I am not a master gardener. In fact, I pretty much suck at it, but last year I decided to try starting some seeds inside to see what happened. True to my personality, I went a bit over the top and planted six trays of a mixture of flowers and herbs. Since I didn’t have a clue how to nurse these little babies, I lost most of them either because I either over-watered or under-watered. A lot of my problem, I think, was because when some of them didn’t do well and I didn’t know how to fix it, I kind of lost interest (thank God I didn’t do the same with my kids – yikes!) The only ones that really flourished were the basil (they’re in the planter box beyond my feet – loved that polish color!).
So this year I decided to reel myself in a little, plant less and stick mostly to herbs. Because I bought my trays last year, I just re-used them and my whole planting process was really inexpensive, quick and easy. Here’s what I did…
I dug out last year’s trays and rinsed them off. I haven’t checked this year’s prices, but I got the tray and cover, which included dirt pellets, at Wal-Mart for around $5. That’s pretty cheapy-cheap!
Then I bought these cool little pellet refills at Lowe’s for about $2.50 each, and some seed packets – notice I still couldn’t resist buying some flower seeds. But I’m focusing on herbs, especially lemongrass and sage because I’ve read that mosquitoes hate them. I have a ridiculous reaction to mosquito bites, but since I love being out on my deck in the summer, I plan to create a jungle of pots filled with mosquito repellant plants. I’m also going to bundle my sage to burn in our fires when we go camping. Mosquitoes, you’re MINE this year!
So you plunk a little pellet in each spot in the tray and snug it all in, then you add water and they start to swell, just like Jiffy Pop. Notice that the box of pellets I used on the left side plumped right up. The right side must have been a box that had been sitting on the store shelf awhile because the dirt was really hard and crusted, even when I added more water. I had to pick up each one of those and squish them around a little to loosen up the dirt. Once they’re fully expanded and they have enough water to make the dirt nice and dark, you poke your seeds in them according to the planting instructions on the packets. The pellets are covered with a gauze-y type fabric, and on some of them I had to tear the tops just a bit to expose enough dirt to plant my seeds.
And that’s all there is to it. You just pop the lid on and water them when the dirt starts to turn a light brown and wait for their little heads to pop up. Last year I marked the rows with popsiscle sticks that I wrote on with a Sharpie, but the sticks sucked up the water and smeared the ink. This year I just printed the plant names off on my computer, cut them to fit the tray, and taped them to the outside at the end of each row. Worked like a charm!
It’s at this point that I seem to run into the problems. Most of them have come up and are growing really well, but I think I’m supposed to thin them out. Why do I have so much trouble with this? I feel like such a murderer. When they pop their little heads out of the dirt, I feel like they’ve kept their end of the deal, so who am I to decide which ones get to stay around and produce, ya know? To ease my conscious, I take each pellet out with all it’s little spurts, and sink the little group into a pot full of nice warm dirt – then it’s every man for himself.
Once my plants are established and look like real plants, there are two products that I use faithfully and swear by. The first is Miracle Grow dirt to fill the planters or pots I’m putting them into. The second is Miracle Grow fertilizer. I buy the crystal kind, and add it to the water about every two weeks. The stuff is amazing and your plants get huge and stay really healthy. The other thing I recommend, in my limited gardening knowledge, is to clear out the dirt and clean your pots every year before you plant.
I hope this will convince those of you who didn’t think they could grow plants from seed into believers. I’ll keep you posted on how my babies are progressing. This weekend I’m starting a new tray of Oregano, Lemon Balm, Spearmint, Dill and Sage.
NOTE: I would more than welcome any hints or suggestions you could offer me. Please feel free to write me your comments!