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Frugal Gardening – Starting Seeds Indoors

by Sheri
Starting seeds indoors is great fun for both the beginner and the experienced gardener. But it can lean toward the expensive side of things if you go for all the wonderful gadgets and devices meant to aide this activity. But if frugal is your aim, it is not a problem to forgo buying a full spectrum lighting system, specialized trays and containers, and warming pads to place under the specialized trays and still have great success starting your seeds indoors. All it takes to start seeds indoors is a well lit window sill, good soil, and appropriate containers. Admittedly, specialized manufactured devices do provide a certain aesthetic to this activity while the alternative I’m about to suggest is not a particularly pretty sight. But, the alternative does serve its intended purpose: successful seed starting with minimal financial expenditure. Okay, the setup. Sunny window sill or bay window. Small containers in which you’ll plant the individual seeds. Larger containers to hold all those small containers. And, lastly, appropriate seed starting soil. Selecting a sunny window and seed starting soil I’ll leave up to you. And on the larger containers…the only advise I can offer is that they can be, quite literally, anything as long as they satisfy the following two requirements: 1) they must fit on the window sill or in the bay window area, and 2) they must be waterproof. The only real trick in this setup is your chose of the small containers. My all-time favorite for this is the small, 3 oz., non-waxed, disposable, paper bathroom cups sold at the grocery store. Another option, however, is to take toilet paper rolls, turning them on end and filling with soil (you can also cut paper towel rolls in half or thirds and use in the same manner). These materials are cheap, readily available, and (most importantly) compostable. Because they are compostable it allows us to do the unthinkable – to start start root vegetables indoors. Root vegetables are notorious for failing after being transplanted into the garden (due to the disturbance of the root when we pull the plant from the container). But, starting them in a container that rots away after being planted prevents damaging their delicate roots and, thus, allowing us to expand what vegetables we start indoors. Using such containers means we can plant carrots, radish and beets much, much, earlier then otherwise possible without buying expensive seed starting pots. Do be aware that you’ll need to choose the height of those small containers based on the length of the root you’re growing. For example, if growing carrots or elongated radish, choose an uncut toilet paper roll (or ½ of a paper towel roll). Small round radish, peppers, and most herbs, on the other hand, are fine to start in the small 3 oz. bathroom cups. Beets (by the way, my favorite vegetable to grow) also have a long root, although the beet itself isn’t particularly long. So, these should also be started in the taller containers. And a final tip – when you set these small, compostable, containers in your garden it is best to plant them so the tip of the container is just below the surface of the soil. This will avoid turning the container into a wick and unduly drying out the soil inside the small seed pot.