Saturday, March 1, 2014

Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained: Adventures in Seed Sowing


Have you ever been asked that absurd question of if you had three wishes, what would you wish for? I can never answer because not only is the question ridiculous but the possibilities are too immense. World peace? Of course. A global commitment to protecting the Earth. Yes. Calorie free brownies that don't taste like cardboard. Definitely. But what I really want is a greenhouse. 


In the UK greenhouses seem as ubiquitous as giant, bloated cars are in the United States.  Here they are rare creatures, indeed. But lacking the boat load of money required to have one built or the handy skills to build one myself, I have to fall back on my main talents: absolute determination and a large supply of tin foil.

My Greenhouses



Under all this aluminum fabulousness, are several annuals and a tomato. T5 grow lights hang suspended from the green cords. These shelves in my basement hold my kids old toys and games.
  

I plant my seeds directly into large plastic cups with holes burned into the bottom with a hot screwdriver tip that I've heated on the stove. This gives them plenty of room to develop strong root systems. I also makes it easy to write the name of the seeds on the cup to avoid confusion. Gomphrena need darkness to germinate so I experimented by covering one cup with newspaper and one cup with foil. The seeds in the newspaper covered cup germinated very quickly while the other cup only has a few seedlings. Bronze fennel grows next to the gomphrena.


I think the germination rate on the ammi and scarlet flax must be close to 100%. Both groups of seedlings have already been thinned heavily. I have the lights very low for the plants that like full sun and higher for those that need partial shade so I don't burn the seedlings.


Growing my seeds in large cups also reduces the need for repeated transplanting. I'll eventually separate this into two groups of seedlings and keep them in their cups until it's time to plant them outside. As the plants grow larger, I'll add a cheap plastic tray to the bottom to keep them watered. Right now, I just mist them with a spray bottle.


This seed starter is much lighter than regular potting soil.



I crimp the top to increase the heat and keep the light from diffusing into the basement. In late April, I'll be setting up more greenhouses to start the nine different types of zinnias I'm growing this year.



Ammi majus isn't commonly grown here but seeds are found at better garden centers. I planted a tiny seedling in too much shade last year and it died but not before being devoured by a fat happy caterpillar. I am absolutely determined to grow it again.

The Weirdness



Last year I grew my seeds on my kitchen counter in a makeshift greenhouse constructed from clamp lights attached to gravel filled wine bottles stuffed into sand filled containers. I shrouded the entire thing in foil and the plants thrived. But it took up a lot of space and worked best with seeds sown in tiny pots. With one light currently pressed into service to keep my basil alive all winter, I still had one light available.


So I made another tin foil greenhouse.


By wrapping three sides in foil, I can direct the light and heat onto the plants. By wrapping four sides in foil, I can burn the house down. 


I have two cups of Mortgage Lifter tomatoes under the clamp light and one cup under the other grow lights. Another experiment? But of course! I just can't resist.

Winter Sowing

I tried winter sowing last year and was only mildly successful. There were some complete disasters, but that's life. Of the plants that died, I think the main problem was a lack of drainage and not enough container depth to allow for strong root development. But some plants may have died from sheer spite. I never rule that out.

So this year I tried again with a different approach. Most winter sowing is done in large milk jugs or soda bottles. But since we don't drink much soda and only buy milk in small containers, I decided to use what I had: lots of empty pots. I also decided to only grow plants that tend to self-sow. Nothing makes you feel more successful than growing plants that don't need your help.


These pots are full of seeds! The pot in the front is full of ammi majus, which has a big taproot and dislikes being transplanted. I'm growing ammi under grow lights, too, but am hoping the winter sown ammi germinates so I have extras to give away to friends. By sowing the plants directly into the pots they'll grow in, I won't have to disturb their roots by transplanting them. These pots are full of ammi, parsley, and rudbeckia hirta (black eyed susans) 



The smaller pot is full of parsley seeds while the pot in the middle has linaria 'Fairy Bouquet'. It's already started to sprout! I grow a lot of parsley for the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars native to this area.


I filled the pots with moist potting soil and then topped them with a few inches of extra seed starting soil. I added thin branches from a recently pruned shrub to hold up the plastic. This pot is full of more bronze fennel seeds. I'm hoping to have lots of plants to give away. Bronze fennel attracts many beneficial insects and is a main food source for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.


I bought a super cheapo plastic drop cloth that I cut into pieces to cover my pots. I used the lighter to heat up the screwdriver tip so I could poke holes in the plastic. The tip is red from poking holes in all my red cups.


When I ran out of skinny branches, I used bamboo stakes.


I covered them with plastic, secured the plastic with a bungy cord and then poked holes to allow heat to escape and moisture to enter.


I tried the milk jug method one more time. In case you weren't sure, this jug contains malva 'Zebrina'. But considering the amazing camouflage provided by my duct tape, I'm surprised you can see this jug at all.


This picture was taken Nov. 1, 2013. By the end of the summer the malva was three feet tall. Even as the rest of the garden went dormant, it soldiered on.



It's also known as French hollyhock, although I'm not sure if the French are aware of that. 


Native American mason bee on the French hollyhocks. Apparently, this pollen is served on very small plates and pairs well with a crisp baguette and stinky cheese.

76 comments:

  1. Hahahaha. Love the last photo and thoughts about the bee's "feast"! I've never warmed to the idea of grow lights (sorry for the pun) and pots and messing around with seed-starting inside--mainly because of my crazy cats! But I'm experimenting more and more with winter sowing. I LOVE your idea of using pots!!!!! I think I will try that--maybe even this year. Thanks!

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    1. Your pun made me smile! :o) I'm really looking forward to seeing how the pot idea works. I think it's going to be a winner. The linaria thrives in cooler weather, which explains why it's already sprouting. But it might poop out on me by mid-summer. I'll just have to see!

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  2. You do have determined streak! I have not sown seeds like that since I lived in England! A useful tip for transplants is to sow in something that can be planted, like peat pots or cardboard tubes (toilet rolls, etc). I have been known to make rough papier mache containers, moulded over pudding basins. A thinned 50/50 pva and water mix helps them hold together and the whole thing can be planted out.
    I do hope your zinnias thrive and that you'll post lots of pics.Zinnias struggle in this climate and if they don't succomb to rust or mold they are gobbled by bugs. sigh...

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    1. I am ridiculously, patiently determined to accomplish things that are important to me. I just refuse to give up. Zinnias are really easy to grow here but I can't put the seedlings out until it's fairly warm. You papier mache idea sounds really cool. I have something similar called Cowpots, which are made from composted cow manure.

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  3. Such good ideas. So do you plant your porch containers by seed instead of purchasing sets or pteed plants? Something that I have long wanted to do, but never had the nerve.

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    1. What's a pteed plant? My containers ( I have 75!) are full of annuals and perennials. Because we have heavy soil, many perennials that would die in the garden beds are planted in containers, instead. A few are saved for veggies and many are planted with annuals, most of which I either purchase or grow from seed. This year, I'm growing them all. With the exception of parsley (taproot), I prefer to start my seeds inside so I don't have to worry about early summer storms smashing the seedlings. But my inside space is limited so I'm really looking forward to seeing how effective my winter sowing method is, especially for plants that transplant well like all the black eyed susans.

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  4. It does seem so strange that greenhouses aren't as popular across the pond and so expensive too! I wonder why?
    I'm going to contact a big manufacturer over here to see why they aren't over there. Shall report back my findings x

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    1. As much as I want a greenhouse, I don't have anywhere to put it. :( Of course, that doesn't keep me from wanting it. Sigh.... I will just have to live vicariously through you!

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  5. Your seedlings look healthy so what you're doing seems to be working. I usually direct sow what I grow (or try to grow) from seed in the garden. That works fine here in the land without winter with the easy stuff like California poppies, calendulas, nasturtium, and sweet peas but not so well with many other flowering plants. So this year I sunk money into an "ultimate seed starting kit," which came complete with a heating pad, grow lights, a plastic "greenhouse" cover and a pad that wicks up water (to prevent over-watering). Germination was pretty quick with all 5 varieties I've tried but some of the plants, especially the Schizanthus, look spindly. The jury is still out...

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    1. I direct sow a few things, too. I scatter CA poppy seeds in the fall to grow alongside my tulip bulbs, most of which are in pots. I'm very happy living in Virginia but CA poppies evoke such strong feelings/memories in me. I have some of those seed starting trays, too. Except I don't have the heat mat. I have a big lavender experiment going on farther down the shelves that the other seeds are growing on. The jury's still out on that, too. I do use coir pots instead of peat since the coir is renewable and doesn't create the damping off that peat does.

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  6. You are very creative working with what you have. I hope the seedlings do well for you this spring.

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    1. Thanks! I'm pretty resourceful. I'm convinced we are often surrounded by more solutions than we realize. We just have to learn how to see them. :o)

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  7. Kudos to you for sewing all these seeds and you are having great success too. It is so rewarding to watch seeds germinate and grow. Happy harvesting.

    Helen

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    1. You are absolutely right about that! Seeing a seed grow is a joyous thing. :o)

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  8. Oooh, I want a greenhouse too! I live in UK and I can go down to the nearest DIY store and buy one, or order one for a home delivery on Monday – but I have no room in my garden!!
    I have sowed all the seeds that will survive outdoors in our spring temperature – including the first radish and salad seeds, but a few things are too tender even for London temperatures so I have a tray of pots with seeds in my kitchen at the moment. No grow light though, yours were great! I hope my pots can join the rest outdoors in just a few weeks so hopefully they will be OK just with the light from the window.

    I can’t understand why it is difficult and expensive to get a greenhouse in US, that must be a great import business opportunity for someone!

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    1. I think the difficulty in buying a glass walled greenhouse has everything to do with culture and demand. We don't have the gardening culture that the UK does. People here are more interested in just sticking in a few boring shrubs they can call 'landscaping'. Most gardening here is very superficial and should really just be categorized as 'seasonal exterior decorating'. While there are some parts of our massive country that have a greater gardening culture than Virginia does, I'm not sure how prevalent greenhouses are there, either. There is very little demand for greenhouses, therefore they're difficult to find. We also have a very disposable consumption based society that preaches 'go out and buy' instead of 'do for yourself'. Despite the mass availability of seeds here, actually growing anything from them is considered an odd and rather miraculous feat.

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  9. You've got a lot growing in your foil greenhouses. Ingenious! The malva is lovely. Hope you are successful with your winter sowing.

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    1. I hope so, too! The foil looks crazy but is very effective at gently directing the heat and light where it needs to go.

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  10. Oh that is a strange tin foil business going on in your basement; could it be part of a sci fi movie? Actually you are quite clever and also your pots with plastic on your patio look like something I might do.

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    1. I love the sci-fi movie connection! It does seem like I might find a space alien hiding behind all that foil! the plastic helps form a mini-greenhouse on the pots and the air holes keep the whole thing from drying out and cooking. At least that's the plan!

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  11. Ok rockstar where do I begin with this!!! I love the idea of sowing them right into the pots outside! And covering them with plastic is just brilliant! Your foil method is also awesome! Now you had mentioned that you sow your zinnia seeds..do you sow them to get the blooms going sooner?? I was thinking of planting some this year and am starting to wonder if I should throw some under the lights because our spring may come very late this year. One of my concerns is that with my zinnias last year I goofed them up when I was trying to harden them off...Any advice would be much appreciated! Thanks friend...fantastic post! Nicole xoxo

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    1. A lot of my winter sown plants germinated last year but then died. But I just had to try again. Since I had all those empty pots, it seemed logical to give them a try to solve the drainage issues. They also insulate the new seedlings better than just a little plastic dish. The plastic drop cloth was $2 and I can use the bungy cords again next year so I didn't mind buying them. :o)

      Zinnias like to be really warm. I keep mine under lights until the days are in the 60's. Then I transfer the seedlings to a box and put them in a warm, sunny but sheltered spot for the day. Until the nights are also in the 60's they come inside at night. It takes me about 2 wks to harden them off. They also need to be pinched multiple times and watered with a weak kelp+water mix when they have about 2 sets of true leaves. Pinching helps develop a thicker stem, which gives you a fuller plant better able to support multiple stems and lots of flowers. They hate to be dry, love rich soil, and like a splash of kelp water once a week. Give them good air circulation and don't overcrowd them in their spot or they'll grow weird. :o)

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  12. I think you are very wise to sow your own seeds given the information that some plants sold in the big box stores may be poisoned with pesticides that will kill the pollinators. I had never known about that until reading your post. You seem to be having success with your greenhouse and seed starting. Those little seedlings are looking pretty healthy. They are ready for spring!

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    1. Growing seeds has really helped me deal with winter restlessness, since my garden goes dormant in the winter. Plus, it's satisfying in the summer to look over at a healthy, happy plant and think, "I grew that from seed!".

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  13. All very inventive ! Where there's a will there's always a way! I'm very interested in the growing lights as a way of getting an early start. I'm especially interested in your Ammi , I saw them in the catalogues last season, and read glowing reports about them, but mine were all sickly things which keeled over and died one by one. A couple survived to sulk their way through the summer. I had tried to do everything right for them, but clearly failed them ! I will be watching yours with interest!

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    1. I've never seen ammi grown here but saw them in a catalog last year and then after Googling them, I just fell in love. I killed mine, too. I've read they like good drainage and full sun. They have a big deep taproot that once established, resents being moved. They look very similar to an invasive native wildflower we call Queen Ann's Lace.

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  14. Goodness, how resourceful and enterprising you are. I love Ammi, it is fantastic for flower arrangements. Have you tried Orlaya grandiflora? It is similar and just as gorgeous.

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    1. Thanks! I tried orlaya last year and it died after sprouting. I think the poor drainage rang its death knell. I may try it again next year. I'm growing cerinthe from seed and it's doing well. Have you ever grown that?

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  15. We are so alike. I only made my hibernarium to give my futile life a sense of purpose. Of course the minibeasts can find their own habitats but I just wanted to help out to make myself feel useful. Well you are being a lot more useful than I am and a lot more successful. I love the bee in the final photo - what bliss to bathe in pollen. Well done you - keep up the good work. Without your efforts who knows what might grow in your garden!

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    1. No life is futile. :o) If I weren't so enthralled with gardening, my back yard would have a lawn, a shrub or two, and some wild undergrowth leftover from the builders. Have you thought of training a vine along your fence with berries to entice the birds?

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  16. You are so clever! I've used all kinds of containers before for seed starting, but have never used aluminum foil to speed up the germination indoors. I've had limited success with winter sowing, and this year I opted to just scatter the seeds over the melting snow...Mother Nature has even obliged by sending us some fresh supplies of it:) But I will definitely be starting some seeds indoors very soon--yours look great! I've always wondered, too, why everyone in the UK seems to have a greenhouse.

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  17. Thanks! I scattered nigellia seeds that way, too so I'm hoping I have some sprouts this spring. The foil really works wonders. Just make sure you have the shiny side facing the lights/plants. The UK has a much stronger gardening culture than we do. The British garden, we landscape. So very different!!

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  18. You've inspired me to try seed-starting indoors again someday.

    I had good success starting seeds indoors last year, but the transplant process was a disaster. Those little peat pellets just fell apart, most of the seedlings died and very few of the survivors thrived.

    But maybe if I try the toilet paper / paper towel roll method, I'll have better success since I won't have to disturb the tiny root balls?

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    1. A grow light and some tin foil is all you need! Try sowing the seeds in either big Solo cups or smaller clear plastic cups. The smaller plastic cups work really well because you can see the roots as they grow and can determine the best time to transplant based on root growth as opposed to top growth.

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  19. It looks as if you are doing beautifully without a greenhouse.
    I entirely agree with you about the culture and demand for greenhouses in North America. However I also think that aside from the North West, our climates are not really suited to greenhouses. In winter they are far too expensive to heat (keeping one above freezing here this winter would have cost and arm and a leg) and they quickly get too hot in late spring.
    I had a bad experience with Ammi majus. It was entirely my own fault. I have never grown it before but it did beautifully. I let it self seed generously at the end of the season. However, it turned out what I had grown and pampered was Queen Ann Lace!! Almost 10 years later I am still fighting with Queen Ann's Lace seedlings in my main bed.

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    1. Oh no!! Queen Anne's Lace is so invasive!! It's a beautiful beast. Ammi is much tamer. :o) You're 100% right about our climates affecting the ability to have a greenhouse. I hadn't even thought about how expensive it would be to heat it in the winter and in the summer it would be an oven. I think I'll stick with my tin foil. :o)

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  20. You are a true Master Gardener at heart! Quite inventive.

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  21. A neighbour has a wonderful greenhouse. It looks like something out of a fairy tale,as it is built to fit the various sizes of windows he accumulated from local reno projects. The truly wonderful part is the heating system. Underneath the bench is a large, shipping container filled with horse manure. It keeps the greenhouse warm all winter.

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    1. Ooooh! That is so resourceful! But does it smell like manure? I'd have a hard time dealing with that odor all day. But I love the idea of all those different windows. :o)

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  22. I wish you much success with your seeds. I do both winter sowing and direct sowing, but with the direct sowing, I cover the seeds with plastic cloches. I've bought some very nice, bell-shaped ones at Amazon, but often I just use an upended bottom of a berry container. I poke holes in them and then use earth staples to hold them to the ground. We've had some quite windy days, and the earth staples are still working to hold them in place. I don't know if snow covers your ground in winter, but I don't see any in your pictures. You're smart to stick with plants that self-sow, those are the ones that it works best with. Have you ever thought of trying the small (cheap) portable greenhouses? I've used those too, and they do a good job.

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    1. Our winters are very unpredictable. I saw the cloches on your blog and admired them with much longing! I don't direct sow very much, just a few plants I sow in fall for spring flowers like California poppies. Our winters are always below freezing so I don't think the plastic portable ones would do much for me but it wouldn't hurt to try in the spring.

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  23. What an amazing home-made greenhouse you have. You've almost inspired me to try something along those lines. I stare longingly at the seed packets every year, but then I remember what an absolute pain in the butt winter sowing and window sill sowing and every other kind of sowing except direct sowing (which rarely works) is. Then I read your post and start longing all over again.

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    1. Throwing seeds in an empty pot and covering it with plastic is EASY!! Taking the subway in NYC and coming out alive is much harder. Moving from NY to NC and having to add four extra syllables to everything you say is HAAAARRRDDD. But winter sowing in empty pots is EASY. Learning to drive is hard but starting seeds is easy..... You can do this!!!

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    2. You know, I never looked at it like that! Maybe I'm so exhausted from doing all the things you mentioned that the very thought of throwing seeds in an empty pot and covering it with plastic sound really hard. Or should I say, HAAAARRRRDDD. Gotta go - I'm off to pick up some seeds.

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  24. I share your longing for a greenhouse. Although I don't start seeds as much as I used to (those little plants don't respond well to being ignored) a greenhouse would allow me to overwinter tender plants and start bulbs/tubers without filling every available flat space in my house with pots of dirt! Your aluminum greenhouses are a great idea!

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  25. I love how simple the solution is, even though they look pretty weird. The plants are really happy!

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  26. Oh how I wish I could order a greenhouse and have it dispatched to you immediately!!! Your creativity has taken my breath away, my jaw hit the deck reading this. Wow....what can I say but RESPECT!!! Utterly ingenious you are....I do hope all those seedlings do you proud, I can't wait to see them outdoors and growing.xxx

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    1. That would be wonderful! But Alain really identified a big part of our no-greenhouse problem: climate. We can go from zero in the winter (-18 C) to 105 in the summer (41 C) and keeping it heated and cooled would cost a fortune. Plants would freeze in the winter and fry in the summer. I think having limited resources makes people more creative. When every solution is given to you, you never have to think of any on your own.

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  27. Ah! You have the same wish as I have -- a proper greenhouse :-). I do have a greenhouse (they are not called greenhouse, they have a different name -- tunnel or something) that's not heated. I didn't take care of it this winter and which was so harsh -- so everything there has died. Otherwise, last year or year before it worked nicely. It costed less than $200 and I think I bought it from shelter logic or something like that (grrrr...I am developing amnesia!!)

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    1. A poly tunnel would be great if I had more space. I don't even have space for a greenhouse, but of course that doesn't keep me form wanting one!

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  28. And, I am currently growing my seedlings like yours -- under aluminium foil :-).

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  29. Wow, that greenhouse in the first pic is gorgeous.

    I admire your determination, and your seed-starting setups! Mine is a little bit simpler. I just set seeds out in containers with potting mix in April and May, and for seeds that need cold stratification I I put them in sandwich bags with some moistened potting mix and stick them in the fridge.

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    1. I've heard the bag of soil in the fridge method is really effective. I may try that in the future. I could direct sow all my zinnias but I just love to putter around with my seeds and cups. Plus, I end up with bigger plants earlier and more flowers. Really, I'm just a greedy hog and want more flowers faster. ;o)

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  30. You've got a great set up, Tammy. I'm very impressed. I never though to melt holes in the cups. Brilliant. I'll probably direct-sow my Red Flax and hope for the best. In a perfect world, and we can hope, all homes will come standard with a greenhouse. Wouldn't that be cool? I hope the snow melts soon so you can get outside and plant your babies.

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    1. My babies will be inside for the next 6 weeks unless we go straight from winter to summer. But I'll be glad when I can put them outside during the day. :o)

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  31. I've always heard that necessity is the mother of invention and you did well......very well.
    I think that your seeds have started way better than in some fancy smancy greenhouse.....smile.

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    1. I love that quote, too. It's so very true. :o) My seeds are happy and that's all that matters.

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  32. Oh my the thought of a green house...sigh. Well maybe your Fairy Gardener Mother will drop one into the backyard one day...but then again as luck would have it, it might tip off the end of her wand, and there would be a pile of cracked glass...so maybe we can wish you one in perfect shape. Yes gardeners pessimism...it's snow covered here, I'm antsy.

    Bronze Fennel, thanks for reminding me that I am looking for it.

    Jen

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    1. Start some seeds inside! Do you have a spot that is Boo-proof? My seeds are keeping me from going crazy, too. I totally understand your restlessness. ;o)

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  33. I agree with you: I really want a greenhouse as well. I am kicking myself these days because a neighbor around the corner sold her greenhouse--a small one, but attractive--late last fall for $200 and I was feeling too cash-poor at the time (oh, Christmas) to splurge on it. Why I didn't rationalize it as a Christmas gift to myself I will never know. So now, here I sit in my home office, with my cheap shop lights resting on adjustable shelving brackets in the closet, lighting up all manner of seedlings and the salad bowl garden which was getting plundered outdoors by very devious squirrels. If the lottery ticket ever comes through for me, I'm buying out the Carrot Lady next door and putting in my own Kew Palm House. The HOA won't mind.

    I love your tin foil hacks and if I didn't have a cat that adores tin foil, I might give your technique a try. I am confident, though, that my feline companion would sit directly on any foil edifice I might construct, and would not be persuaded otherwise.

    I am growing Malva Zebrina as well. I hope mine looks as nice as yours by next Thanksgiving!
    Stay warm and dry in your wretched weather.
    Cheers,
    A

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    1. Our HOA is so schizophrenic I have no idea if they'd even notice if I had a greenhouse. Maybe you can check Craig's List for a greenhouse since you're in a warmer zone than I am. A cat would destroy my foil houses just to prove that he could. :o) Malva is so fabulous! Yours will look incredible! They like moist, rich soil. Mine is in my rain garden.

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  34. Oh my dear, if I ever win the Lottery........ I promise to have a beautiful greenhouse built for you ! Seriously.

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  35. You are so resourceful Tammy! It is so depressingly cold here that it is way too early to start seeds. Spring is going to be late this year for sure. I would so love a greenhouse as well. Last year I used my cold frame, but it got pretty cramped in there with seed trays. This year I would love to make a mini-greenhouse, but we will see. Time has a way of zipping by.

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    1. You could winter sow. It would feel like gardening. Start with a few self-sowers and just see what happens. :o)

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  36. Wow, Tammy, I am so impressed with all the plants that you are growing from seeds! That must be a lot of fun and also a lot of work to set it all up and keep it going. I wish you the best of luck that all goes well and your seeds grow into beautiful mature plants. I like the ammi majus quite a bit! I on the contrary, just can't make myself to grow plants from seeds indoors. It seems quite overwhelming to me, but this year I will grow some plants from seeds by sowing directly onto the ground. At least I promised that to myself ;-)!
    Christina

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    1. If you start very small it will feel more achievable. But sowing them directly into the ground is an easy option in your climate. We just got 8" of new snow and I can't even see my garden.

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  37. Hi Tammy, I thought it was QAL! I tried QAL in my garden, but not only wasn't it invasive, it wasn't even interested in being here. Maybe I'll have better luck with with A. majus? People don't generally have greenhouses here so far as I know, unless they want to grow tomatoes in winter. The inside thing is often done by people growing illicit, illegal things, not wholesome innocent stuff like parsley and fennel. Me, I'm so lazy I tend to do the direct sowing thing and buy seedlings when necessary. From an organic nursery that I trust, from now on, to avoid the pesticide problem that Dorothy mentioned.

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    1. A climate that can kill QAL? I didn't think that was possible! I'd give ammi a try. At least you won't have to worry about it taking over. QAL here is perennial. There have been lots of jokes at my expense about the greenhouses but it's all in fun so it doesn't bother me. Check out my last post for more info about the pesticides.

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  38. I love your mini greenhouses, wonderfully productive, and very sensible to use the cups, I use coir pellets or tiny seed trays to stop me from sowing too much and cut down on the compost required. I have always had problems with winter sowing, I never seem to manage the watering right, do you water, or do you find that your large pots just don't need anything other than what they get naturally?

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    1. This is only my second year to winter sow but last year keeping them moist was handled by Mother Nature. On mild, misty days I took the covers off so they could soak in some soft rain. I'd try it again just for the sake of experimentation. The seeds are on the surface so they don't need lots of water. By the time the seedlings are big enough to have large root systems, I've taken the covers off for good and they're watered either by me or nature.

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  39. Hi there, I've been traveling the past ten days, but I wanted you to know that I shared this post with a dozen or so friends. It was just so funny and so creative. You ARE a science teacher, aren't you? Anyway, although I have a greenhouse and use it pretty effectively, I'm not sure I'm as productive as you are! I've learned a lot from you in this post. I usually just pot and re-pot until one fine day when I kick the young'uns out into the world to make their way. My greenhouse faces north to south, so the plants gradually move into the sunnier areas to grow and finally, I open the door and things begin to harden off. The French references cracked me up.

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  40. Awww, thanks! Actually, I was an English/Writing teacher for years before being shanghai'd into teaching science to 10 yr olds. I was terrified but adapted pretty quickly. But I do have a huge curiosity and was always experimenting with the garden, food, etc anyway. My 'greenhouses' are chugging along and the seedlings are mighty happy.

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  41. I love your experiments as I learn from them too. I have to get started this week and I learned a few things from my fails last year too.

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