Saturday, March 5, 2011

Planting seeds

It's been a busy day for my little rooftop garden. A friend and I stopped by GreensGrow, an urban farm in North Philadelphia today for a workshop on seed starting. We picked up some very large bags of soil with perlite and vermiculite mixed in, as well as some mushroom compost and then headed down to Home Depot, where I grabbed two more planters for the rooftop and some gravel to line the bottoms to help improve drainage.

Last week I started off with cheap soil that definitely needed a little extra something, so I mixed some of the new soil and compost into the other planters. It should be interesting to see how the veggies in the planters with mixed soil fare compared to the new guys with the slightly pricier stuff.

While the entire setup really didn't cost that much (about $140 for the planters, soil, gravel, compost to get started, and an outdoor rug), I'm hopeful that most of this is a one time cost. If all goes according to plan, I'll be able to grow crops throughout the spring, summer, and fall and then set aside the potting soil for next year, when I'll probably mix in some fresh compost and maybe some other goodies before planting seeds. But the big costs are out of the way -- and eventually I hope to stop even paying for compost, although I haven't decided if we have enough room for a real compost pile behind the house or if I'll try a worm bin in the basement.

Oh yeah, and seeds. But honestly, most seeds are so cheap it's almost embarrassing.

Today I started some of the cold weather crops indoors. I took some of the soil and spread it over a seed tray with 72 pockets, and filled half with garlic chive seeds and the other half with bunching onion seeds. I honestly don't know that I'll have enough room to move them all outdoors once they sprout, but I'm looking forward to finding out in a few weeks.

My other cold weather crop plans are for snow peas and some spinach and bok choy. I'm still waiting for the spinach and bok choy seeds I ordered to arrive.

Based on some advice we got at the seed starting seminar today, I'm trying to pre-sprout some snow pea seeds before sticking them outdoors. There appear to be a number of methods for doing this, but for my first attempt I'm just sticking some pea seeds in a jar for a day or two to see if I can get a root to peek out. If that doesn't work, I may try sticking some seeds between moist paper towels for a few days -- but the trick is finding a place to put the towels that the cats won't get to.

Anyway, snow peas are good with cold weather, so apparently you can plant them straight in the soil even in March (or earlier), but I'm hoping that sprouting them indoors will give them a little extra help to get started.

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