Sunday, January 29, 2012

Seed starting, part 1

Today I put my new gardening strategy—using advanced tools only when they offer obvious benefits in terms of time and money savings—into effect. I've just started my first batch of seeds for this year's garden (parsley and coriander), using a system developed by my dad, with a few modifications. The components are:
  • A bag of Jiffy organic seed-starting mix, which we just picked up for $3.50 at Home Despot. (My dad recommended Pro-Mix, but no stores in the area seem to carry it. Interestingly, a search for it online led to the websites of a lot of amateur marijuana growers.)
  • An empty juice carton with one side cut off.
  • Eight four-inch lengths of PVC pipe, which fit neatly into the carton, four on each side. (Ten feet of the pipe—which should be enough to handle all the seedlings for our small garden—cost us $4.50 at the Home Despot, and Brian cut it to length at home.)
  • A tool made from a chunk of dowel slightly smaller than the pipe, which can serve as both a tamper (to tamp down the potting mix before putting in the seeds) and a pusher (to extricate the seedlings from the tubes when they're ready to go into the garden).
  • A narrow trowel, originally bought at a discount store for a buck.
  • An old dollar-store funnel with the tube sawed off so that it's just slightly narrower than the top of the PVC tubes, which helps keep the potting mix contained as I scoop it into the tubes.
  • A large tub, which started life as a cat litter box, to contain the dirt during the potting process.
  • A tiny watering can that cost a buck at IKEA.
So, all told, that's about ten bucks' worth of supplies so far. The one item we haven't acquired yet is a light fixture to supplement the light from our south-facing window. We checked out fluorescent tube lights at the Home Despot, but Brian wasn't sure yet how he'd be setting it up. His current plan is to construct a wooden frame that can sit on top of the table, with the seedling trays on the bottom and the light fixture mounted to the top (on a chain so that the height can be adjusted up or down). Then we'll hook it up to a timer (which we already have) to give the seedlings light from around 4pm until midnight. We're hoping that the combination of proper potting mix and extra light will give us sturdier seedlings than we got last year without a lot of extra money or effort. Watch this space for updates.
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