Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Affordable Lighting for Starting Seeds Indoors

One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides. 
~W.E. Johns, The Passing Show

Hello fellow gardeners.  Spring is just around the corner and I can barely conceal my anticipation to see my garden begin the process of waking up.  Yesterday, I was discussing my garden plan with a co-worker and he brought up a question about lighting for my indoor seedlings.  The poor guy really opened up a can of worms since I have a tendency to go a bit overboard with advice.

 He said he typically places seedlings in a sunny window sill and they grow spindly and eventually fall over and die.  My advice to him was basically use florescent lighting because his seedlings will not receive sufficient sunlight exposure to ensure healthy growing habits.  An elaborate set-up is not needed.  Simply purchase a florescent shop light unit (they are relatively inexpensive) and a couple of bulbs (they are very reasonable) from your local home improvement center.  I normally purchase 8-foot-long bulbs (cool, white) because I start the majority of my seeds indoors.  The hubby brings the units we’re not using out of the basement and suspends them from the ceiling over my seed starting table.

If you are only going to start a few seeds indoors, you can even purchase small screw-in grow light bulbs and place them in inexpensive desk lamps. In the past, I have used several desk lamps (borrowed from the kids’ rooms) and received marginal success.

Well, I have to close for now.  I hope this post helped.  Until later…Taa-taa!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Seed Starting Alternatives to Pricey Seedling Heat Mats

“Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there.” 
~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

Hello fellow gardeners.  Today, I am sowing my long-growing varieties of seeds indoors and I would like to share several low-cost methods of bottom heating that have worked for me in the past.

Electric Blankets – I purchased an old blanket a few years ago from a local thrift shop and was pleased to notice it had no damage and the heating elements worked well.  I place the blanket on top of a table I use indoors for sowing and placed an old plastic liner on top to protect it from moisture.  It worked like a charm.  My total investment amount was only $5.00! Although smaller than blankets, medical heating pads (avialable at your local drug store or pharmacy) are also less expensive options.

Aquariums – I found an old 30 gallon aquarium during one of my curbside excursions and it still contained the hood and a working bulb.  The only damage was a small crack at the bottom of the tank. I placed an old metal baking rack set with stands at the bottom and placed my seed trays on top.  Because of the heat from the lighting and the humidity, I received a high germination rate.  My total investment amount was zero!

Electronics and appliances – In the past, I have placed seed trays on top of a DVR, cable boxes, refrigerators and freezers.  I received various degrees of success with them all but I did achieve good germination.  Total investment amount:  zero.

Well, I hope this post will help you out with your future seed starting endeavors.  Until the next time, happy planting!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Spring Garden Planning - Getting an Early Start

"The best place to seek God is in a garden.  You can dig for him there." 
~George Bernard Shaw, The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God, 1932

Well, here we are in February, and spring is not that far away. Thank goodness!!!  I am so excited because I can finally focus on my true love…gardening. Like you, I am receiving numerous catalogs in the mail and although they are enticing, I must remember my purpose is to spend as little as possible by recycling used items or getting them for free.

Today, I am going to start my garden supplies inventory list or as my husband would say, “the junk list”. I will admit, I have a huge amount of vases, pots, seeds, plant markers, etc. however, everything will come in handy at some point and he knows this. The list I am creating today will also give me an idea of what I will need to plan this year’s growing season. Because I live in an urban area and my yard is ridiculously small, I am limited in what I grow. It’s this reason that the buckets, large pots and small misc containers I have on hand will be turned into planters.  My motto is, if you can put holes in it, use it.

My list is completed and I have everything I need for my garden with the exception of compost (which I will pick up for free from our county’s compost facility). I start all of my less hardy seeds such as petunias, impatiens, savory (summer and winter), marjoram, chives and onions around the end of February indoors. In addition to the above mentioned plants, I will also grow the following this year: 

Beans (lima and Romano), peas (snow, snap), tomatoes (grape, plum and paste), summer squash, carrots, cabbage, corn, kale, greens (collards, mustard and turnips), okra, bunching onions, peppers (sweet and hot), spinach, Swiss chard, nasturtiums, cosmos, cilantro, coneflowers, sunflowers, lupine, basil, parsley, black eyed Susan, sage, marigold, sweet William, chicory, oregano, Chinese forget me nots, Siberian wallflower, thyme(creeping and garden), lovage, horehound, sorrel, cowpeas (black eyed and purple hull), yarrow, lupine, kohlrabi, chamomile, lettuce (Asian Mesclun and Bibb), radish, shallots, watermelon, candytuft, cucumbers, corn salad, dianthus, alyssum, leaf lettuce, endive, Virginia stock, daisies (Shasta , Ox Eye, and Gloriosa) coreopsis (Lance leaf and plains), zinnias, pansies, salvia, sunflowers, larkspur, morning glory and lemon balm.  

Ok, I know I have an enormous amount of seeds of all types and I admit I am truly obsessed with collecting them.  However, I share frequently with friends, family and anyone who shows an interest in starting their own gardening. This year I plan on donating produce to our local food pantry and homeless shelters.  I am also going to grow extra plants for my neighbors.

I have been cultivating my seed collection for many years now by various means.  My friends and family typically present me with seeds and gift cards to garden centers for special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas or Earth Day.  But my favorite way to get them is by gathering seeds from my own plants, something I'll discuss in detail down the line.

Well, I must go for now.  I will keep you informed of my activities soon.  Until later…Ta-Ta!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Welcome to Anna’s Frugal Gardening Tips Blog

Born and raised in a small rural farming community in northern Florida, I was fortunate to have a childhood filled with unique experiences. My family was not wealthy by any means, so we had to make the most of the little we had. We raised chickens, cows and pigs, and my grandmother grew fruits and vegetables to help feed our very large family. Because of my upbringing, I am frugal in all areas of my life, including my favorite pastime: gardening.

I currently live in USDA Zone 6b—a region of central and western New York that includes Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and parts of the scenic Finger Lakes region. The goal of this blog is to share money-saving tidbits with fellow gardeners in my area and across the country; all while charting my personal journey from gardening on a small city lot to tending to a large yard in small-town suburban or country setting.

Gardening doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, nor does it have to be labor intensive. You can enjoy the beauty of flowers or reap the bounty of a continuous produce or herb harvest. It can be relaxing and allow you to create new experiences with your family and friends…and even to help members of your community.

Please stay tuned so we can work together to create a garden that is functional, beautiful and, most important of all, frugal.

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