I’ve been starting seeds undercover for the last few years but usually around March. This year I started my seeds on Boxing Day (26th December) to get a head start on the growing season for my tender plants which have long growing needs and now, in mid-January I’m sowing even more!
Yup, I’ve gone a little bonkers in getting a head start this year because I messed up so badly with my seeds last year and lost a bunch to late storms which decimated the garden.
You can start seeds right now for larger plants which will have a better start in your garden come spring or you can start seeds for indoor herbs and salads.
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It has seen a wee while since I last posted and with some all-hands-on-deck-stuff happening at work over the next few weeks I wanted to keep you dear readers, in the loop of what I’ve been up to here on the homestead.
I’ve been working on videos for my YouTube Channel and working on my crafting skills since it has been snowing plenty since *insert December holiday celebration of your choice* and I have been crocheting a blanket to use up new found balls of yarn hidden in my now unpacked and organized craft room, making a quilt to practice before working on the heirloom family quilt my Granny sent from England and……sewing chicken saddles, which disappointingly; are not so you can harness chickens to ride or train to pull a chariot (that would be awesome, right?) but to protect the bird who is losing feathers, being bullied by other hens or from the overly exuberant attention from a rooster.
In my case it’s because Attila the Hen is just a real pecker.
Attila the Hen: squawker, flighty, ruthless, loud, head of the pecking order, likes to cuddle.
On the gardening front, I have been designing the new garden space, re-designing the garden, searching through the many seed catalogues which have arrived for new plants to try and exciting varieties to get my hands on and did I mention re-designing the space again?
Starting seeds undercover early has so far been great. Already I have 10 tomato seedlings growing strong out of seeds I have saved which, I think is pretty awesome!
Grow my beauties, grow!
I had started many of my seeds in old containers for cheese or yogurt and sour cream all of which lined the south facing windows to get sun and warmth.
Re-use containers to start seeds
You can buy a windowsill greenhouse or two to start your precious seeds in if you have the space or you can re-use old containers from the kitchen. Plastic salad containers make great containers to start seeds in and with a lid become their own mini greenhouse. Old pots or containers can become mini greenhouses with a clear plastic bag placed over the top to capture heat and moisture.
Tomatoes and basil happily growing.
I bought several seed starter trays last year which were a mixed success here in Utah. The strong summer sun has made the plastic brittle and unfortunately, they did not make it to winter after attempting to clean them in fall for storage, the trays fell apart. This year, I’m trying to put my seeds in 4 inch pots or rootrainer pots to ensure stronger plants and hopefully stronger seed starting containers!
If you want to extend your growing season, then growing undercover such as a walk-in mini greenhouse or walk-in tunnel greenhouses make a good low cost option to a traditional greenhouse. In early spring I use row covers or polytunnels to warm the soil for more hardy seeds going in or transplants.
Starting Seeds Undercover In Mini Greenhouses
Last year, my sister-in-law bought me a mini greenhouse for the holidays (thanks Shannon!!) which now sits in the kitchen by the windows to get the most heat and light. I am still starting seeds in recycled containers and trays and popping them in the greenhouse to keep them away from the dogs and to keep them warm.
Yes I have sweet potatoes and a jug of water in there to help the humidity (it’s super dry here in UT).
Why a greenhouse inside?
It seems totally crazy to have a greenhouse inside but, I have had so many of these plastic mini greenhouses fall over or get torn to shreds in the winds, losing my lovingly grown seedlings. Right now, more snow is due with high canyon winds in February so it is safer inside even with 3 dogs!
If you can’t have a mini greenhouse inside (or outside where it probably should be) then you might want to consider a cold frame or if you are an enthusiastic gardener, an actual greenhouse or lean to.
Cold frames: A multi-purpose rival to the greenhouse
- Use it like an unheated greenhouse with potting plants and seed trays inside to protect them from the worst of the winter. If you have prolonged below-zero temperatures, this may not work for tender or tropical plants to overwinter them in. They work well for hardening off seedlings ready for transplanting outside.
- Fill it with compost and plant directly into the compost in the cold frame. Plant cold hardy salads to have through winter or sow seeds for your early spring veggies.
- Use it as a hot box. A popular way to grow early vegetables or tender crops in Victorian England, the hot box method involves filling the box with fresh manure then layering 6 to 12 inches of compost and sowing seeds in the compost. As the manure breaks down, it generates heat giving your plants warmth and therefore an early harvest.
I have not had the best use from my cold frame but this year, I’m determined to give it my best shot in hardening off my crops before being filled with compost to grow late winter salads at the end of the year.
How do you get your seeds started? Do you use a greenhouse or a cold frame? Let me know in the comments or head on over to the Misfit Gardening Community Forum, we would love to hear your ideas and tips about all things homesteading.
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