26 March 2011

Seed starting 2011 and garden report

Before I report on my seed starting efforts this year, I did want to update you on our house hunting adventures. We're buying a house in East Kensington, which is in North Philadelphia, for my non-Philly readers. We've had our inspection (which went well, over all), and assuming all our loan paperwork goes through and we meet all deadlines, I will be a homeowner! I'm very excited, but also nervous about such a huge commitment. More later, I'm sure. Now, back to sowing seeds.

I'm not starting a huge amount of seeds since our future move will make it difficult to transport seedlings from one house to the other.

Above: I decided to experiment with multiple seed-starting containers. In these re-purposed toilet paper tubes, I've sown parsley, thyme, and oregano. All sown on March 20.

Above: These are two views of the same tray of seedlings, all started on March 6 and sown inside a plastic flat (Burpee brand, but made from recycled plastic). I used a mixture of coconut coir and vermiculite to start my seeds. I'm trying to avoid peat moss, since it's not a renewable resource. This flat contains leeks, cauliflower, basil, several varieties of tomatoes, and mini eggplants. I also sowed a bunch of peppers, and they're finally starting to peek out of the soil. The largest seedlings--which you see in the 4 lower-right cells--are cabbage. They're starting to grow too large for their cells, so I transplanted them into larger containers this morning.

Above: I used yogurt containers to transplant the larger cabbage seedlings.

Above: This is the rosemary that I started in January in Jiffy pots (peat moss, I know, but I had these from a while ago). I used organic potting soil rather than seed starting mix, and they seem to be holding up fine. The sage seeds I started at the same time never germinated. I'm trying again, though, and sowed a few sage seeds inside toilet paper tubes.


I also sowed several seeds directly into my community garden plot in South Philly; spinach, arugula, snap peas, dill, lettuce, beets, and radishes all went into the ground last Saturday. I checked today, and it looks like only 1 snap pea is poking out of the ground. We did get to several nights of freezing weather, so I hope most of the seeds make it.
Unfortunately, we still have no reliable source of water for the garden, so I pay careful attention to the weather forecast. When there's no rain predicted, I will need to drive from my house to the garden in order to transport buckets of water. We hope to build some sort of water harvesting system, but that's made difficult by the fact that there are no accessible drain spouts.

Above: Two views of the Moore Street Community Garden. There is still a lot of work to be done: several beds need to be filled with compost; we need to mulch the walkways; we need to find a reliable water sources; and a few beds are still waiting to be built.

Above: Potential rain barrels, waiting to serve a purpose.


  1. Hi,
    Just curious if there might be any dioxins or other lousy toxins in cardboard toilet paper tubes. Any thoughts on this?

    Thanks much!


  2. Excellent! I haven't started any seeds yet. :( Too late for the san marzanos but plenty of time for the herbs. Hopefully the garden will be less chaotic this year. Almost time to put the peas in.

    Congrats on the new home! That's the same neighborhood as my brother - he's on Hancock across from Norris Square. It's a pretty cool neighborhood - very diverse and really exciting right now.

  3. Oh, also, would remind folks to try to keep plastic containers out of UV (breaks it down more quickly into nasty chemistry), especially if housing/soon to house water, or other plant/food items. A thought. I am not chemist, but UV does amazing work in breaking down materials, and toxic ones will create toxic 'fall out'.



  4. Hi Genevieve,
    I'm using tubes from recycled toilet paper that is free of dyes, fragrances, and bleach. I hope that makes it ok, but your question does make me think twice.

    Your point about plastic is also a good one. I avoid plastic when I can, but try to reuse it if I have it around. Also, the yogurt containers are only used inside; I don't expose them to sunlight. I will be transplanting the cabbages into the ground once they get a little larger. The plastic containers are exposed to florescent lights, however -- I wonder if there is cause for concern there? And, is it different from using plastic seed flats?

  5. I just moved my whole fruit & veg garden across town as I moved into my husband's house. 10 raised bed frames, ranging 2x4 to 5x5 to 4x6 (fortunately, no bottom to them). Fifteen recycling buckets (the low rectangular kind you can carry), mostly with garlic & onions planted in them. Three large garbage cans full of planted horseradish. Two 3-year old blueberry bushes and one 2-year old lingonberry bush (and I may go back for the huckleberry). A *large* tote box with the compost from the bin because by god, I wasn't leaving that behind. Now we just have to get everything situated, get the newspaper and cardboard under the raised bed frames, and order the soil. Then, maybe THEN! I can get stuff planted! (I'm exhausted just thinking about it!)

  6. Wow, trash master. I won't worry so much about moving a few seedlings then! :)

  7. Great news about the new house! I bet you will love East Kensington. Let me know if you're interested in hearing more about the Kenzo Co-op ;)

    Food for thought definitely with containers used for sprouting seeds. My sister-in-law and I just used whatever small leftover plastic containers were laying around. Eek!


  8. Hi Colleen,
    I definitely want to be involved with the co-op, and plan to join as soon as we move. Are you on the co-op board/committee? Please do email me at domestic.efforts@gmail.com and I'll send you my personal email from there.

  9. Congratulations on buying a house! How very exciting! Your seedlings are looking great. We've had such cold dreary weather, that some of our seeds have yet to germinate.