Saturday, March 3, 2012

Seed Starting for Zombies

Every year as seed catalogs catalogs arrive I fantasize about starting seeds indoors. Maybe I'll turn the unfinished room in the basement where I make worm compost into an indoor potting shed, complete with grow lights and a multi-tiered plant stand. I'll add some funky furniture, cool music, and munch microgreens all winter long.

Photo Credit

I can fit this into my basement. No problem!
  
But the problems with my plan begin as soon as my alarm goes off at 5:45 am. Zombies move faster in the morning than I do. I do not hop, pop, or jump out of bed but slowly ascend into wakefulness with the focused intensity of a giant sloth. I stumble towards the kitchen in a daze with only one goal in mind: coffee and lots of it. Despite my fantasy of having a mini-greenhouse in the basement the probability of remembering to turn on the grow lights early in the morning is doubtful, at best. Since relocating the coffee pot to the basement seems ludicrous, I'd have to bring the greenhouse to the coffee pot.



 A warm corner next to the coffee pot and toaster seemed like a perfect spot for a tabletop grow light system like this one from Gardeners Supply. I could wade through my morning vat of coffee while also checking on my seeds. But of course, the available space is only 22 inches high while the system above is almost 26 inches high. Detemined to start my seeds early, it was time to get creative.


It looks weird but it works!

 Who needs a pricey tabletop greenhouse when you have bricks, clamp lights, a few bottles of wine, an asparagus steamer and a paint stirrer?


I bought two grow lights and despite having read that I could use them with a regular lamp, was seriously worried I'd come home to a smoldering pile of ash if I employed a lamp built for a 60 watt bulb to light a 150 watt bulb.



I bought two clamp lights designed for the Agrosun lights and clamped one on a bottle of wine balanced on a soup can in an asparagus steamer full of sand. I raised the height of the steamer with bricks and catalogs/magazines.  


The second light was attached to a wine bottle partially buried in a solid ceramic pot full of sand. I buried a brick  and a paint stirrer to help stabilize the wine bottle and tied together two newspaper delivery bags to keep the bottle from leaning forward too much. I tucked the ends of the bags under the pot. I'm planning on putting a dwarf water plant in the pot this spring since it doesn't have a drainage hole. If the pot doesn't drain, then I'll give it a plant that likes to be wet.



Four seed trays are kept warm on an old towel covering a marble pastry board and a huge wooden carving board. I'll turn the lights on when I get up and turn them off when I get home. Easy!


These trays were cheap and came with coco fiber pellets and a capillary mat. They're the perfect size for my little greenhouse.



I'm starting ground cherry and salpiglosis seeds.Ground cherries are delicious little fruits that have been described as the love child between a tomato and a pineapple. I learned about them from Bumble Lush. They look like little tomatillos.


I've never grown salpiglosis before but they're so beautiful I thought I'd give them a try. The name sounds like either a disease or an odd body part. I'm not sure its common name of 'Painted Tongue' is much better. 

 



I soaked both kinds of seeds overnight before sowing them. The salpiglosis seeds are super tiny. I used a piece of dry fettucine to help me plant them so they wouldn't stick to my fingers. They need to be sown on the surface and then kept in the dark. 


 

I used a piece of the original packaging to cover the seeds and then covered both trays with a kitchen towel. Once the seeds germinate, I'll take off the cardboard and the towel.


Two of the trays of seeds were started using the coco fiber pellets that came with the kits while the other two were started using No Damp Off, a product I found at our garden center. I'm curious to see which growing medium works the best. It's 100% Wisconsin spaghum moss.



It was very easy to work with, especially with my Ultra Fabulous Gardening Fettucine.


41 comments:

  1. Well, quite a creative way to build your own green house :-)! Hope it will work like a charm. The salpiglosis are so beautiful. They are certainly worth a little extra effort. Can't wait to seem them blooming in your garden!
    Christina

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    1. I bet salpiglosis would do well for you in the winter. I'm a little worried about how they'll handle our hot/humid summers but thought I'd give it a try anyway. If my 'greenhouse' came as a kit, I doubt anyone would buy it! :o)

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  2. Well you sure went to an awful lot of trouble, but I can't say I blame you. I hope it all works out well and you have lots of plants.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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    1. It was fun! I felt like I was putting a Rube Goldberg machine together.

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  3. I love it!....coffee and seeds! When I started my seeds in my basement I put them on a timer. It worked perfectly! I am curious if no damp off works any better growing the seeds. Please let us know what you discover.

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    1. Putting them on a timer didn't occur to me until I was typing this post. :o) Plus, I wanted to be able to see them all the time. I've lost seedlings to damping off before so I really hope that stuff works.

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  4. Oh. My. Goodness. The creativity, resourcefulness, time spent, and sheer wackiness you display in building your seed starter station is breath taking. I never would have come up with this system... I would have stumbled down to the basement every morning and turned the lights on (or found a timer). This rig would make me chuckle with every pour of coffee, and that's an added benefit of having seeds on the countertop :-)

    I love those salpiglosis --- gorgeous colors!

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  5. That is the best compliment!! I'll take wacky any day! :o) What's hysterical is that it occurred to me to stick a soup can in an asparagus steamer, add a wine bottle and fill it all with sand, but it didn't occur to me to get a timer. I think I just didn't want to spend so much time in the basement.

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  6. You are truly resourceful!! Not sure my husband would appreciate the kitchen counter covered with seed trays. Love the 'Little Friends', what a pretty bloom!

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    1. This is a relatively unused corner so it was easy to claim it for my seeds. I really hope the 'Little Friends' grow. They're so pretty. :o)

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  7. I've always wondered how people manage to keep plants in the basement without forgetting about them. Love your set up next to the coffee, you'll be able to keep an eye on those seedlings regularly and it'll be a welcome sight first thing in the morning.

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    1. By keeping the seeds in the kitchen, which is open to most of the main floor, I can see them all the time. Plants plus coffee are the perfect welcoming committee to make any morning more bearable.

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  8. That is one of the most inventive things I have ever seen. If it works, you ought to patent that idea. I've spent many a happy hour growing plants from seed. I grow mine on windowsills, but I always run out of windows.

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    1. Thanks!! My windows are treated with heat reflecting film so not enough light comes through for plants to grow.

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  9. I bought the cossack pineapples from Southern Exposure, too. Good luck - I've read that they are toxic to dogs so be sure to keep them separated! Sadly, the squirrels or the moles got to my newly planted seeds but I'm sure they'll be fine.

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    1. Oh my gosh! Thanks soooo much for that info about dogs! I'll be sure to locate them in a spot where my dogs can't get to them. I'm growing mine in pots so I have a bit of flexibility about that. You're a lifesaver! Literally!!! :o)

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  10. I always just start my seeds outside in April. Plants just hate the inside of my house. I feel your pain in the morning. It always takes forever for me to wake up too.

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    1. It's been a very long time since I started seeds inside so it's all a big experiment. The last time I started seeds I lost a lot to damping off. :(

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  11. Nice work! You've been busy! I haven't started my seeds yet. Maybe next weekend...I can't wait to see how those ground cherries turn out.

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    1. In order to get one healthy seedling, I planted over 40 seeds. If I end up with a bunch of ground cherry seedlings, I'll have to find them homes!

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  12. Wow!!! That's quite the process!! I hope they turn out. Good luck on your experiment. Sounds like we need to marry a rich spouse to have that Greenhouse we've always dreamed of:) LOL!! I'll keep my eyes open, until then...keep us posted and how it all turns out. All my best. Chris

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    1. I married for love instead of money. What the heck was I thinking?? ;o) The closest I'll ever come to a greenhouse is the one at our local garden center, but that's ok.

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  13. Wow, you've been busy! I can't wait to see all your plants growing. The Salpiglosis flowers are so bright and colorful. Good luck!

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    1. I was surprised by how long it took to set up the lights and trays and sow all the teensy seeds. But it was fun!

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  14. Hope you get lots of flowers after all that creativity and hard work. It makes me feel very spoilt and very lazy. I just put the seed trays in the shadehouse (not greenhouse) and water them if it doesn't rain. Our problem here is usually too much heat rather than not enough.

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    1. I definitely have admired your shadehouse from afar!! I wish I could just stick cuttings in a tub of water like you do. It would make gardening much cheaper!

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  15. PS Tammy thank you for telling me about the iris 'Barbara Walther'! I am going to write and ask Laeitia Munro (who works in the display gardens there) if she thinks my iris could be that one.

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  16. You are very determined and creative! My alarm goes off at 5AM, and I totally identify with the zombie feeling. I also agree that Salpiglosis sounds dreadful. This pretty plant needs a new name! Good luck with your seedlings!

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  17. Our household really enjoys its zombies so this post caught my eye in a hurry! Very curious to hear how the No Damp Off works.

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  18. Omg, you are my hero - a girl McGyver! So happy to see your set up. Gives me ideas for next winter. What if you put a large piece of foil (bbq size) and taped it to the cabinets to make a flap to keep the light in? Keep us posted on production.

    BTW, the rose is F.J.Lindheimer from Antique Rose Emporium.

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  19. Wine and gardening go together in many ways, but I think I'm in love with your creative use of wine bottles. Well done! :)

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  20. That green house is amazing! .....I guess only in my dreams:) I can't wait to see how all of your seeds turn out. You inspire me to run out and buy some seed packets. Last year I did sunflower seeds in my kitchen and then put them out on my table on the deck....maybe for an hour or so and some squirrel came right along and ate the heads off each plant! You motivate me to try again:)

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  21. I love your creativity, not to mention you've inspired me with another use for a wine bottle..hehe! I too will be sowing in my kitchen, fighting for counter space. Love what you've done and can't wait to see what gorgeous blooms await...Cheers Julia =)

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  22. This year due to the move I won't be starting any seeds boo hoo. The family will be relieved not to have the family room smelling like a greenhouse. I like them in there so I can talk to them and encourage them to grow.
    My Great Uncle Alan was a professional horticulturist. He probably started millions of plants from seed over the course of his life. Of course he had a commercial greenhouse.
    He was born deaf and horticulture was considered an appropriate occupation at the School for the Deaf he was sent to in the 1930's. I always think of him as I place a tiny little seed into the soil.

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  23. I have some similar arrangements but my hubby made those for me :-). You have been really creative :-).

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  24. Good girl, you've been BUSY. I adore the ground cherries that I got from Seed Saver's Exchange. They taste wonderful and are great in salsas. Yum.

    Thanks for trying to post a comment on my Lowe's blog. Technical difficulties? I sent your comment along to them.

    Happy growing,

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

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  25. I love your pretty green counter tops. Your makeshift greenhouse, although not quite like the pictured dreamy orangerie that we'd all love to have, is darn clever. I've grown, with success, ground cherries. They are a lot of fun and highly addictive! :) Great job.

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  26. Salpiglossis is such a wonderful old fashioned annual... I'm sure you'll love them! Thanks for visiting my site today... Larry

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  27. For me, all the gardeners who grow plants from seeds are heroes! I got lazy... Good luck!

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