Saturday, March 3, 2012

Getting ready for spring.

Egg cartons as seedling containers.
It's that time of year again, when the days are getting warmer, and the nights are still cold but not quite as cold as they used to be. There are surely a few nights that dip down mighty chilly, but for the most part we're in an upward temperature trend. Next week our neighborhood is supposed to reach the mid-50s! That means it's time to really start looking at what seeds need to be started indoors. By mid-April, only six weeks away, we'll be putting some plants outside, and by the end of April we'll be planting things right in our new raised beds (that aren't yet built LOL).

Your friendly Freehold author.
Yesterday and earlier today we picked up quite a few of the remaining seeds required for indoor planting. The tomatoes are sitting in the window, hopefully ready to spring up any second, though there's nothing poking through just yet. I suspect it's still cool for them, though I decided not to pull out the heating pad to force their germination. We'll see what happens in another week. All the herbs that were planted are doing great, though, and coming up gangbusters. It's almost time to re-plant them into slightly larger pots, in order to encourage them to be a bit hardier when it comes time to stick them outside.

Egg cartons vs. commercial pots.
I've been saving up our egg cartons for months now, in preparation for spring planting. Here you can see the egg cartons filled with dirt, alongside some commercial pots that hubby got me today at Big Lots. They look almost the same, although the egg cartons use a bit less dirt. For seed starting, they're GREAT. The girl twin and I spent a half hour filling several egg cartons and several commercial pots with good potting soil that was pre-moistened by me. Then I set about compressing the soil just enough to be a good medium for holding flower and herb seeds.

Making holes for marigolds.
I started out by putting a couple of holes into each commercial pot using a pencil. I was planting marigolds first, and they have to be planted the right way up (the tufty end should point up, the pointy end down), and so its easier to get them in the right direction if you drop them in a little hole. After filling the holes, I scrabbled a bit of dirt over them, and they were done (30 pots filled). I then moved on to Shasta daisies (12 pots), cosmos (12 pots), snapdragons (10 pots), and petunias (22 pots). Hopefully they'll all flower beautifully and in a few weeks we'll have perfect little plants to put out into our flower garden!

Green peppers in egg cartons.
I also got a start on some other things as well. I started six green pepper plants, 2 sage plants (common), and 4 sweet basil plants. I have genovese basil for later on, but that's a direct sow basil rather than one to start in pots indoors. I can't wait to see all the little green heads popping up and greeting me each morning as I water them! I'm more than ready for spring to be here, and if the snow would just melt, I'd get myself outdoors and start turning over the sod and preparing the sites for the soon-to-be raised beds! I did get new tools: a hoe, a metal rake, and a spading fork, all designed to make the working of the garden a real treat this year.

My "greenhouses" for herbs and flowers.
I don't have the luxury of a greenhouse, and this year the porch is not prepared to hold plants this early (just screens with no plastic covering them means the porch is not the least bit warm and is often colder than "outside"). I'm not giving up, though. I have used cleaned and sanitized deli chicken containers as mini-greenhouses, and I am also now using clear plastic bins from WalMart. We had been using these to store our Christmas decorations, but switched to a much sturdier box for that this year when things got put away. The clear boxes (somewhat cracked in places, and not quite up to holding heavy stacks of things anymore) are just perfect as mid-size indoor greenhouses, and they're stackable to boot! Because they're waterproof, I can pour the water down the side of the container, thereby watering my precious seedlings from the bottom, as they should be.

I'm excited and happy to have had my fingers dirty today. There's a smell of fresh dirt in the house that just makes me smile. Even though it will be a week or more before I see any of the results of today's work, I know the potential lies dormant in those little cells of soil. That is REAL magic at work, folks.