherries from the store since we put a lot of effort into growing not so healthy plants last year.
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Seed Starting Basics
When starting seeds indoors there are some basic rules and tools you will need. First off you need seeds (of course), pots, a shovel, soil and a grow light. There are many different types of pots you can use from plastic cups to toilet paper rolls and when you are first starting out it is best to try out a couple of different kinds and see what works best for you. Last year we used red plastic solo cups since we had a bunch lying around but ultimately biodegradable pots such as these here are better for the environment. You can also buy one of these seed starting kits to use as well:
Some people also use warming mats but we start our seeds inside the laundry/furnace room which is very warm and we haven’t needed a warming mat. Our grow lights also came from Amazon and you can find many different types that work but we bought one very similar to this one:
We buy our soil from Costco and mix it with this seed starting mix. Our seeds come from a mish mash of places. This year we have a bunch left over from previous years, seeds I saved from our vegetables and some an easy grow seed set from my mother-in-law for Christmas that has a few varieties that we were missing but if I were to order seeds I would from Seed Savers Exchange. They have a mission to grow heirloom varieties and have a program in place to help their members propagate and grow rare varieties of seeds to preserve plants that might otherwise be lost. I am a huge fan of them and my favorite time of year is when their catalog comes in the mail. It gets me super excited for spring!
The basic rules for starting seeds indoors are to:
- Start them at the right time according to the package (You can find your first frost date here)
- Make sure they are getting the right amount of warmth and light according to the package
- Water from below to prevent mildew forming on the leaves
- Don’t forget about them until they are root bound (I may have some experience with this)
- Harden your seedlings off gradually outdoors before planting in the ground
- Be gentle when transplanting them to avoid damaging the roots.
Seed starting is a skill that takes practice so don’t be discouraged if your first few tries are not successful! Even expert gardeners have trouble with particular batches of seeds or if the weather decides not to cooperate! I am a firm believer in practicing something until you figure out a way to make it work so my best advice for starting out is to pick a few easy to start plants such as zucchini, pumpkins, lettuce, radishes or peas and see if they work. You can always go to the garden store later to grab a few pre-started plants if you seeds don’t work out.
Here are some excellent resources for your seed starting adventures!
A large list of seed starting resources.
This is a great list of vegetables that do well when started indoors and tips for growing them.
This is a great how-to for setting up your lighting system to maximize seed health.
A great article breaking down into detail how to start your seeds.
A great piece about how to pre-germinate your seeds prior to planting them for optimal health.
This article talks about the different ways to start your seeds.
Thinking of mixing you own soil? This is a great resource.
Use these instructions to make eco-friendly newspaper pots to start your seeds in.
A comprehensive list of what you will need for seed starting.
How to start tomatoes successfully.
One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the […]
We have had a super busy summer and I was really bummed that we missed the July blueberry picking season. Our bushes are only a couple of years old and don’t produce anywhere near enough berries for us to freeze. They were eagerly eaten every […]
Summer is upon us and the vegetable garden is in full swing. My pumpkins have taken over the garden space and the spaghetti squash is not far behind it. The kids and I are harvesting berries, green beans and squash every other day. I have been blanching and freezing small batches of green beans a couple of times a week since we have an over abundance of produce at the moment. It is wonderful to have fresh produce from the garden every day! I have already noticed a reduction in our grocery bill.
I went to go take pictures of the bush beans we have been harvesting and I discovered that we had eaten most of them! There are still some smaller ones left that should ripen in the next week or two but then we will be done with green beans until our pole beans start to produce some time in the next few weeks.
We only have two pumpkins so far but this one is gigantic. I have been excitedly watching it grow over the past few weeks and my daughter finally got a good look at it the other day. We have decided that it is wonderful even if it doesn’t ripen. We will still carve it green!
There are several spaghetti squash in various stages of growth around the garden. They are definitely an exercise in patience! Spaghetti squash is a family favorite and they seem to be taking forever to ripen. Our very first one is just starting to turn yellow so I am hoping we can harvest it soon. We will be curing most of them so we can eat them in the winter but I want to try one this summer for sure!
I planted some radishes a few weeks ago and they are growing nicely. I completely forgot to write down when they popped up so I could keep track of when they would be ready to pick but I will be thinning them this week so I can check on their progress then.
They are kind of hard to see but my daughter and I planted our bottle gourd seedlings last weekend. They are doing well in their new space, crammed in front of some squash plants and an errant pumpkin vine. I will definitely need to plant pumpkins somewhere else next year. They take up way too much space!
Our pole beans finally seem to be getting some legs on them. I checked them again yesterday and one of them is already a couple of feet taller than our tepee so I will have to figure out a solution for that soon.
My ground cherry plant that I spent many months hoping would germinate and then carefully keeping healthy under the grow light has a couple of ripe fruits! My daughter was very excited to eat the first couple of them. Our volunteer ground cherries are doing well and have some of the largest fruits I have seen, some are the size of a large grape.
We have two cucumbers. They aren’t very long but they are definitely fat! We ate the larger one last night and it was delicious! I will probably harvest the other one in the next day or two. I double checked our seed packet and the cucumbers are supposed to grow to 10 inches but this particular plant had several female blossoms shrivel up so I think it can’t support too many large cucumbers at once. I have read it is better to harvest them to encourage new fruit. Our cucumber vines are still pretty small at this point but I am a little nervous for how many they will produce later in the summer!
I thought I would also post a more general picture of the garden. We have had a ton of growth since the last time I posted one. Our tomatoes are coming along nicely but our broccoli is still struggling. I am going to plant seed starts indoors ASAP for a fall/winter crop. Adding the lavender plants to our garden has really helped with pollination. Our marigolds all got eaten by slugs but I am sure we will have more next year since I think they are self-seeding. We are having a huge problem with both crows and squirrels eating a majority of the squash blossoms but it hasn’t really affected our yellow zucchini or spaghetti squash production so I am not too worried about it. They are mostly eating the male blossoms so we aren’t able to harvest and eat any but honestly we haven’t had time anyways.
I am really glad we planted such a large vegetable garden this year! I am excited for more veggies to come! What is going on in your garden this week?
We have had a busy week in the garden! Lots of flowers are in bloom and we spent many hours pulling ivy along the property lines in anticipation of our fence measure this week. We are very close to being done with the fence line […]
This week not a lot got done in the garden besides watering and weeding. We had a busy week with the oldest daughter graduating from high school and Father’s Day so we were pretty occupied. We spent a lot of time doing maintenance type stuff […]
We have had some excitement in the garden this week. Our plants are continuing to grow super fast from our week of excellent sun and we harvested our first few strawberries. I got some more seedlings planted and we spent quite a bit of time weeding and cleaning up the back yard. Whew. It was a lot of work but well worth it in the end.
Our first ripe strawberries happened this week. Our daughter ate a few of them but the rest were stolen by our thieving squirrel. I had to chase him off twice and just now when I went out to turn on the soaker hose I discovered he had left a half ripe one on the sidewalk. Luckily we are all strawberried out from picking them last weekend so our daughter didn’t even notice. Usually she is way more on top of that sort of thing.
The lettuce in the top of our strawberry tower continues to flourish and our three year old continues to be the only one eating it. She spends most of her time in the front yard randomly telling me she is going to eat a piece and then running over there and chowing down. It is awesome because she will not eat lettuce in the house. We haven’t been eating a lot of salad lately and I honestly prefer romaine lettuce but I should really pick some of it so we can eat it. Maybe I will put some in my salad next week. I need to buy more seeds so I can do some succession planting. I have a long planter I want to fill with a variety of lettuce but just haven’t gotten around to.
Our apple tree has a couple of apples. I was really surprised since we planted it only a year ago. I thinned a few of the smaller ones but I am on the fence about the remaining ones. I have heard conflicting information about whether to leave apples on the tree before the third year and honestly I haven’t had time to look it up again to double check. So far of the 5 varieties on our combination tree the only two with fruit are the Gravenstein and the Gala. I will probably end up removing them. I think we also need to prune back our tree a bit since it is a little leggy so I will definitely have to read up on my apple tree care this week!
Our bush beans are doing well. I thinned them a bit after I took this picture but I am still having a hard time ripping seedlings out since they are all so healthy. I know that they will be too crowded though so eventually we will be down to about 4 based on the space available in the bed. I will continue to pull a couple out every week until we are at a good number.
Our carrots are doing ok. They are finally growing a little bit but not super fast. We didn’t have much luck with these seeds last year. There is a lot of room in this bed so I may grow some fast growing plants such as radishes on the edges while the beans and carrots grow since I am running out of room in my garden. I have heard that is a way to increase your crop yield but it may need more soil amending than I am ready to do.
Our broccoli seems to be having a hard time getting started. All of our seedlings are still small and a little leggy so I may start some other plants inside for crop succession since we eat a lot of broccoli. I am just really short on time and a little concerned that the garden will get away from me if I plant too much.
The luffa plants are in the ground with their trellis and doing well. I may have to guide them towards the trellis with some string but they have grown a couple of inches since I planted them a week ago which is fabulous!
So I am only partially certain these are both cucumbers. We may have mixed up our seedlings since I only labeled the front of the rows and I didn’t warn my husband when he brought me some and then I may have forgotten and mixed them up even further but hey, it will be a nice surprise later? I don’t have enough trellises so I planted these two along the fence hoping they would grow up the fence if they needed more space. I am quickly realizing we need a much bigger garden if we are to grow the amount of food I want to.
Our green beans are starting to come up under our tepee and I am really excited about it. The little kids are going to have a ton of fun sitting in there while I garden sneaking fresh green beans. I really with I had room for a bigger crop of green beans so that we could freeze a bunch but maybe next year.
Our squash continue to do well. The zucchini is really taking off. I was slightly crazy and planted my last zucchini plant so we have four total with a couple of yellow squash and possibly some spaghetti squash. That is a lot of squash for us. I put some Mylar firecracker decorations in the squash and pumpkin beds because I suspect the squirrel is eating some of the blossoms. I did some research and Mylar strips are supposed to keep both birds and squirrels out and we happened to be at the craft store and saw these with the Fourth of July decorations. They are pretty garish but I love them. Hopefully they work.
Both our Shortcake and our mystery raspberries are doing well. We have a number of berries on the larger variety and I am hoping I will be able to freeze some of them.
The blueberries continue to look delicious. I am really excited to eat them later this year!
My gigantic Hydrangea bushes in the front are covered in blossoms. They seem to have grown at least two feet in the last month as well and I can no longer get even close to trimming them back to a decent height. I am pretty sure I will be majorly chopping these back this year and probably won’t get any blossoms on them next year but I am ok with that because they are completely taking over the space and it is going to be a nightmare trimming all of those flowers. Last year there were probably a third of the blossoms and I spent several hours a week deadheading these bushes alone.
I thought I would post a picture of our small herb garden. We planted Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano and Sage last year. They Rosemary didn’t make it through the winter and I have yet to buy another plant. For some reason I keep not liking the ones I see in the store or they are tiny. We also have some garlic in there that we planted last spring that probably should have been harvested. I will probably pull one up at the end of the summer and see how they are doing. We are going to have to redo this section after a little bit since the plants are starting to crowd together.
I think the next few weeks will be interesting as the garden really starts to take off with the nicer weather. We are planning on removing all of the ivy in the back by mid-July so we can install our back fence. We have made some progress but there is quite a bit of it and we haven’t had time with all of the end of the school year stuff going on. I also really need to weed the side yards and start trimming all of the bushes that tend to overgrow. I need to move or find homes for several bushes in order to put the fence in and that will take some time as well.
What’s happening in your garden this week?
A few days ago I posted about our strawberry picking and how we froze and dried the berries. We have been snacking on the dried berries all week and they are delicious! On top of drying and freezing our berries we also made two batches […]