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A Seedy Long Weekend

In celebration of the start of spring, I decided to get working on my garden.  Even though most of my yard is still frozen solid and covered in snow, apparently I’m actually late getting started!  This is because I plan to grow as much as I can from seed.  One of the presenters at the Seedy Saturday event I attended a couple of weeks ago starts his seeds in February and gets them into the ground by April.  In this way he has an earlier and longer harvest.  Considering the number of green tomatoes I still had in October (which therefore never ripened), his approach is very tempting.  But it’s also a lot of work!  The seedlings need a lot of protection and TLC to be in the ground in April around here, and I just don’t have that in me this year.  So I am starting now with the intention of planting on the traditional May 24th weekend, and then hoping for the best.

I learned quite a bit at that seed event and really enjoyed my afternoon.  It was the day of the big blizzard and we barely made it there and back, but inside we forgot about the snow and enjoyed lectures and slideshows about flowers and fresh food.  They had some wonderful vendors, a seed exchange table and a simple but tasty lunch.  The event was quite well attended despite the weather, making it clear that my friends and I were not alone in longing for spring and looking forward to gardening season.

This morning I sat down to review my notes and start thinking about what I need to do this.  I already have my seeds – saved from last summer or purchased at various farming events over the winter (See my Resources page for heritage and organic seed sources).  So what else do I need?  Well, according to the lectures I attended, I need soil-less mix to plant them in, growing trays, heat pads, growing lights, labels and a number of other things.  As I made up my list, I started to get depressed by how much this is going to cost.  While I’ll be able to use this stuff for a few years, it will cost at least $100 to get even a basic set-up together.  Have I mentioned that I’m a grad student still begging for funding in order to keep my research going?  Spending a hundred dollars on seed growing is just not in my budget. 

Then it hit me how ridiculous this is.  I mean, the whole point of growing from seeds I saved from last summer was to avoid having to buy things this year.  To be more self- sustaining.  How did the pioneers do it?  I’m quite sure they didn’t have heating pads and grow lights.  What’s wrong with a sunny window?  Doesn’t that work anymore?  And do I really need all that fancy equipment?

I’m going to find out.  Here’s my plan: I washed all my south facing windows to get them as clear as possible, and rearranged some shelves so that they now sit in front of them.  I then went to the recycling depot near my house and routed through the plastics bins to find a whole bunch of take-out containers with clear lids.  These look an awful lot like the plastic covered trays I was to purchase.  I also have several milk cartons and juice jugs that I cut in half for planting when they get a little bigger.  

As it stands, it looks like I will still need to buy one thing – the soil-less growing medium.  I’ll do a little internet research to see if I can avoid this, but it seems to be a big deal in terms of both having the right nutrients and avoiding disease.  I successfully grew some flowers from seeds planted right in soil from my garden last summer, but perhaps I was just lucky.  I don’t want to put my whole crop at risk until I know more.  There’s a lot to know about soil, and I don’t know any of it (other than soil is a living organism and needs to be treated accordingly). 

Otherwise I plan to grow everything 100% organically, with a long-term goal of having a bio-dynamic garden (and eventually a bio-dynamic farm…).  I’m joining the bio-dynamics society to learn how to do this, a learning process which will take years I know.  These little seeds are the first step though, so wish them well!  Now I’m off to clean up the take-out containers and egg cartons that will soon be their home. 

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One Response

  1. I’m so impressed by your resourcefulness. I’ve put our names down for a plot on an allotment – we have an organic one at the end of our street. Actually, I sent a cheque for £3.50 to go on the list and have never heard from them again (need to check if they cashed it!) Apparently waiting time is 3 years. Maybe I need to wash my windows and get planting.

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