For the last week or so, Joe has been very confused. He sees me in the kitchen, mixing stuff in stuff in the brownie bowl and breaking out the cookie sheets. He doesn't understand why we aren't eating what Mama's cooking. Technically, I'm not cooking anything. I'm starting seeds.
Drawing on the model of WinterSown.org, the general idea is to create a mini greenhouse out of recycled materials for early cool-weather crops like broccoli, etc., and to stick them outside and let them do their thing until they're big enough to transplant into the garden. The benefits to starting seeds this way is that you don't need any special equipment, you don't have to buy already-started plants in early spring, and you'll have something to feed your obsession in the dead of winter. The benefits to the actual seeds is that they germinate fairly naturally according to the local climate while still receiving some protection from pests, heavy winds, floods, etc.
I'm doing all of this from the comforts of the kitchen, using kitchen utensils for the most part.
I mix up the seed starting mix with some warm water so it's just moist, then add it to rinsed-out milk jugs that I've cut mostly in half. I've also poked a few holes in the bottom so the water can drain out.
Tasty! I planted broccoli in these and taped them back up. I've read that broccoli can germinate at lower temperatures, so I thought they'd do well outside. These bad boys are parked on an old table behind the garage.
I'm hoping that soon I'll see little greenies when I check on them, but for now this is the view from the top:
I'm also doing a hybrid method of starting cauliflower seeds. Using clear soda bottles (for more light), I'm keeping them inside in a super-sunny window until they germinate. My reading suggests that although this is a cool-weather crop, these seeds need temps of over 70 degrees to germinate, and 14-16 hours of light a day.
I wrapped the bottom of each bottle in foil to help draw in and keep the heat, though I don't know if that actually helps or not. I'm really trying to avoid setting up a formal grow light and heating pad system to keep things tropical. At night, I set them up with a lamp for a few extra hours:
Hey, it may not be a fancy tube light, but that bulb IS a compact fluorescent, so that counts for something, right? I'm not too worried about the plants getting leggy as they stretch for the light because as soon as they have true leaves, they're headed outside. The two flanking flats are petunias and yarrow seeds that I wanted to get a start on because they need a looooong growing season. Once they actually sprout, I'll need to adjust the plastic wrap cover.
I keep telling myself that if these experiments don't work, then I can always buy plants later on. If they do work, however, I reserve the right to run around screaming like a mad scientist about them being alive.