Friday, April 8, 2011

DIY almanac: upcycled seed starting containers and where to find cool seeds

I nearly have a vegetable garden growing throughout the windowsills of my home: Pink Brandywine and Evergreen Tomatoes, Candy Onions, Merlot Lettuce, Agnes Pickling Cucumbers, African Marigolds, Red Sun and Russian Giant Sunflowers, Mammoth Dill, Long Island Brussel Sprout and more. Soon I'll be hardening off and transplanting my little starts outside, but in the meantime I wanted to write about some of my seed starting methods...mainly in regards to some alternative seed starting containers I've been using and where I find my seeds in the first place.

Anyway, one doesn't need to invest in peat pots or seed trays (though these are certainly handy) to successfully produce baby vegetables- most times there are perfectly functional seed starting trays in your very own household, just waiting to be repurposed. Basically anything that can be filled with a few inches of seed starting mix with good drainage will do. You can use old yogurt and Tupperware containers providing you punch a few holes in the bottom for excess water to escape."Sawed-off" milk cartons work great since their waxy coating helps to retain moisture. Of, if you stop by your local grocery or food co-op you might be able to find tomato, pepper, apple or pear flat boxes which come with a protective plastic or cardboard tray for the produce (with individual grooves for each fruit. These are great because you can easily fill these with starting mix, plant one seed per groove and then easily punch out your start from its container and transplant it, much like a fancier seeding tray. Also, in lieu of peat pots, grab yourself some simple cardboard egg cartons, fill them with your starting mix and plant those seeds (check out my cucumber starts above). When you're ready to transplant you can either push the starts out of the carton or you can simply pull the carton apart (per start) and directly plant the starts into the earth since the cartons will biodegrade quickly. If you directly plant the carton pots, it does help to make sure there's a hole or tear in the bottom of each, to make it easier for your starts' roots to acclimate to the soil.

Now the fun part! Seeds! I get so excited when my first round of seed catalogues show up, right about the time winter is winding down. My favorite seed catalogues come from Johnny's Seed Co, the Territorial Seed Company and Peaceful Valley. Their selection is always astounding, chalk full of heirlooms and organics, and I adore the plant photos and illustrations. Recently I discovered a seed company called the Kitazawa Seed Co (it's funny because they have been around since 1917) that specializes in Asian vegetable varieties. They have all sorts of cool and quirky seeds such as melons, greens, cabbages, gourds, turnips, beans, sesame, eggplant, water peppers, leeks, mibuna, mugwort and the likes. I ordered a few packs of seeds from them including Lunar White and Kyoto Red carrots, a dark-orange winter squash called Uchiki Juri and Harukei Turnips (yum!). I've also had some success searching for seeds at my local Cenex (farm co-op). They usually have a decent assortment of seed potatoes and onion sets. Often I find myself on the hunt for local seed exchanges as well, wherein folks can come and share and collect personal heirloom seeds. I'm considering organizing one myself...

1 comment:

  1. Hello,

    I am writing from Hatherleigh Press, a book publisher specializing in health and wellness titles. We would like to use one of your images in our upcoming book entitled "Backyard Farming: Growing Vegetables and Herbs", to be released on May 28, 2013. Can you kindly let me know if we would have permission to use the egg carton seed starter photo in the following blog entry? (

    Please also let me know if it would be possible to receive a high resolution version of the image (at least 300 dpi).

    Thank you in advance for your assistance with this matter.

    Anna Krusinski