Dried egg shells - check. Fresh, still-in-the-unsealed potting soil bag so it's still moist - check. Empty toilet paper rolls….darn, where did I put that stash, it takes me a long time to collect enough!
I don't make a lot of rules for myself but this one I insist on. I am not allowed to go to a garden center late winter until I have all of my seed starting equipment lined up and ready to go.
There is something so enticing about those shiny plastic potting trays full of cute little plastic containers with ready to sprout dehydrated peat pellets begging for seeds. If you are planning a big garden, or if you will be planting a lot every year and can re-use, they are definitely worth the investment.
For someone like me, who grows some of my food in deck pots, hanging baskets and my tiny raised bed garden, these don't make sense. Cents, either.
Reminds me of one those math test questions: if you buy two seed potting trays on a Thursday, and grow 24 tomato plants by Saturday that produce more than 46 tomatoes at 4 miles per hour…well, if you buy those expensive seed starting sets, it ends up to be something like $8.47 per tomato!
To keep my initial costs down, I make my own seed starting pots. After cutting an empty toilet paper roll in half, I add half inch cuts at quarter intervals, then fold them under. I add potting soil, then fill up cleaned clear fruit clam shells with the pots until I am ready to plant. It's a very relaxing process, especially on a cold, snowy winter night when I'm dreaming of spring.
I mark the clam shells with stickers on the outside so I know which ones are for tomatoes. To those I add dried egg shells before adding potting soil. Dried egg shells in the bottom will give tomatoes extra calcium, which helps prevent blossom end rot, a condition that develops when tomatoes are stressed by not getting regular watering because of drought conditions.
When I have the total numbers ready, I put them in a cardboard box, make a note to myself of how may pots I have - then I get to go window shopping.
Last year, winter was so mild, my all-season producing heirloom tomatoes popped up on their own. I haven't found any seedlings volunteering yet this year, but I did save some seeds.
Let's see, it takes tomato seeds 6 weeks to sprout from the last frost day, which around here used to be around Mother's Day, May 10. Last year, the last frost we had was in April. Several friends are planning to get their gardens started outside a month earlier this year.
Hummm, there's a saying in the Ozarks, "thunder in February means frost in May."
Page 2 of 2 - I think I will wait a little longer before I start my tomatoes.
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a changing climate at http://www.gardeningcharlotte.com. Contact Charlotte at email@example.com