I’ve flirted with and tested out countless cheap and cheerful seed organization systems through the years. From plastic storage bins, to glass jars, wicker baskets, and vintage index card boxes — I’ve tried out every affordable option I could think of and then some. As my rag-tag seed bank has grown, I have had to conjure up new and smarter ways to keep on top of countless little packets.
A few weekends ago I realized that once again my seed collection was out of control and needed to be revamped. Years of experience has made it clear to me that I require three systems: One for the plants that are started indoors underneath lights, another for the seeds that are direct sown, and a third for tomatoes.
While I will always promote gleaning your gardening gear from the recycling bin or second-hand via garage sales and thrift stores, there are times when buying new is required. A lot of gardeners looking to save money have been turning to the dollar store over the past few years, especially since many chains have been expanding their gardening aisles and selection has grown. For that reason I have put together a guide to products that I have purchased in my local stores and have found to be useful and of decent quality. Oddly enough, much of the best garden gear is not found in the actual gardening aisle so it helps to think outside the box and look around the entire store for objects in the housewares, craft, and stationary aisles that might suit your needs.
- Plastic Dish Pan Basin: These bins are fantastic for a variety of purposes and I keep a few on hand. I use them to mix up and moisten seed starting soil (and other potting soils, too) and as a working surface for filling pots. They can also be used for bottom watering delicate plants and as a wash basin for soaking and cleaning used pots. Brand new cat litter pans also work well for this purpose, although the dish pans tend to be deeper.
I live in the northeast and am starting a bunch of mine today underneath lights. The following are a few tips gleaned from my own past blunders and successes to help you get started with yours.
Onions & Shallots: Depending on the type, onions are fairly flexible plants that will tolerate a certain amount of rule-breaking on your part. Bunching onions aka scallions tend to be tougher and can be direct sown outdoors in mid-Spring with some frost protection (a cold frame, bottle cloche, or cover).
Info on how to enter the giveaway follows.
And so it begins. Every spring I compile lists of posts about seed starting, but this year I’ve decided to create a permanent page dedicated to everything seed starting that you can find anytime you need it by clicking over to the Resources section. I am slowly rebuilding the Resources and will add more permanent, topical, how-to garden resource pages as I go.
On a personal note, I bought my first two packs of seed the other day; more impulse buys from my local Italian grocer. I could not resist another big packet of Spigarello (you must grow this) because friends are always asking about it. I also purchased a long day (better for Northern gardeners), Italian red onion I have never grown before called ‘Rossa di Toscana’ as the time to start onion seed is quickly approaching.
I’ve been very fortunate to move into a neighbourhood where a wealth of Italian heirloom vegetable seeds are easily accessible so I thought I’d do a giveaway of five packs of my favourites to get the season started.
How about this weather, eh?
I spent all of Monday getting the garden in order. Or, I should say, beginning to get the garden in order. Digging, cleaning, ripping out dead annuals, sowing seeds… my arms, shoulders, neck, legs, knees, everything are creaky, stiff, and sore. I did not stretch before I started. To be honest, I never stretch before I start, probably because I always fail to remember that gardening is hard work.
[Aside: Some of the pain was caused by lifting heavy luggage on and off of the train 4 times on Sunday. I brought home two cases of Ball quilted canning jars from a trip over the border. When is Berardin going to start offering the nicer designs here in Canada? Am I right, my fellow canning Canadians? Enough with the ugly crest and fruit designs! I am tired of stuffing my luggage full of glass whenever I travel to the US.]
I left home very early on Friday morning to catch a train to Rochester, NY where I was speaking at the Rochester Flower Show. Tee shirt weather persisted through the weekend and I was pleased when I stepped outside on Monday morning and found that the garden had exploded into life over three days of temperatures around or above 60F.
The Iris reticulata (above) were only just showing their leaves above the soil line at this time last year. Back then they were grown indoors in a pot — the fact that they are in full bloom outside is a testament to how far ahead of schedule we are this year.
This is my garden as of this morning. As you can see it is still a mess, but I’m getting there. Compare to what it was on this day last year. p.s. Look at my scruffy muppet dog at the back. She eats EVERYTHING.