Planting Fall Crops in Pots

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I am having fun in my friends’ greenhouse but even if you don’t have a greenhouse, or a garden, or a house even, you can still get some fall crops.  For some crops it is too late in the season, we should expect a frost next month (really? already?!) but you can buy a little time with a greenhouse or cold frame or south facing living room window.  Almost all the crops I planted will be ready before the frost hits and the ones that don’t could be brought indoors and placed into a south window.  Planting in pots is quickly becoming my favorite way to garden.

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The lettuce I had brought over finally went to seed (three months of salad was great!) and became bitter so I yanked it out of the pots (and wished I had chickens to give it to) and fluffed up the soil.  Then I pulled most of the pumpkins I brought over since they really were not getting going in time to produce.

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When I say pots, I mean the three or five gallon buckets I got for free from the Walmart deli and empty cat litter containers.  This is also not fresh potting soil, this is the same soil I poured in this spring and some of it is from last year.  Next year I will pour this year’s soil into a garden space and refill the pots to keep the nutrients in tact or we will create our own soil on this blog.  That would be fun, wouldn’t it?

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I planted arugula, spinach, and Swiss chard.  Greens will be ready in no time.  I planted two pots of carrots, carefully separated so I don’t have to do too much thinning and one pot of cauliflower.  We will see how long these can withstand the autumn and hope for a harvest from them!

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Now where to put the lettuce?  I scruffed up the soil beneath Pat’s gorgeous tomato plants (that I have become the caregiver for) and planted lettuce in them.  In no time, we will have fresh vegetables.

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The gardening and farming addiction doesn’t subside easily so having some five gallon buckets, some potting soil, some discount seeds, and water is an easy way to feed the soul while adding delicious, fresh ingredients to late summer cooking.

Creating Your Own Mini Greenhouse to Start Seeds

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Getting a jump start on the season is always a good idea.  I have had my trials and errors with seed starting over the years and have often ended up purchasing large tomato and pepper plants to put in the ground.  This year I am going back to the way I used to start seeds a long time ago and that always worked well for me.  I had given it up because of my lack of success transplanting them (that was before I knew you were supposed to water more than once a week!) and went on to more professional ways of seed starting, none of which worked for me.

I bought peat pots (good bye $100), I bought seed starting kits with mini green house lids, I bought grow lights (which mysteriously disappeared from my garage and is probably being used to grow pot by one of the neighborhood kids).  I bought seed starting medium, I took classes, I watched each seedling meet its untimely and sad little death.  And after all that money was spent, I had to find more money to go buy grown plants.  I should have stuck with the tried and true for me.  And that was creating little mini green houses on the cheap.

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Here’s how:

You will need organic potting soil, some Styrofoam cups, rubber bands, and sandwich bags.  So far I am fourteen dollars into this venture.  Yesterday I planted eighty-nine tomato, pepper, and eggplant seeds and still have plenty left to start more.

Organic potting mix is a must!  You don’t need extra chemicals in there promising twice the growth when you may end up accidentally poisoning wildlife and bees.  Everything needs more water here in Colorado so I have found that the seed starting mediums don’t hold enough water.

I know, I know, Styrofoam?  How unsustainable.  But they don’t fall apart like newspaper, peat, or paper cups. You need several weeks to get these started and I have had pots positively decompose before I could even plant them!  I reuse the cups year after year.  If one breaks it can be added to the cold frame or between two boards in the chicken coop for added insulation.  It can be crushed up and added to the bottom of a pot before adding soil to make it lighter.  And the plastic one-time use trays don’t seem to be much better from an environmental standpoint.  We’ll just keep giving them new lives.

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Fill cup with soil and mark outside of cup with variety name with a permanent marker.  Believe me, you think you will remember, but you will not!

Water soil, don’t make a lagoon, just make sure it is uniformly wet, about a quarter cup in a twelve ounce cup.

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Add two seeds.  One to grow, and one for insurance, but no more than that or you will have to cut a lot of little seedlings out and waste seeds.  And organic seeds cost a bit!

Add just a bit of soil to cover the seeds and add about a teaspoon of water.

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Place the opening of a sandwich bag around the rim of the cup and secure with a rubber band to create a mini greenhouse.

These can be placed in a very sunny window sill.  This year I put mine in the green house.  Seeds need sun and warmth to germinate along with humidity and water.  That is what we are creating in this environment.

This will self water for about a week.  You will see the condensation rise and fall off the sandwich bag.  Once it is not as humid in the bag, remove the bag and water with a spray bottle until seedlings are well established.  You can replace the bag as long as the seedlings are not too tall.  Don’t let the cups dry out (it is harder to without drainage holes) but don’t make it too wet either.  Just moist.

This makes a great homeschool project and is an excellent way to provide your family with more food security by starting your own vegetable seeds.  This will be a tasty summer!

Space and Seed Wonderings

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After writing the post about what I would do if I had no fear I realized that deep down I was done with the retail side of herbalism.  I wanted to get back to helping people that came to me directly and I want to make medicines for them on the spot with what is there.  It may sound silly, and not at all business savvy, but I was getting too big.  So within four weeks of that post I have sold my business name, almost cleared out all of my stock, and have really promoted my farm and school.  I am getting regular queries on what my farm will offer and folks are signing up for classes.

Then I wrote two books and rather than waiting to be discovered I just self published them.  This is called, Taking your life into your own hands!  Just do it!  It has to work!  I am not afraid of whether the farm will work.  Of course it will.  I am afraid that I will not plant enough.  I still do not have any idea how many lettuce seeds to plant.  How many tomato plants?  How many cabbages?  We need enough vegetables to feed our family, to preserve for the winter, and to sell at the market, and have some available for folks that visit the farm.  That seems like a lot.  Do I have enough space?  Time shall tell.  I guess I will make charts.  How much space does one broccoli take? (1 foot)  How much broccoli do I want for us? (One head every other week?)  Twenty-six plus however many I want to sell.  So, let’s say I want to sell another twenty-four heads of broccoli then I need one fifty foot row to grow broccoli.  I can grow greens in between and herbs.  They can share space.  I need to do that with all the seeds I bought!  There has to be an easier way!  I am sure the longer I farm, the more in tune I will be and this will come more naturally.  In the meantime, where should I put the corn?

I’m excited to watch this year’s farming season transpire.  I am excited to hear about how you are making your dreams come true as well!