Tuesday, March 29, 2011

nesting know-how

Since we've been having such great bird activity here, I thought I'd treat our visitors to a spring treat: nesting materials. The great thing about a project like this is that it takes next to no time, plus it's free. Just gather a few spare household and garden items and secure them outside for your feathered friends to discover (read more details here). Our neighborhood birds have their choice of cotton yarn and some dried-up strawflowers from last year's containers -- I cut both into 4- to 8-inch pieces. Then, I piled it all in a clean wire suet feeder and hung it on the balcony. So easy.

Come and get it, birdies!

Friday, March 18, 2011

spring fever, part 2

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm happy to announce our newest development: Five days after being planted, the tomatoes and tomatillos have sprouted! Can you believe they grew this much overnight? I checked at about 11:30 p.m. and nobody was poking out of the soil yet.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

spring fever, part 1

This morning, I woke up and immediately I knew: It was time to defy my winter blahs and do something springy. Today I would plant my tomato and pepper seeds for our container garden. Ian and I had already saved seeds from a bell pepper and a hot chili we cooked with, so I ran out to Stein's (a local garden center chain) and bought container-friendly tomato seeds, plus some tomatillo ones (right...not official tomatoes, but something that's easy to start from seed that we want to make room for on the balcony). Here's how I did it.

These are the supplies I used...pretty self-explanatory except maybe the aluminum sheet cake pan (with a cover) and the circular brown things. Those are cut-up toilet paper tubes that I've been saving for this very purpose. Though peppers and tomatoes transplant pretty well, one can always use an extra safeguard. When the seedlings are ready to be moved into larger containers, I can just plop each tube in the soil without disturbing the root system, and the cardboard will decompose over time. 

First, I spread a thin layer of soil in the tin.

Then, I nestled the TP tubes in the soil and arranged them in six rows -- one for each variety: Containers Choice Red tomatoes, Oregon Spring tomatoes, tomatillos, bell peppers, poblano peppers, and chili peppers.

Next, I filled the tubes with soil using the cute little hand trowel Ian bought me for my birthday.

These are the bell pepper seeds we so lovingly cleaned and dried. My dad taught me this trick. I loved that we could taste what we'd be growing -- no guesswork required.

The seeds need to be 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep, so I just sprinkled a few into each tube, poked them in a tiny bit, and added a thin layer of soil from the tin.

Last step: watering. A slow, steady stream into each tube does the trick. I'll check them daily to be sure the moisture level is good. The soil should be damp, but not soaked.

I covered the tin to keep the moisture in and to reduce the draft. There's a hole on one edge of the cover, so the air should circulate sufficiently. I'll keep an eye on this, too. The tin is in the sunniest window, right next to Sprout. Some of the seeds may germinate in just three days, according to their packets. I'll update you soon!

Have you ever started seeds? What were your tricks?