Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sowing Seeds With Recycled Materials

I started thinking last night after my last blog post about what I could do to save money on my groceries and figured that other people must be wondering how to do that right now too, especially artists who are not getting rich from their art and are having trouble making ends meet.

It occurred to me that I had some fruit and vegetables and those have seeds in them, that I have all kinds of bits and pieces of materials from planting in previous years, and it's a good thing I'm careful about throwing anything away! In my front yard were some pete pots from last year with perfectly good potting mix still in them, and I have plenty of plastic recepticles lying around in my garage, so I pulled these things out, collected the seeds in paper towels from Watermelon, Honeydew melon, and Bell Pepper and decided that in keeping with my theme of resilience and regeneration I would share this process with my readers.

What You Need:

1. Seeds from inside your fruit or vegatables (soaked overnight if melon seeds)
2. Containers with small compartments (preferably w/a top and pan)
3. Paper Towels
4. Plastic Container filled with water
5. Old pete pots or plastc pots filled with left over potting mix
6. Old plastic or wooden markers for names of items planted
7. Permanent marker

Once you have all these thing set up outside fill the containers with some of the potting mix (about 3/4 of the way full). Stick seeds in the center of each compartment.

Melon seeds (such as these Honeydew seeds below) should be planted pointier side down sticking up in the soil.

Rounder seeds can go in any old way.

If you don't have containers at home they are very inexpensive to buy at Walmart or Home Depot in the garden department. The best ones to get are the type shown here which come in three parts (a clear plastic top, thin plastic insert with holes for each seperate seed and dirt, and a bottom pan for water). You can also use plastic containers with lids that you have left over from coffee, yogurt, margerine, etc, and poke small holes in the top and bottom, then put a dish flled with pebbles underneath (in place of the plastic pan) if you can't buy the containers and don't have this type at home.

Next, cover all compartments with more potting mix. Make them alittle bit too full, as soil will settle over time.

Planting is such a soothing activity and today is the perfect sunny day for it. I plan to buy some Tomato plants and Basil next month, as those I think are harder to start from seeds, but for now I have these three delicious varieties of seeds that I can plant right out of what I have in my own refrigerator.

Next, just fill the bottom pan with about one inch of water.

This will allow the seeds sitting on top to suck up the water from the bottom as needed.

Then place the insert with dirt and seeds inside the water pan, take old leftover seed markers, and using the back blank side write the name of your fruit, vegetable, or herb seeds on it lengthwise. (I got 3 new markers out of one old marker). Cut into strips and cut a point at one end. Stick these into the dirt in the corresponding containers.

Put the clear plastic top on, and set in a sunny location.

Notice that in only a few minutes there is condensation inside the clear plastic top. This is helpful in keeping the temperature warm and the conditions moist at all times (like a mini greenhouse). It means that the soil is already drawing up some of the water from the bottom which will cultivate a nice stable root system and soon, healthy little sprouts! The time it will take to see green peeking through depends alot upon the variety you are growing, the amount of sun you get, and the climate where you live. These containers can be placed outdoors or indoors if you have a window which gets full sun for a few hours a day.

Once your seedlings grow to be about 4 inches high you should be able to replant them in the ground or in a large pot. There are even upside-down hanging systems you can buy now if you have limited space or just want to keep your fruits and veggies off the ground and away from bugs. There's nothing like fresh grown food, and for the "starving artist" it can make all the difference between starving and eating during some months of the year.

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