One Year of Blogging Done! Last weekend was the one year anniversary of Oscoey. I can’t believe how quickly the last year has gone! I have learned a lot about blogging over the past year and gotten to know many fabulous bloggers as well. […]
Meal Planning to Save Time and Money I have heard of the wonderful idea called meal planning many times over the past few years and every time I read a post about it I love the idea of having all of our meals planned […]
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.
We have come to the end of our Uber Frugal Month Challenge and we were pretty successful! We kept to our super low grocery budget, were mindful about our purchases and had some great discussions about where we want our life to head and what […]
Usually this time of year I start looking over our finances for the year, project our income a year ahead and start setting some goals for the year. I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions because I am not great at following through with them but I am good at setting some goals for our finances for the next year and achieving a reasonable number of them. This year however everything is up in the air. I am attempting to go back to work in the next couple of months and I am not sure of what my final salary will be. Since I am a pretty precise planner and a little suspicious of counting on future income that may not exist I am hesitant to put numbers down for some of the goals I have in mind. My job search has been pretty wide and I have time so I am making sure that I find something I will love and is a good fit.
That being said, everyone should review their “numbers” at the end of the year and formulate a rough outline of where you want your finances to head in the next year.
I can’t emphasis this enough. One of the best things I did for our finances was to start looking ahead towards the end of the year (and beyond) and plan out roughly where our money would go for the year. Originally most of our goals were about paying down our debt but now that most of that has been paid off and we have moved into a bigger house needing constant work I focus on planning out our house/garden projects, how much we will put into savings and how we are going to pay off our remaining debt.
Last year when I sat down and looked things over our goals consisted of paying off our car (check), paying off our credit cards (check, sort of), and putting a bunch of money into savings (not so great). We also planned on several smaller house projects and the gigantic one of putting up a fence so that dogs and kids could roam free.
Our gigantic fence project was completely derailed by the cutting down of more trees that were extra expensive and by the water pipe that burst in our front yard in the early fall. We did however redo our pantry, replace our entire chimney cap, update the main bathroom, paint some walls/windowsills that badly needed it, replace light fixtures for ones that use less energy, buy a fridge for the garage, purchase garden supplies to grow our own food and paint our son’s closet. Whew. It looks like a lot when I write that all out! Most of our projects were very small and done on the cheap over a weekend or two. We had two of the 5 trees taken down that needed to be removed for safety. We chose the two worst ones and I am really glad we took care of it. One of them was very close to falling and would have hit our house directly in the center causing a large amount of damage. The three remaining trees are so close together that they have to be taken out all at once since their branches are intertwined.
Our expenses for next year will change dramatically when I get a job and with school costs for all three kids (independent of the job). I am still not quite sure what the final numbers will be. Needless to say, I am a little more hesitant to set firm goals this year with so many changes looming.
I am a firm believer in setting some goals you know you can achieve by following your plan, some goals that are just enough out of reach that you have to consciously work at them and some goals that are a challenge and require regular sacrifice and ingenuity to achieve.
For next year our tentative goals are:
1. Pay off the remaining balance on our student loan.
This goal is one of our easy ones, as long as we stick to the plan! I set up our payments at the beginning of 2017 so that our student loan will be paid off by December of 2018 so as long as we continue our automatic payments we should achieve this one! My stretch goal is to pay off our student loan by the end of April with our tax return but it isn’t set in stone yet.
2. Pay off our credit cards.
We met our goal of paying off our credit cards and keeping them paid every month for most of 2017 but we ended up choosing to put the water pipe on our credit card since it came up unexpectedly and we had already used our yearly home improvement funds for other projects. Yes, we could have used our emergency fund for it but with so many uncertainties coming up at the start of the year we decided to take on the debt. We should meet this goal for sure by mid-year or sooner if we apply ourselves and put all of my excess salary towards it.
3. Bulk up our emergency fund.
Sadly our emergency fund is a little lighter than we would like at the end 2017. We had a lot of large expenses and focused on paying down debt versus saving so we did not put as much in there as I would have liked. Our goal is to save up at least one more month’s worth of money in our general emergency fund next year. Ideally we would save up two months worth but with everything else that would be our stretch goal for sure!
4. Invest as much as possible!
Yes, this is a very vague goal! There are so many what ifs that I have no idea how much we will be able to put into our newly opened Vanguard account. I have it set up to put a small amount in there every month but I am hoping for more!
5. Continue to work on the house.
Yay, another vague goal! We do have plans to cut down the remaining three trees that need cutting in the back and building some sort of woodshed for all of the wood we will be cutting. We also need to replace our hot water heater, fix the master bathroom faucet (already have most of the parts), and add/replace fans to the bathrooms and laundry room. Everything else will have to depend on if we have enough in the budget for it and time to get it done. We need to finish painting window trim (should already have the paint), do touch up paint on a couple of random areas, paint our daughter’s closet, and continue to replace outlets as we have time. All of those projects are small and can be done as needed. There is also the possibility of repainting the living room but that will be very time consuming and expensive and it might take us at least one more year to get around to it. The trees, fans and hot water heater are our priority for next year for sure!
I have way more ideas and what if goals in my head but for now these five goals will have to do! I am excited for next year. We met a lot of our goals last year and have been working hard at reducing our spending, being mindful of what we buy and trying reduce our food waste. I will be growing another garden in 2018 and my mother-in-law gave me a bunch of seeds for Christmas so I won’t have to buy many this year.
What are your goals for next year?
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 […]