wanna-be farmers: day one

spring seed starting

Yesterday morning, I hopped on ReadyMade to see what my co-bloggers had been up to and came across a great post by Chris Gardner on recyclable DIY seed starters. I pondered trying them all but finally settled on citrus peels.

MK juices fresh oranges and grapefruits daily so getting a dozen halved and gutted oranges was as simple as yelling out of my office door. After work, I made a quick stop at our local nursery, picked up some seeds and seed-starting potting soil along with peat pots as a back-up for the orange experiment, and drove home giddy.

The Mister and I opened up a bottle of wine, turned on some tunes, and got to setting up a little potting station assembly line in our kitchen. I pulled out a few thrifted trays to catch the dirt and water. I’d been waiting to use them for something since December and was so excited to have finally found their purpose.

spring seed starting

spring seed starting

spring seed starting

spring seed starting

spring seed starting

We filled each of our vessels with soil and wet everything with warm water per the peat pot instructions. Sticking a pencil into the center of each container gave us a little hole to pop our seeds into. While The Mister planted, I made little labels for our plants with masking tape and wooden sticks.

spring seed starting

spring seed starting

We added a bit more soil to each pot and wet everything again. And that was that; our first day at attempting to grow our own food.

spring seed starting

spring seed starting

While my dad is an urban fish and vegetable farmer who has achieved some pretty serious recognition, and we had a raised-bed garden for a period last year (torn down to make way for a parking pad in our backyard, sadly), I haven’t planted a seed and watched anything grow out of it since elementary school days of styrofoam and sunny classroom windows. I jokingly referenced the styrofoam tradition to The Mister, thinking surely he had done the same as a youth; he told me that this did not happen in Nigeria but that they had a corn festival with a special song to go with it. I think we’ll repurpose the song and sing it to our plants at night!

We have no idea what we are doing. If while reading this post or later posts on the subject you come across something that sounds odd or downright wrong, make sure to leave a comment. Novices we may be, it sure is fun so far.

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16 responses to “wanna-be farmers: day one

  1. I love the idea of using oranges!

    I think it might be late for seed starting? But nothing beats having things grow in your apartment. I started growing a variety of microgreens this January for that reason and never had the heart to eat them.

    • I hope it isn’t too late! The package instructions for the various seeds had different time periods: between 4, 6 and 8 weeks prior to the last frost. I have no clue when Chicago’s last frost is expected. I should probably Google.

  2. I -love- gardening…yet my seed starting this year is late, too. I’m busy, and I don’t want to doom plants to their deaths because their mom forgets to water them! Yet I know I need some basil and tomatoes, so seed starting will resume soon!

    I think you’re doing fine, other than keeping your seeds moist (but not soaking) and in a warm sunny spot, there’s nothing to it. Make sure you transplant them as soon as necessary, your seed starters look a little small and with that amount of plants it may be overwhelming. Maybe hunt down the amount of pots you’ll need for each prospective plant ahead of time and have the potting mix ready to go.

    At first it seems like they’ll never come up, then it’s all at once and you’re overwhelmed! Good luck!

    • We’re building a few raised beds and also doing container gardening but I hadn’t thought about getting the mix together yet; good advice! I’m so excited!

  3. Your collection looks impressive! I actually visited an aquaponics facility on the south side this past monday, and once again have gotten the green thumb itch! I love to garden, but haven’t done so since I was a child. My grandmother taught us how to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, etc. While I don’t have my own little garden collection, I support local farmers via farmer’s markets, but can’t help but notice the lack of *me* at farmer’s markets. Maybe I should start soon.

    Your seeds will be relatively easy to take care of, once you get into a routine of watering and monitoring daily. And Van is right, one day you’ll look and BOOM, you’ll have massive amounts of produce.

    I do have a question. Where are you planning to move the seedlings once they begin to sprout? It looks like you’ll need some extra space for the spinach leaves and watermelon leaves once they begin to bloom.

    • Yes, start soon! It’ll be fun to swap stories. I know what you mean about the area markets here. Have you ever been to the Healthy Food Hub events? I haven’t yet but I hear great things and I know they had a recurring market at Malcolm X College in the fall. I’ll try to find some more info.

      Once the seeds sprout they will be going outside into a raised bed and into come containers. Now all we have to do is build the bed… cross your fingers for us!

  4. Orange peels?! Who would have thought! I love this though and hope you have some tasty things growing soon!

  5. Megan- All sounds wonderful to me. I’ve been sharing my dreams with Shae about starting some kind of garden for quite some time now. The kids recently brought home lima bean plants from school and they’re sitting in the window above the kitchen sink. Now I get the green kick-in-the-face each time I wash my hands.

    My Pop is an avid gardener (he has a veggie plot and separate flower garden). With these Irish bloodlines combined with all the sun and space in my backyard I should be ashamed. I am. Keep it up and keep inspiring!

  6. I saw that post but sadly have no room to start seeds. A lot of things can be direct-sown, and growing vertical is –definitely– your friend in an urban garden. Have you checked out yougrowgirl.com? Gayla has a couple of books and the site has a load of great information. She’s very urban-centric with all sorts of small space gardening ideas as well as basic how to grow stuff info, too.

    Sometime when you’re feeling adventurous, go check out The Growing Place out in Aurora, they have a Naperville location, too, but I like the Aurora one better. They aim for organic wherever possible, and have a huge selection. I pick up unusual varieties of herbs there when I come home from Cinci.

    • Thanks, Emily! I’ll definitely put The Growing Place and Your Grow Girl on my list. I need to get some more herbs back there. Hello pesto and mojitos!

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