Gardening,  Homesteading,  Projects

Seed Starting

It’s been sort of a depressing winter up until recently.  It rained more than I ever remember before for a Wisconsin winter, and it seemed to be perpetually cloudy and gloomy.  You can imagine my excitement when the sun would peek out and the snow or ice would begin to melt.  It was just enough to get me excited for warmer weather and the start of garden season, yet our gardens can’t be planted for months.  The good news is that we can get a head start on our gardens with seed starting for the plants that take the longest to produce!

In January we started to go through our seed catalogs to pick out our crops for the year, and in February our seeds came for the main garden.  It took us a while to get going with the seed starting.  The area that we would be planting was covered in a mess of stuff that has been shuffled around since we moved, and we had some prep work to do before it really got underway.  The previous owners had a similar set up in the same corner of the basement for seed starts, but they had left behind some old things that needed to be cleaned up.  The corner of the basement we are using has a water line with a spigot in it, there was already a table and a counter, and a row of south-facing windows.  Last winter I managed to clear off a section of the counter top and install an old florescent light, just to get us up and running.  Before I was able to clear that counter space, I had used some floor space to set up my starts, hoping to move them to the counter only to trip over them about a week later 🙁  Oh well, that’s what I get!  Eventually I got it right though.

This year we wanted to do a little bit better.  It took us awhile to get it cleaned up, but now we have the basement set up.  It’s nothing spectacular to look at, but compared to what it was, I’m quite pleased with where it is now at.  We hung another florescent light from the ceiling and cleaned out all of the junk, set up a hose with a sprayer for easy watering, and put up some plastic film to partition the area off.  The plastic is not totally necessary, but I dry our laundry right next to that area and I wanted to keep the two areas separated and also to keep the seed starting area a little warmer.

We bought a soil-blocker so that we don’t need to try using the black plastic trays, and we made a couple of wooden trays to hold our starts.  The trays were built to be 10″x 20″, and 2 1/2″ tall.  There is one side missing to make removal of the starts a little easier at planting time.  I’ll be making more, but I wasn’t sure how many we would need, and I just wanted to make enough to get us going.  They were really easy to assemble.  I constructed them of an old sheet of plywood that I found in the granary and a box of nails we had sitting around.  I don’t know how long the plywood will hold up with it’s getting damp from water and such, but they aren’t getting soaked.  We got the idea from Justin Rohdes’ YouTube channel.  (He has a lot of great information on his channel.  He is a homesteader who specializes in chickens.  Right now he and his family is on an adventure called The Great American Farm Tour.  I definitely recommend checking them out.)

We may end up building a second counter to replace the table that is in there, and I am contemplating building a few small shelves so we can stack some of our starts and give us more planting room eventually.  We may end up reconfiguring the whole set up a bit to give us a better work space, but for now this will do the job.  We are using seeds that we bought from My Patriot Supply several years ago, seeds left from Territorial Seed Company that we purchased last year, and seeds we ordered from Johnny’s Seeds this year.  We still have some more to order and we may try some other company.  We’ve been happy with the seeds from My Patriot Supply and Territorial, and it’s too early to say for Johnny’s Seeds, but we’ve only heard good things about them.

These are a few of the plants that got started over the weekend.  Seeds from Territorial Seed and My Patriot Supply.

This year we will be expanding our garden significantly, and we still intend to have a few separate patches of land prepped for growing gardens and melons and sunflowers.  We’ll show you what we come up with as we work on these projects, but it’s probably going to be May before we really make any kind of headway on any of it.  For now it’s just planning and finalizing plans and doing what we can to be ready for the work once the weather is right.  I think it’s going to be a really exciting (and busy) gardening year for us!

Two full seed trays contain peppers and tomatoes.  The tray with the peat pots are filled with onion starts, and the last tray will get filled with soil blocks once we figure out what we still need for planting.

I should probably mention that in order to use a soil blocker, you need some sort of soil, water and a container for mixing your water and soil.  You might need to test out the consistency of the soil before blocking…too dry and it will crumble, too wet and they “melt.”  Watch Justin Rhodes’ YouTube video that I linked above if you want more information on how to do this.  

Last year, our goal was to raise and harvest as much of our own food as we could, knowing that we were going to be unable to save everything and that it would be far from being at a level of “self-sufficiency.”  We learned a lot and got a lot of practice in food preservation, and were able to use a lot of fresh produce for our meals throughout the months of July, August, and September.  We are still using food that we put up, though we most certainly don’t use food that we exclusively raised, which is why we still have food left…I don’t want to use it up too fast 🙂  Not that it really matters.  But I figure that if I can space out our consumption awhile longer, it will help to keep our grocery bills lower, and we won’t have a bunch of low bills followed by a bunch of higher ones.

With our plans for expansion, our goal will again be to put up as much food as possible.  With the increase of gardening, we are hoping that we’ll be able to put up much more food than last year, maybe enough for at least half of the year or more.  I am also hoping that we will be able to get a few more perennial producers planted, such as fruit and nut trees and bushes, strawberries and raspberries.  If you are in the area and you or anybody you know want to get rid of strawberry plants/runners or raspberry canes come spring, let me know, we’ll be happy to take them off of your hands!

On a completely different and unrelated note, I have finally gotten around to making my bees wax wraps as a replacement for plastic wrap.  I bought the bees wax almost a year ago, and for one reason or another haven’t gotten around to making these.  It was really, really easy, and I’m looking forward to being able to use them!  I finally had some fabric scraps that I thought were pretty enough…I know, I’m weird.  I have plenty of fabric I could have used, but nothing really stood out as something I wanted use for this project.  This fabric is now going to be in 4 rooms of our house.

Have any of you started plants yet, and if so, what kinds?  What do you use…seed trays, toilet paper tubs, eggshells, a soil blocker like us, or something else?  Don’t forget to let us know in the comments!



  • terrifortner

    That thing in awesome. I usually take over the big window in my sons’ room and set up my seeds on an ironing board (because I only ever use it for this) until they are ready for transplant. This year our garden is smaller than it has ever been. Our focus this year is get it right, waste nothing, and preserve as much as possible. Next year we will go bigger with the same goals. Seriously though that thing is too cool.

    • Spring Lake Homestead

      We always used the kitchen counter at our old house for starting seeds…whatever work, right? I think the next few years we will work on perfecting preserving the harvest, and either selling or giving away that which we aren’t able to use.

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