It Starts with a Seed {and a pot}

Last night I stayed up till the wees planting over 60 seeds in little newspaper pots that will later become our summer garden. The thing that made it so fun, besides the promise of practically free organic fruits and veggies all summer long, is making rows of little pots with my new paper pot maker.

This paper pot maker came from Jackie Johnson who sells his handmade oak beauties at his store Wood Elements on Etsy. It’s a handy tool; worth it’s cost for the dollars you’ll save on terra cotta since it allows you to roll old newspapers into pots just the right size for seedlings like the tomato starters above. Since the paper will disappear into the soil as the root systems grow, they can be transplanted directly into the ground when the weather warms. 

If you don’t have time or dime to invest, you’ll find a stash of surprisingly suitable pots in your very own kitchen. Save your paper towel tubes and cut them in thirds, and line them up on a sheet tray or baking dish which becomes their temporary bottom when you pack them with soil. 

Once you have your pots, it takes little more than the cost of a bag of potting soil and a few packs of seeds to create your own mini farm. It helps to have somewhere to transplant your farm in about 6 weeks, like a backyard, a set of raised beds or a community garden like mine. But you’ve got plenty of time to sort that out. For now, set the seeds to incubate in the warmest, sun drenched spot in the house where the window light will reach them while you’re away at work. Before you know it, you'll be seeing green. 

It sort of makes the whole growing your own food thing seem easier than you thought huh? Here’s the news—it is. Here are five other things you’ll need to know:

1. Soil
It helps tremendously to start seed in the healthiest soil available. Choose organic “seed starter” or “potting” soil, which is light and loose {those seeds need oxygen}, and designed to have the perfect balance of the nutrients plants need: potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen.

2. Seeds
It has been well argued that organically grown produce has the highest nutrient content. I’m a believer. Start with organic seeds, dated for the current year. Talk to local farmers and gardeners {your farmer’s market is likely full of them} about what grows well in your climate, and where they get their seeds. Some of my favorite online seed sources are: Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, The Seed Savers Exchange, Twin Leaf: Seeds from Thomas Jefferson's Garden at Monticello

3. Light + Warmth
Seeds are dormant storehouses of energy and nutrition, but they need warmth to unlock their potential. That’s why we start seeds indoors in the springtime in cooler climates, where the ground has not yet reached the optimum temperatures. That temperature is different for every plant, but most plants germinate most quickly in soil between 65 and 80 degrees. Seeds don’t need light to germinate, but once they reach the surface they do need about 6 to 8 hours of full daylight.

4. Oxygen
You know this: Plants, like animals, need oxygen, which is why we start tiny seeds in loose soil. Don’t pack your soil too tightly, and water with a light sprinkle or drizzle rather than a heavy douse of water.

5. One Last Tip
Follow the instructions on the seeds for how deep to plant seeds in the soil, but a general rule of thumb is the bigger the seed, the deeper in the soil it should go. Sprinkle tiny lettuce and herb seeds on top of the soil and top with a thin dusting of soil. Press zucchini, cucumber and melon seeds about 1 inch below the soil. They’ll need a deeper root system to grow up big and strong. 


A Chistoff said...

The wooden pot maker is great however I've found a better one: it is called next generation paper pot maker and it is much cheaper. Plus you can add soil without damaging the pot you just made.

Anthony Nicalo said...

I want a paper-pot maker now. We've just planted our seeds last weekend and used old egg cartons. Easy to move around (outside on the unseasonably warm days) and once we cut them into individual cups, the whole thing can be planted.

Heather said...

Thanks for the great ideas! Sounds like the perfect weekend project to do with the kids:)

Christina@Health Foodie said...

Thank you so much for this! I NEED to follow you. :)

I would love to grow some vegetables and fruit once I have a garden. The problem is that I can't even keep houseplants alive... Everything I touch dies within a couple of weeks.

This is my first time here by the way. You are beautiful. The picture of you and the description of your life sounds so peaceful. Love it! :)

- Christina

Sarah {edible living} said...

Thanks for all your great comments everyone! I'm thrilled to connect with so many other passionate gardeners.

Chistoff, thanks for sharing this new, economical option for paper pot making. I'm sort of an old fashioned gal and love my hand-crafted wooden version, but I'm getting this one too for when I work with kiddos.

Speaking of, Heather, I'm so happy to have inspired a weekend project with the kids. Let me know how it turned out! Pictures?

Anthony, egg cartons are great, especially for little things that don't need deep root systems. Sometimes I use recycled yogurt cups too when I run out of patience to make my paper pots. ;)

Christina, hooray for finding each other, and welcome. Thank you for your kind words. I hope you come back again and again, and comment when you're so inspired. I'll love hearing from you! And don't give up on plants, soon enough they'll reward you and you'll be hooked for life!

Happy gardening everyone.


Sean said...

Hey Sarah --

Had coffee with Aida this morning, and she mentioned you. Consequently had to come check you out! Would love for you to post this to Punk Domestics -- need more excellent stuff like this in the Microfarming category. Cheers!

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New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.