5 Seed Starting Tips

If you've gone to a garden center and spent $20 bazillion dollars on plant starts, you'll quickly understand the value of starting your own. If 2020 taught us anything, it's that nothing is certain anymore. I know that's a super depressing thought, but the reality is some of us couldn't even find toilet paper last year. Seed companies had their highest sales ever last year because all of these people became interested in growing their own food. You will save hundreds and maybe even thousands of dollars growing food from seed instead of buying plant starts. However, I know it can be overwhelming to get started. Below are 5 tips for starting your own seeds. It's not as scary as you think! 

1. Utilize whatever you have. Obviously you aren't going to have everything you need to start seeds as you'll have to get a growing medium like sterile soil or coconut coir. But, seeds can be started in a lot of different containers. You can use old yogurt cups and poke holes in the bottom or solo cups with holes poked in them. Basically any container you'd like to reuse that can have holes poked or drilled into the bottom will work. You can even make your own newspaper pots like we did here.

2. Read the seed packet. Most seed packets have tons of information on it specific to whatever seed you have. Every now and then I'll get a seed packet that I've ordered online that won't have any information on it, but that is pretty rare. You should be able to find things like how early you should start your seeds inside, or if you should really just plant them outside. If a seed needs light to germinate, it will say that. Same with darkness. If it doesn't specify, chances are the seed needs to be covered. Your seed packet will also tell you when to move seedlings outside, how far to space plants, and maybe even what the plant should look like. But if there is any crucial information about the specific plant you are growing, you will find it on the seed packet. If you have doubts about any of these things or your seed packets doesn't list something you have a question, head to the internet! First start out checking the seed company's website for your seed type, but if you can't find what you need there, take it to google.

3. Dampen your soil before starting. You always want to start with well hydrated soil. Once your seeds are planted, you aren't going to want to pour a bunch of water on top as the seeds can dislodge and float higher or sink deeper into the soil. If a seed is too far down, it will not be able to germinate properly. (Depending on what seed it is, of course.) You want your soil to hold together when you squeeze it in your hand, but at the same time not drip any water out when you squeeze it. My favorite method is putting my soil in a 5 gallon bucket and then spraying water on top and working it in with a trowel. You can also use your hands!

4. Lighting is key! Once you've planted your seeds, you have to have a light source. We use these lights. You don't need to buy lights that are specifically grow lights. They are much more expensive. We had great success with our LED lights. Lighting is so important for the success of your seedlings. If you have a room with a sky light, you could possibly put your seeds right under that window (I'm talking 2" away from), but for the most part, windows are not enough. This is because all seedlings will start growing toward the light and become really leggy. They just will not grow straight up. Leggy seedlings are no bueno!

5. Don't start them too early! Oooh wee starting your seeds too early can really put you in a pickle! If you are in an area that has a long growing season like us (zone 7A) you have a little more freedom in when you start your seeds. People with shorter growing seasons have less leeway. On your seed packet it will say something like "start seeds 8-12 weeks before last frost." And last year we started all of our seeds in further away time. So if it said 8-12 weeks, we chose 12 weeks. I'm here to tell you to just choose 8 weeks. Your seedlings will grow surprisingly fast and 8 weeks is plenty of time to get the healthy and grown before transitioning outside. That extra 4 weeks is time you have to spend up-potting your seedlings because they've outgrown their pot. And if you have more than a couple seedlings, this takes a lot of work, time, and space to make happen. We spent the last 4-6 weeks before it finally stopped freezing (because bonus, our last frost date was not our last frost) trying to keep our seedlings alive and it was too much! So this year we are starting seeds way later and it's definitely something to consider yourself.

BONUS TIP! When you are brand new to growing your own food and/or flowers, getting all the seeds you want can be pretty expensive. This is when we suggest joining a seed swap! The best places I have found seed swaps is on Instagram.

ANOTHER BONUS TIP! When you are admiring your beautiful garden this summer, make sure you save some seeds from the fruits of your labor. You can use those seeds next year. Saving seeds is free and produces WAY more than what comes in a seed packet!

Don't get overwhelmed when starting seeds. Make sure you read the packet and follow the instructions and you will see magic happen. Watching a plant grow from seed and then being able to feed your friends + family off what you grew, is truly rewarding and worth all the hard work.

*** This blog post contains affiliate links. So if you buy an item using one of our links, we earn a teeny tiny portion of that sale. We appreciate all purchases you make through our links as it helps us provide you with this free content. 

DIY Magazines and Newspaper Seedling Pots

All of our seedlings are ready to be put in the ground. The only problem is that it's going to get down to 35 degrees and 37 degrees a few days this next week. Many of the flowers that we are growing need warm soil and 35 degrees ain't gonna cut it. So we made the decision to re-pot almost 200 plants. The only problem? We don't have that many pots!

I've seen people make newspaper pots, and while that is interesting to me, we don't have any newspapers sitting around the house. We do have a stack of magazines and catalogs though. So I figured out how to make a BUNCH of pots out of our magazines, and I'm going to show you how to do it! All you need are your magazines. No tape, no scissors, just old magazines and/or catalogs, or any paper that you would like to use.

I would like to really quickly say that if you do use magazines, make sure you remove the plant from the pot when you go to plant it in your garden bed. Throw the used magazine pot in the trash. Do not plant it in your soil and leave to decompose.

First things first, pull out all the papers in your magazine. Separate each one. Stack two papers right on top of each other.

Fold the top to the side edge and fold into a triangle.

Fold the bottom edges up along the edge of the triangle.

Separate the papers.

Flip one of the papers upside down.

Overlap the papers and line them up along the folded line.

Fold the papers in half along the fold.

Fold the papers in half vertically and then open it up again. This line is just a guide.

Take the top right corner and fold it in toward the middle and line it up along the middle fold.

Repeat on the left side.

Fold the bottom top layer upward and line it up below the triangles.

Fold it again.

Flip the paper over.

Fold the left side inward and line it up with the middle fold.

Repeat on the other side.

Fold the bottom upward and line up with the bottom of the squares.

Fold it upward one more time.

Take the end of what you just folded and tuck it in behind the other folds.

Fold the top point downward to meet the other folds.

Turn over and fold the top point back the other way.

Take the point and fold it over to the left top corner, but only press down half way.

And then open it back up.

Open up the bottom hole.

And prop it open into a square.

Push down the bottom where you made folds.

And press down the flap.

This flap will stick out, but it doesn't affect how the pot works.

And your pot is done!

I will be watering these pots from the top only. They are substantial enough to hold the plants, but we don't want to break them down super fast. I would like for them to last for a couple weeks! You could always plant seeds in these pots if you are just starting out. They are a great solution when you don't have a bunch of pots or can't get to the store to buy some, which is the exact situation we were in.

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How To Grow Your Own Chicken Treats (Cheap, Fast, And Easy!)

It's the middle of winter, and everything is dead. Well almost. If it's alive, the chickens have eaten it. We are still working on making the chicken coop and run the most entertaining place it can be for them, but we felt like they still need something more. Then we discovered fodder.
Fodder is something used on farms and homesteads all around to feed livestock. It can be made at home from many different things- wheat, peas, barley, oats, etc. It grows fast and provides a very cheap treat for your farm animals. I first searched high and low for a huge bag of barley, but in the end our supply store only had oats, so that became our choice of grain! The 50 lb. bag cost about $15.

Now fodder is not supposed to replace the entire diet of your chickens. We are growing it for more of a treat and to offset a little bit of the cost of food. Mostly it gives the chickens something to do and be excited about, especially in the colder months when everything is dead.

I've had some trial and error. When I read about the process of making fodder online, it seems like it's easy and fool-proof. No one really talks about the ways it can go wrong. But on my first try (while following someone's complete instructions) only about 1/4 of the grains sprouted and I ended up with a lot of wet grain and a little bit of sprouts. The chickens enjoyed it anyway, but it didn't provide as much food/treats as I would have liked. So after numerous YouTube videos watched and blog posts read, I believe I figured out the best way to grow fodder in your home, *without* an automatic watering system. Because that is also a thing....

You may read this post and think, this is more work than I want to put in. And although you do have to tend to the project every day, you only spend about 3 minutes per day doing anything. So let's talk about everything you need to do, and what supplies you need to do it.

You will need:
- A large soaking jar
- Grains of your choice
- Kitchen Towel
- Bowl
- Strainer
- Tray with holes
- Tray without holes

Soak the grains. For a long time! I read to soak the grains overnight. This is not long enough. Just go ahead and soak them for 24 hours. I put about 2 cups in a giant mason jar and filled it up with water. I did end up having to add a little more water as the seeds started absorbing it.

Incubate the grains. Once the seeds have been soaking for 24 hours, strain the water out and give the grains a good rinse. Place a clean kitchen towel in a bowl and pour the grains on top. Then wrap the towel over the seeds to completely cover them. Leave them for at least 24 hours. I found that 48 hours for the oats was best.

At this point, your grains should be sprouted very nicely. Place the grains in an even layer in your tray with holes. Rinse the grains with water. I do this in my sink. Just spray with water and let it drain out. Once the water has mostly drained out, place the grain tray on top of the tray without holes. Use the kitchen towel (or anything you'd like, really) to roll up and prop up one end of the grain tray. This will allow any residual water to leak out instead of sitting with the grains. We do not want any mold to grow!

I rinse my tray twice a day. Once in the morning, and once in the evening. Basically when I wake up and before I go to sleep. Some people rinse 3 or 4 times a day, and that is definitely an option if you have the time. But I have found that the sprouts still grow very quickly with a twice a day watering.

Once your sprouts reach about 4 inches, you can give the entire tray to your chickens! Ours will spend a few days eating the 9x12 tray. One day soon I hope to grow multiple trays at a time so they can have a little bit of sprouts every day, even through summer. Especially on the days when we can't let them free range.