Today I sanitized 23 water bottles and three juice/milk jugs. I'm not sure if I'll be working on that tonight or save it all for tomorrow. An experiment within an experiment - how delightful!
I've been doing a lot of research and reading up on Winter Sowing, and which seeds are appropriate, and which seeds have limited or no success. I've been scouring blogs and Youtube and reading comments and personal experiences. What I've found is that nobody seems to Winter Sow in plastic water bottles. Is this because they're made with thinner plastic? Or because they're only wide enough to plant one or two seeds? It can't be due to being too shallow, because many people have winter sown in takeout containers that are short and squat. Why isn't there any account of people trying it - whether is works or not? We go through a fair amount of water bottles here, so I figured I'd give it a try. If it works - fantastic! If not, at least other people who are thinking the same thing will have an answer.
Today I sanitized 23 water bottles and three juice/milk jugs. I'm not sure if I'll be working on that tonight or save it all for tomorrow. An experiment within an experiment - how delightful!
Four more Winter Sown seed containers headed out today! Churchill Brussels Sprouts, Purple Ruffles Basil, White Soul Strawberries, and Yellow Wonder Strawberries. According to daysoftheyear.com today is Strawberry Day, so I was sure to include both varieties I had seeds for.
This puts me up to a total of eight containers so far (and lots to come). Mary Washington Asparagus, Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Oregano, Cilantro/Coriander, and these four. What a nice start. I'm also working on trying to collect buckets to do container gardening, so if anyone has spare 5-gallon buckets that you're getting rid of - please let me know! I can put them to good use!
I just can't get over how adorable these babies are. Mabel is being a good mom and the kittens are all nursing regularly. So far so good!
I'm thrilled to announce the arrival of Mabel and Henry's second litter. The first kitten unfortunately did not make it despite my best efforts to resuscitate him. Three more healthy babies arrived shortly after. It's a Viking invasion! Introducing, Ragnar, Lagertha, and Floki.
Ragnar was second born, solid white, and appears to be a male. Lagertha was third born, solid white, with more fur than Ragnar, and appears to be female. Floki was fourth born and is white with blue spots under and along the tail, with a similar amount of fur as Lagertha. Gender is not clear for Floki.
The Tiny Tim tomato seedling has it's first set of true leaves coming in and is looking healthy. The raspberry leaves dried up, so I'm going to remove them (it was worth a try anyway). The goji berry cutting in the aquaponic cup is finally starting to get some leaves! I find this a little odd, as this cutting has fertile water and a 12 hour daylight cycle with a lamp just inches above it. The other two cuttings (which are growing much faster) are in moist soil with a grow light about 3-feet above them.
My turtle tank has been growing algae. A lot of algae. So much that I can't see through the glass any more. This is my fault entirely, as I bought two dozen goldfish for her this time. The extra load of twice as many fish has caused the algae to take off. In a flash of genius (or perhaps not), I decided the best way to get rid of the algae is to steal the nutrients. In a similar idea as an aquaponic system, if I introduce a plant to eat up the nutrients, the algae won't have enough and will start to die off. So I dug out one of my Green Star lettuce plants from under the grow light, rinsed the roots as best I could to get as much dirt off as I could, and put it in the turtle filter. She has a tendency to knock the filter around sometimes, but I figure if she knocks the lettuce into the water and eats it, it won't hurt her anyway. Ideally, I hope to have a very large lettuce plant that the turtle can free feed from when the leaves touch the water, and an algae-free tank. We'll see if that's how it goes. Of course, because lettuce picks up the stuff from the water, this lettuce is no longer for eating (eeww, turtle germs). Since the turtle light is also on a 12 hour timer, I am hoping this lettuce will get enough light to flourish.
The chia have created a soft carpet in the milk jug! Some of the taller sprouts are already peeking over the edge of the container! So far none have sprouted any true leaves. Amazing really if you consider they've only been planted for five days.
More of the wild flower seeds are sprouting. Looks like there's quite a variety in there. Some are much larger, and a few almost look like grass. These ones were also planted just five days ago.
The goji berry cuttings are now bordering between thoroughly impressing me (wow, they grow fast!), and worrying me (wow - they grow fast!). I'm hoping they stay healthy but don't grow too much before I have a chance to bring them outside. They've grown a lot in just over a week. It's going to be months before I can put them outside. I may have to start thinking about a larger container to pot them up to if (or rather when) they outgrow the apple juice container they're in now.
I read about it last year, I thought about it, and I've done a lot of research. Since it's February, there's no time like the present to jump in and try it. Of course, I'm talking about winter sowing. The practice of planting seeds in moist dirt in plastic containers and leaving them outside to freeze in the winter - then letting nature take it's course in spring and allow the bottle to become a greenhouse for the seeds. It removes the "hardening off" period, gives your plants a jump start, and sounds pretty easy. So this morning I washed out a couple containers and a couple seed packets from the collection and get to work.
Tony cut them in half for me, leaving a flap so the top and bottom are hinged together. I drilled holes in the bottoms and sides of each container. I labeled both containers, and included a label inside each as well. I put in soil, a watered it thoroughly, planted seeds, covered them up, and taped the containers closed. Here goes!!
The Swiss chard seeds are a mix of six colors. With no way of knowing which seed will produce which colored stems, I vastly over-planted them. There are 27 seeds in that little container. I really only want one of each color, but I figured this would give me the best odd of getting at least one of each. I planted most with two to a hole, and three on their own. I'm sure by the time they come up I won't remember which was which. In case I come back to reference this post - reminder to myself - the single seedlings were in the back right!
The asparagus seeds I planted two to a hole as well, but only put 12 seeds in. I have a pretty big area that I want to fill in with asparagus, so I could use as many as I can grow this first year.
Oh - and of course, a big thank you to #3 who let me use her fancy duct tape. I didn't realize I was all out until I went to start filling containers with dirt! Thank you #3! Our first winter sown containers are beautiful!
This evening the kids finished off another container of milk and juice, so I went ahead and got them ready too. This time I walked #1 through the process of sanitizing the containers, cutting and drilling, filling, watering, seed sowing, and taping. She did the Oregano, and I did the Cilantro. I planted ten cilantro (technically coriander) seeds. We didn't have very many oregano seeds - maybe ten or twenty, so we used them all. They are directly on the surface without being covered. When #1 heard that oregano flowers are edible she was very excited. Pretty and edible!
The cilantro seeds are from Baker Creek. The Oregano seeds I got in a trade last year. I did manage to find a roll of duct tape, so these evening containers aren't as fashionable.
I definitely have no shortage of chia seedlings at the moment. The entire surface of the soil in the milk jug is a carpet of green!
The three or four seed bombs for the wildflowers that I saw roots or sprouts in were put into another milk jug and they're starting to come up too. I have no idea what kinds of flowers these will be as I used two different mixes of seeds and there's 26 possible varieties in one mix, and 17 possible varieties in the other. A couple varieties overlap, but there's still a lot of possibilities. I have no idea what to expect with this lot. I'm sure they'll get too big in the milk jug and will likely die off before spring when I can put them outside in the soil. Oh well. At least I'm giving them a shot, right?
I continue to be impressed by the goji berry stems. The leaves are coming in quickly!
I'm also thoroughly impressed with #3's spider plant. I picked this plant up at a local seed swap - someone had planted it in a little plastic picnic cup and didn't want it. I took two - one I gave to the neighbor (I think it died), and the other I gave to #3. I had just bought one for myself in the store. Mine was quite a bit larger than this one, I have mine planted in a hanging basket in the livingroom window and it's doing well. This one however, is now taller and has wider leaves than mine! Mine has more leaves, but it looks more like a small unkempt bush. This one is looking fantastic! It could really use a bigger container now. I think #3 wants to scour her grandpa's garage for a hanging basket so hers can be in the window with mine. It's not root-bound, so I'm not in a big hurry. It's a very nice looking spider plant though.
I'm spending a lot of time lately researching winter sowing. There seems to be a pretty high success rate with fairly low maintenance. I've also been looking up the possibility of container gardening more than I had originally planned. I've been looking all over the internet, reading blogs, watching videos, and learning everything I can. As with most projects in my life, I'm planning to jump in with both feet and see what happens. I've made some lists of what I'd like to winter sow, and it looks like a lot. That said, it was a lot of work last year to be bringing so many plants inside and outside every day to acclimate them to outdoors, and even with all that work, all of the cucumbers died, and many of the tomato plants were damaged from moving around so much. Winter sowing offers the ability to let nature do all the hard work. I still will be doing some seeds indoors, just to make sure that if the winter sown seeds don't come up, I will have certain varieties (particularly tomatoes and peppers). The other part of the lure of winter sowing is that it could potentially lengthen the short growing season here just long enough that I might actually be able to grow certain things that wouldn't otherwise make it - like melons! The long and the short of it is that if I have enough seeds, it's worth a try anyway. If I loose a couple seeds because it doesn't work out, it's a lesson learned and I still have more seeds to try planting directly, or try again next year. I'm going to see how many plastic containers I can come up with to start sowing seeds. I will update as I go. Wish me luck!
The chia bombs I put in potting mix are quickly sprouting up out of the paper portions. As expected, chia seeds sprouted quickly, but from what I've seen of Chia Pets (and I haven't had one since I was about five years old - but I have seen YouTube videos), it seems that seedlings expire in about two weeks. Will these sprouts survive longer since they have dirt and nutrients available?
The Goji Berry cuttings are starting to grow tiny leaves! This really amazes me because they looked so dry and dead when they arrived. Both of the ones planted in the dirt are starting to show new leaves. The one in the aquaponic cup remains stagnant (no signs of life yet).
And of course, speaking of the aquaponic cup, the Tiny Tim tomato seedling seems to be holding on. It's starting to grow it's first true leaves now. The goji Berry again, not showing signs of life yet. The raspberry leaves don't appear to be doing much but turning black. So long as they aren't crunchy, I'll keep them in there, just for good measure.
As of today I'm going to say that the newspaper version of seed bombs is a total bust. Both of the first batches (One batch of wildflower seeds and one batch of chia seeds) are germinating and taking root before the pulp even has a chance to dry. The third batch (cantaloupe) is still wet, so I can't get them out of the mold to check, but I'm guessing I'll be seeing a similar result. How disappointing!
So as not to feel like a complete waste, I did put the chia bombs in a milk jug with some soil to see what happens. I hear the sprouts are edible, so if we eat enough of the sprouts to thin down to just a few sprouts, maybe we can grow a chia plant or two?
Being that wildflowers don't generally do well being transplanted or having their roots messed with, I'm at a loss with these bombs. Do I plant them in a milk carton and hope for the best? Or do I just throw them out and chalk it up to a lesson learned?
Which really kind of reminds me that this year I'd like to try my hand at winter sowing some seeds. Particularly tomato and pepper seeds. Perhaps I should start collecting more milk jugs.
I posted yesterday that I would post a photo How-To on making seed bombs today. I admit, I was planning on backing out when I realized this morning that my original two batches don't look so good. They aren't drying properly, and frankly, I'm upset that I followed all of the instructions I found and still can't get it right. But I tried a third batch tonight with the help of my husband, and we will see if this does any better. I will post an update in the future on how they dry, if they hold their shapes, and if any of the seeds actually sprout when tested.
First off, some people may not have heard of a seed bomb before. What exactly is it? A seed bomb is a small or medium sized mix of seeds and a binding material (usually clay, in this case we're using newspaper because I have it easily available). The result is a "seed bomb" that is easy to carry in your pocket or backpack that you can toss in unsightly areas. Maybe it's a vacant lot, or an abandoned building, a lonely stretch of highway, a back country road, a clearing or field somewhere on your property, or something like that. The idea is that you just toss a seed bomb (or a couple, depending on the size of the space) and wait for nature to take its course. The rain will eventually moisten the binding material, exposing the seeds to the rain and the sun. The rest is up to Mother Nature. The seeds will sprout, grow and continue on the circle of life (producing more seeds that will spread year after year). It might not look like much after the first year (just a few new plants), but after two or three years, you'll notice a big change! As animals are attracted to the new habitat, they spread seeds, which also helps to spread the plants. You can seed bomb just about any kind of seed, but it works best with plants that are pretty self-sufficient, as the point is to have minimal to no human intervention. Most seed bombs are wild flowers, but you can seed bomb fruits and vegetables, herbs, perennials, and wheats/grasses too.
Step One: Find some old newspaper.
Don't use any of the "shiny" pages, as they have additional chemicals and won't work as well for this project. I've also noticed that the regular pages (especially the classifieds) tend to have a lot more ink and can stain your fingers black for the next couple of steps. Using the comics section and full page color ad pages left less ink on my fingers, but resulted in the same colored pulp in the end. For this batch I used seven sheets of newspaper and two sheets of construction paper. Next time I will use more colored paper and less newspaper, as again, all three of my attempts ended up the same color.
Step Two: Shred the paper.
This step is fun and the kids can definitely help out here. I tore up the paper to pieces roughly 1/4-1/2 inch and roughly square.
Step Three: Put your shredded paper in your blender.
Step Four: Add water to cover the paper; let it sit for at least ten minutes.
The instructions I found said to use hot water, but I'm not sure how that helps. You'll want to add enough water that your paper (when smushed down) is just under the surface of the water. Keep in mind that your paper will absorb the water and expand some. You may have to add more for the next step. No need to set a timer for this part. Take a break to fold some laundry, check your email, or water your houseplants. The longer you let it sit, the more the paper starts to break down (which is a good thing).
Step Five: Use the blender to create a pulp consistency.
If your paper has absorbed all of the water, add more. You'll want to start this step with a little extra water on top of your paper. All three of my batches so far have been very frustrating at this point. The video I found shows a simple step... just push the button and the blender makes the shredded paper into pulp quickly and efficiently. Perhaps my Hamilton Beach blender is of poorer quality, or perhaps I missed some magical memo on how to work a blender, but I struggled to get my blender to mix this stuff up all three times. I'm talking a full on blender battle! I was seeming to make more progress stirring the mix with a spoon (when the blender was turned off of course) than the blender was doing. After at least twice making the entire kitchen smell like burning engine parts, and adding a LOT more water than the original instruction video said to use, I did eventually get the right consistency. I may need a new blender now.
Step Six and Seven: Squeeze out some of the water and mix in your selected seeds. Remove as much remaining water as possible.
This step is where I started to try new things. The original video shows a piece of fabric over a strainer, and then simply mixing in seeds and using the fabric to wring out the moisture. I tried this with my first two batches and I have to say that the cloth didn't help much in the way of removing moisture. So with this third attempt, I put the pulp directly into the strainer. Surprise! It doesn't go through like I was afraid it would! I'm not sure if I would do it this way with very tiny seeds, but for this batch I was using bigger seeds so it didn't matter.
First I used a spoon to press the pulp against the edges of the strainer. When I wasn't getting a lot out with the spoon method, I added my seeds. I mixed them in by hand, and then proceeded to squeeze out the seed pulp in smaller chunks by hand. When my hands cramped up and I started to get frustrated, my husband took over, and with his stronger grip was able to get out a surprising amount of water I'd missed.
This is what my seed pulp looked like after my husband squeezed out as much water as he could. If you're still seeing any water when you squeeze - keep squeezing. You want all of the water out. This step is very important because if the seed bombs have too much water, the seeds will germinate before the newspaper dries, and then it's no good as a seed bomb.
Step Eight: Press your seeded pulp mix into a silicone mold.
Step Nine: Use a sponge or paper towel to press out any last moisture from the top of the molded seed bombs
I used some Easter molds I happened to have on hand. Any shape should work just as well in theory. You don't even really need a mold. You can form them by hand into small (1/2-inch, marble size) balls.
Step Ten: Wait for them to dry.
The original video said they'd be dry in 24 hours. Well, it's been over 24 hours for the first two batches and they're still wet. When I attempted to remove them from the mold, they just crumbled. That's why I was hesitant to post this tutorial today. My husband suggested that perhaps with his additional water squeezing, this third batch might turn out better. I'm going to say he's probably right. We will see in a day or two if the original two start sprouting (due to being too wet), and if the seed bombs come out whole or if they all crumble. Stay tuned for updates and further feedback.
P.S. I would like to try the other method of making seed bombs as well. If anyone has powdered red clay that you could donate, please let me know!
I've heard of seed bombs before. Cute compact little balls or shapes that you can toss into a vacant lot, along an ugly fence line, an open field, along a highway ditch, or along a walking/bike path to beautify otherwise "ugly" or bare places. I never really gave it much thought. I don't live in a big city, so we really don't have vacant lots or ugly places. Sure, there are some places along walking trails that could use some flowers, but it's not worth the price I was seeing online to buy seed bombs (9 for $20 - yikes!).
In my meanderings on the internet I recently came across a video on how to make seed bombs at home that doesn't require clay or compost or anything that I didn't already have. Looks like fun!
Today I ran to the store and picked up some flower seeds. Honestly, I'm more interested in growing things I can eat, but I wanted to try this out. I used the technique in the video, and despite a few issues, I think I've successfully made my very first set (of six) seed bombs. I'll have to see if they're completely dried out by tomorrow, but I'm very excited. I plan to make more tonight and tomorrow, and test a few out indoors just to see if they actually work. If they do, I will be offering them for sale (for less than the 9 for $20 I was finding) in my Bonanza Shop.
This makes me want to try other things. You can supposedly seed bomb just about anything that grows from seed, so long as it requires minimal care. The point is that wherever you toss the seed bomb, nature will do the rest - through rain and sunshine. An opportunity to experiment.... fun!! And best of all - it gets the kids involved and excited. Thinking of places they can toss their newly created seed bombs, what they could put in a seed bomb, and even how soon we can make enough for them to give away to friends. I think I'm going to need to buy more seeds...
I'm planning to do a photo How-To post tomorrow so that everyone else can try their hand at making seed bombs too!
The red romaine lettuce in the Aquaponic cup is wilting. I'm not sure why. Too much light? Too warm? I'll try some fresh seeds at a later date.
Happy Valentine's Day! I can hardly believe that it's been a full year since I started this blog. I've learned so much in the past year, and I hope to learn even more as I go!
Yesterday I received a package in the mail from someone I met on DavesGarden. I had sent him some seeds, and in return, he was very generous in sending me some rooted blackberry cuttings. He also threw in some goji berry cuttings for me to try (Thank you!!).
Last night I got some containers ready, soaked the cuttings (as per instructions I found on the internet), and then planted them all up. Just as I was finishing watering the soil in each of the containers, my hose (literally) exploded in the middle. So, until I can get a new hose, everything will have to be watered by hand. At least I got through planting before it broke!
This is the Tiny Tim Tomato aquaponic cup. As you can see, one of the seeds has sprouted and is starting to come up near the center. To the top left is a Goji Berry stem. The instructions said to keep it moist until new growth appeared, so I'm trying one this way. To the top right you'll see some leaves. These were loose in the bag with the blackberry plants, so I'm not sure which it came from, but I'm seeing if I can get leaves to root (without a branch).
I'm toying with the idea of getting a camera to start doing short videos, but I have no idea how to edit videos. That idea might have to stay on a back-burner for now. I'm gearing up for tomato and pepper seed starting next month.
Amanda's blog about everything, important and trivial.