Monday, August 22, 2016

Soda Bottle Seed Starting Pots

It's late August, and here in Southern California we are reaching the height of the summer heat.  It's much too hot to work in the yard so I am mostly content to reap the rewards of my hard work by harvesting and cooking my summer produce.  It's always difficult to limit my gardening activities and I find my mind is already thinking ahead to the fall season.  Just because it's too late to sow summer seeds doesn't mean it's too early to get our fall seeds sown.  Of course, putting them out in the garden would require me to keep them shaded, damp and, generally, growing with something akin to "fall" conditions.  This would be tough to do outside knowing there's still another 6 weeks of potential triple digit heat. It must be time to start some seeds indoors.
I found 2 methods on-line for using soda bottles as seed starting containers and I decided to give both methods a try in a (semi-controlled) test to see which worked the best.  The 2 sites I used were: and 

My list of items needed was short:

An empty bottle
A drill (or a hammer and nail)
Cotton string
Wood (or something to protect your table)
Potting Soil
Hole punch (optional)

For our 1st project....

Using a drill (or a hammer and nail) make a hole in the lid large enough to thread the string through.  This is most easily accomplished with the cap turned upside down. A piece of wood protects the table underneath 

Thread both ends of the string through the upside down cap and tie a bow in the top of the string.

Using a sharp knife (and a pair of gloves for safety) cut off the top portion of the bottle.

Screw the cap on bottle

If you have a hole punch you can make a hole about an inch below the top of the "base" of the planter.  This will help you add water easily later on.  Place the top half into the bottom (base) of the bottle. 

Add soil and plant your seeds.  The string will wick up water to keep the soil moist, but if the top dries out you will want to add a little water from above.

For our 2nd project....

Use your knife to cut the top off of the bottle

Use the drill (and the wood) to drill drainage holes in the bottom of the base.

Use a pair of scissors (or your sharp knife) to make a couple of 1 inch long cuts up the side of the top portion of your bottle.

Fill the base with soil and plant your seeds.  Screw the cap on the bottle.  I placed the top portion inside the bottom half.  The cuts made this rather easy.  You may want to place the top portion outside the base, but personally, I found this a little difficult, and the small gap in the cuts I made would have allowed moisture to escape.

I'm anxious to see which of these methods germinates my seeds most quickly, as well as how effective my self-watering pot is.  I'll keep you posted.

Be well, and Happy Gardening.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Walking In A Winter Indoor Garden

When the chill of winter is setting in, and spring seems like it's months away, bring your outside garden indoors.  While you can't grow all of your plants inside, you'd be surprised at just how many of your winter plants will thrive on a window sill or in a sunny window. 
There are lots of reasons to bring the garden inside: 
1. It's too cold outside
2. It's too wet outside
3. You don't have a yard
4. Location (you don't even have to leave the house)
5. Plants clean the air
6. Less pests and diseases

My favorite choices for winter indoor growing are leafy greens (kale, chard, lettuce and spinach) as well as herbs.  During the summer months you can include bush beans, cherry tomatoes and eggplant.

So where do you start?  First, pick a location.  Your garden can be as small (windowsill) or large (sun room) as you'd like.  For large gardens you might want to consider using a bench or table.  Be sure to put a piece of plastic on the floor to protect your carpet.

Plants need light to photosynthesize, and they need to photosynthesize to survive.  Make sure that the area you choose gets plenty of sunlight.  Selecting a south or east facing window is best. If your location doesn't get enough sunlight, you'll need to supplement your garden with grow lights.  Many units can be purchased online, or if you're the handy type you can rig up a shelving unit with grow lights. 

Your plants will do best with an average temperature of 65-75 degrees.  A variation of 10 degrees either way won't be a deal breaker.  If your room is too hot, leaves will be small and weak.  If your room is too cold, leaves will drop.
Many homes can be dry during the winter months.  Your plants will benefit with some humidity.  Consider misting your plants, setting a saucer of water near (but not underneath) your plants, or running a humidifier. 
Soil is very important.  Don't use garden soil.  It can be too heavy and may contain weed seeds, pests and pathogens.  You want soil with good drainage. My favorite is "Fox Farms-Ocean Forest" but that's just my personal choice.  Choose your favorite container mixture.
You can start your garden using seeds, seedlings, cuttings or, try growing plants from vegetable scraps. 

So, your asking, what plants grow best indoors?  Here's a partial list:
Vegetables: Salad greens, kale, chard, peppers, tomatoes (especially cherry), beans (bush), eggplant, carrots and onions.
Herbs: Basil, parsley, oregano, cilantro, catmint, lavender, chives, and rosemary.
Flowers: Alyssum, geranium, pansy, orchid, roses, begonias, and marigolds.
Fruits: Strawberries and blueberries
Trees: dwarf apple and citrus.

Need some tips for indoor growing? 
Choose plants appropriate for the location you are growing in.
Choose plants appropriate for the season you are growing in.
Remember that all plants need sunlight (a minimum of 5-6 hours) but more is usually better.
Choose containers with good drainage.
Space the plants well, Don't overcrowd. 
Grow plants with similar needs (water, sunlight) together.
Water the plants regularly.  The soil should be moist but not soggy.
Drain the saucers from standing water.
Fertilize every 2-3 weeks with a diluted liquid or granular fertilizer.

Wait, didn't you say I can regrow plants from kitchen scraps?  Who knew.  What plants are best regrown from scraps:
Vegetables: Green onions, scallions, leeks, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, turnips, and bok choi.
Herbs: Ginger, lemon grass, fennel, basil, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme.
Also consider: Avocado, mushrooms and pineapple.
Not all of these will do well in your indoor garden, but it's always nice to get plants for free.

Be well and happy Winter gardening!