It occurred to me last year when I purchased a few bell pepper plants at a local green house that if I was going to give this gardening thing a real shot then I was going to need to start my own seeds. (The cost of buying plants being a little too high for my frugal self.) However, I had two major obstacles in my way, firstly I don’t have a green house so I had to start my seedlings indoors and secondly I don’t have a good south facing area in my home for decent sunlight. I tackled the first problem by going to my drawing board because the second problem isn’t going to be changing anytime soon. It came to me when I was at Walmart and I stumbled upon the perfect mini green houses. “Disposable” roaster pans with clear plastic lids!
(This is my first time planting seedlings so I fully expect(ed) this to be a serious learning experience! Also, you’ll notice, I’m starting very small this year with just a few different vegetable varieties!)
They were inexpensive (less then $4) and came in packs of two. From there I was confronted with the “traditional” plastic seed starting trays but that seemed like a really bad idea to me. Because I live in the northern part of Minnesota I am always dealing with extremely bipolar weather and that means it could be anywhere from mid April to early June when we would see our last frost. Of course I could always cover my plants once they were outdoors I didn’t want to take the chance of them getting too big for their containers and us getting hit by a late April snow storm! So I decided instead to put them in much larger containers and that took me to the disposable cup department and, $5 later, I bought around 50 styrofoam cups. Besides that my other purchase was a bag of organic seed starting soil and a bag of basic potting soil.
I spent around $30 all together and then an additional $30 on seeds. Why did my seeds cost so much? I purchased heirloom, non GMO, organic seeds off of Amazon knowing full well that I would probably be getting sent enough for this year, next year and probably the year after that too. And, I was right!
(sadly the asparagus seeds I purchased are no longer available so that link goes to the closet other product I could find on Amazon)
To start I set out all of my pans and then decided the best fit would be five cups in each. (My only complaint about the roaster pans is I wish they had flat bottoms!) The perfect tool for giving my cups drain holes turned out to be a bamboo skewer but anything with a sharp point would work fine. I made the holes by putting two cups together and pushing in the skewer through the bottoms of them five times and also through the sides a couple of times too. From there I filled them half up with potting soil and then the rest of the way with the seed starting soil.
I planted at least two seeds in each cup and then gave them a good misting of room temperature water. I planted three pans (fifteen cups) of cucumbers, one pan (five cups) of tomatoes and two pans (ten cups each) of asparagus, green beans and sugar snap peas. Within a week I had several seedlings up (and did a little dance) and within two weeks all of my cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans and peas were up. And then by week three my asparagus finally came up too! At that point my green beans were just going crazy and I had to leave their lids off of them because they were hitting their heads. I did so many pans of cucumbers because I saw no reason why my mom or aunt should have to go buy cucumber seedlings when I had enough space to grow plenty for all of us!
So, how did I deal with my second major problem of having no south facing windows? I didn’t really deal with it at all actually. There was only one place in our house by a window we had room to try this this year and that was in our entryway beneath two big west facing windows so that’s where they went. It is the brightest place in our rather dark home (love all of our trees but we really get little to no direct sunlight) ten feet across from those west facing windows are two identical east facing windows so though my little seedlings don’t get nearly as much sun as they want they still get quite a bit. This, however, still meant that my seedlings did get rather “leggy” which is something I knew I would be dealing with. Oh well. They are still healthy, ridiculously big already and doing great!
Next year I am going to address my sunlight problem. Have you seen these awesome shelf units on Amazon?
At $599 to say that one of those is a tad out of my price range is putting it mildly! But even if it wasn’t totally out of my price range it is still just a shelf with lights attached and, ya know what? I can totally build that! So, that’s going to be one of my projects next winter, I am going to build myself a grow shelf in the basement and I am very excited about it 🙂
But, for now, my little seedlings are growing like crazy and I can’t wait to plant them in our new garden soon!