Thursday, March 22, 2012

Green thumb

I have an intermittently green thumb, which is to say that I can usually keep things alive until I forget to water them for three weeks. I have imbibed a lot of growing theory, however, and that's good for starting seeds, at least.

This also means I have a massive stash of old seeds from back when I pooh-poohed the fact that we live in the woods and that makes growing vegetables here something of an exercise in futility. Hey, hope springs eternal. It's been unseasonably warm this spring, so I've decided to try growing some things again. It's a mixture of new seeds, seeds gleaned from previous plantings, and old seeds that may no longer be viable.

I long ago invested in lots of expensive seed starting equipment, but this year I decided to go frugal. Because really, all one needs is some seed starting mix (or sphagnum moss) and something to put it in. And I don't see the point in spending lots of money on peat pots or buying a tool to make pots out of newspaper, when there is such a thing as origami. Yes, origami.  Specifically, this design of box made with a single sheet of newspaper cut to an 8.5in square, for a finished box that's a 2in open cube.

Fill the boxes with seed starting mix on a tray and water them well, plant the seeds and label them, and wait. That's what I did on the 12th, and this is what I have today.

That's Banquo horning in on the picture.  The bean seeds were in bad shape with mold and such, but they're leaping out of the moss mixture like they're turbocharged. Some of the basil has sprouted and so has the chervil. I've noticed a little bit of mold here and there, so I'm watering less in hopes that I don't get root rot. That's killed off my seedlings in the past and I'm going to be vigilant about it.

I take the trays out on the warm and sunny days both so the warmth from the sun can stimulate the seeds to sprouting, but also so the sun can hopefully keep the mold at bay. My labeling system leaves something to be desired, but I've repaired that for the second go around.

More under the cut, including progress pictures. 

See, the green beans and broad beans are so very eager to grow that they made me want to plant more. And we have almost a dozen different tomato seeds from ages ago (by ages I mean over 7 years). Who knows if they'll even sprout? So, despite the fact that we're in the woods, today I planted tomatoes. Also more broad and green beans, some chili pepper seeds, and some catnip. The chili peppers are from a shrub we had in a pot for ages that finally got killed off by leaving it out too far into the fall. Hopefully we can resurrect it with Chili Junior.

The new tray is extra flimsy and much larger, with higher sides. The higher sides should mean it dries out more slowly, but the plastic is so limp that the tray isn't very sturdy even with two trays nested. I wouldn't get these trays again. Still, it holds thirty-four 2in boxes easily.

Folding the boxes is pretty straightforward, especially if one cuts out all the squares with a paper cutter first. 8.5in per side for a 2in box. For a 1.5in box, cut the paper to 6.4in. For a 2.5in box, cut the paper to 10.6in. etc. But I like 2in boxes because they're big enough for more than one seed, but small enough that if only one sprouts it's no big deal.

Filling the boxes one by one is a bit tedious, but they're quite sturdy enough for it. If one dumps the mix over top of the whole tray, there ends up being a lot of soil mix between the pots because the tray is circular.

I like watering it well before I plant the seeds; if the planting mixture is the least bit dry it likes to float away and I don't want it carrying seeds off. Then I labeled the pots and planted the seeds, smoothing dampened soil mix on top and sprinkling with more water to make sure they were well watered in, but not leaving the pots sitting in water. In finding the old seeds, we also found the stash of tongue depressors, so those went to labeling this batch. They seem absurdly tall, right now!

We're going away in the middle of April (China! So excited!) so I have to decide if the plants are big enough to go in the ground before we leave, or if they can last those two weeks in the starter pots until I get back.  I suspect I'll opt to plant when I get back, and have the person who's coming in to feed the cats water them once in a while. Planting them outside and then disappearing for 2 weeks doesn't seem like a good idea.

Here's a picture of Banquo after he decided that me playing with seeds was entirely uninteresting. Quite unlike Mynah who insisted on sitting on top of the seed packets while I was trying to plant!

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