There’s something about spotting the first buds of Spring that lights even the darkest of times. Perhaps it’s something speaking to our primitive survival brains. A promise that the long hard Winter is almost over and the Earth is about to reward us with abundance & beauty.
It feels almost like magic watching tiny green sprouts push their way up from barren ground. With a little extra time on our hands and a national need for hope, what better time to start planning your little patch of optimism.
While it’ll still be a bit before our last official freeze, it’s the perfect time to start seedlings on a nice sunny windowsill.
In a world of limited resources ingenuity becomes more important than ever. To get your future garden off to the right start you have to start your seedlings off right. And you can get everything you need at the grocery store. You probably even have most of these things already.
- Clear plastic container with lid (I used a salad box)
- Empty Paper towel or TP rolls. You can also use egg cartons, but I find the paper rolls easier when it comes time for transplanting.
- Potting soil or seed starter. Most grocery stores carry potting mix. If you can find a seed starter mix, that’s great. If not potting mix will do just fine.
- Seeds. Again most grocery stores carry seeds this time of year.
- Spray bottle.
Step 1: Prep your materials.
If you’re reusing a food container make sure to rinse it out. Then cut your cardboard rolls into roughly 2 in pieces.
Step 2: Make a seed starter box.
Place your little tubes in the plastic box and fill each tube with soil. Then mist with water until the soil is saturated but not so much that the water pools at the bottom.
Step 3: Plant your seeds.
Follow the instructions on each seed package as to how deep to plant. I generally drop 2-3 seeds in each little tube since not all of them will likely sprout. Be sure to label them somehow. Then close the lid and place it in a sunny windowsill.
Step 4: Mist daily and watch with childlike wonder.
On warm days I’ll set my mini greenhouse outside to soak up as much sun as possible. Just don’t forget to bring them back in as soon as it starts to cool down. If you planted things like beans or squash they make outgrow your starter box before they’re really ready to be planted. If that happens just grab a second salad container and flip it over on top, secure with tape.
What to do next…
The first two little leaves you’ll see are called cotyledons, these are the ones your seedling uses to push up through the dirt. The look almost exactly the same regardless of what the plant will look like when it’s grown. The next leaves you’ll see are called “true-leaves”. These are the leaves that will carry your little plant through life.
As your little sprouts continue to grow you’ll want to keep misting the soil daily and keep the lid on until they’ve got their true leaves. Then you’ll gradually let them adjust to life outside the tiny greenhouse by opening the lid for brief periods (an hour or less to start) Then building them to longer times as they grow.
Once your little sprouts have 2 sets of true leaves you can consider moving them into a bigger pot.
You probably wont want to leave your little plants outside overnight until after the last frost of the season. Container gardens are especially awesome in Colorado because you have the option of bringing your plants inside in inclement weather.
If you’re in a condo or apartment, don’t let that stop you from the joy of gardening. A LOT of plants do great in container gardens.