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Productivity in the Age of ME, Part III -- Starting the Garden and Plant Containers

Let me share something with you. A few phrases that never fail to make me feel at ease and home, no matter what.


(from Fantastic Elements in J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' ; very interesting slideshow, check it out.)
As pretty as this all is, it is missing some of the best parts; and if you are anything like me, you stared at those ellipses with an almost accusatory consternation before moving on. It is like the radio fuzzing in and out over your favorite song, if your favorite song is still popular enough to be on the radio even though your grandfather and mother and sisters sang it to you at night throughout your formative years.

Perhaps 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' is somewhat responsible for my romanticization of growing things. Frodo's attempt to remember the smell of strawberries in Mordor (unsuccessful) sticks out in the mind. Sam Gamgee and the Gaffer were considered to have a special sort of wisdom that arose from understanding how to nurture and grow things, and Tolkien proclaimed that all hobbits had a deep and abiding love for green and growth and farming.

Or maybe, if we look at 'The Secret Garden' from last time, we've got all of British literature to blame. The weather of the British Isles is so notoriously wet and foggy and oppressive that perhaps it yielded a crop of writers with a worshipful respect for the things that push up through the earth, growing and persisting despite all odds. The return of life to a barren...

...but enough rich symbolism. On to the practicalities.

I presume you all have seeds if you want to grow them. Some of you may have started your gardens already. For those who haven't, a few tips.

Soak Your Seeds!

This is really good advice that I'm sure many of you are familiar with, and I'm the one who's late to the party, but soaking your seeds in water for several hours before planting (or overnight) makes them germinate much faster and with a higher success rate.

I used an ice cube tray to ensure I had enough compartments to soak the seeds while keeping them separate. I tore off tiny paper towel squares so I only had to lift up the edges to rescue all the seeds inside. For super-tiny seeds like basil, this is a must.

Lining the seed packages this way allowed me to keep track of which seeds were where :D
Plant Your Seeds

The rule of thumb is to plant seeds twice as deep as the seed itself. Minuscule seeds like chives can be placed pretty much on top of the soil with a dusting of soil on top. For really tiny seeds, I simply lay the paper towel in the starter pots in pieces, seeds and all. They sprouted really well this way, sitting on something so absorbent.

Germination times vary. For example, I planted Vitex agnus-castus and only one has popped up its little head so far. On the other hand, this was the Alyssum on day two:

View attachment 15240
The little bastards turned out to be really delicate, too...

Regarding what these are planted in, it's tiny little germination helpers with biodegradable pots. The entire thing has a plastic lid to help maintain moisture, and cost $4 all together. (I did two, so $8.) As someone with ME, it's really easy. I filled a spray bottle with water -- for the first several days, all you do is spray and put the lid back on. When the plants get bigger, you pour from the bottom, instead, at all four corners to ensure that everyone gets a good drink.

For cheaper pots, you can grow baby plants in eggshells. No, really:

...or just use egg cartons, of course, though the eggshell method means the plant has a nice store of calcium, especially useful if your soil is kind of acidic (like mine). This image doesn't show it, but you can literally write what plant it is on the outside of the shell in marker, which is seriously awesome.

You can also use cupcake holders and old cupcake tins, if you have some that are so rusty / old you never intend to use them for cupcakes ever again. You can also ask friends/neighbors if they have any they want to get rid of -- I know I'm the type of person who keeps oddly-shaped objects for crafty purposes that only sometimes pan out... there have to be others like me out there, who would be happy to give away something so long as it will be used in its new life as a planter.


From: blocked link. Sorry, OP. Also, don't use a new one like this. That's madness. Use this for delicious baked goods!
You can also do a kind of papier-mache thing with strips of newspaper in cupcake tins in order to create your own, biodegradable, recycled seed-starter pots. But who with ME has that kind of time/energy?

Other places to get free or cheap pots: think about places that receive food commercially. For example, frozen yogurt places get their frozen yogurt mix in GIANT buckets. Pickles come this way, along with other food items. If your local fro-yo place doesn't have rules about where these go, you might ask for some of these buckets. Use a mild bleach solution to wipe them down, and drill several large holes in the bottom: instant large pots.

I have done this drilling, and it is within the ability of a person with minor-moderate ME. You don't have to press on the drill super-hard, because it's plastic. Alternately, you can ask a healthier friend if they'd be willing to do this step for you.

Finally, gardening stores that don't sell pots are a great resource. Chances are, they have a pile of pots from last year that are a little too worn out for the floor, and they'll give 'em up at a pretty cheap price because they're beat up. I got a few really large pots this way, last year.

Whew! Next bit later this month to talk about transplanting!



If I could get the dirt out of the bags I would race you to first tomato! I haven't even bought seeds yet as I have no place to plant them. *cry*

Love the idea of planting in cupcake tins.
Thanks, @Strawberry ! I'm so sorry about being too weak to get the dirt out of the bags. :( Maybe you can coerce a friend or family member? Even growing one or two tomato plants might feel nice. :)

Not to taunt you if that's not possible...
Like this.
One I've used successfully are germinating the seeds in rolled up kitchen paper, (dampened) and sealed in a plastic bag, then transplanted out when the roots are showing.

My idea for pots in which to germinate seeds - soda bottles. I had good success with coke bottles.

Cut the bottom third of the bottle, poke holes in the bottom, fill with vermiculite, cut a couple of lengthwise slits in the top 2/3 part so will fit back over the bottom, and you have a mini greenhouse.

I'm sure if people have the ability to leave a sign out asking for clean plastic bottles, there's a good chance of a few.

A couple of years ago, my dad went and asked at a carpet salesroom and they gave him one of the cardboard inner rolls! That helped with growing tomatoes in a grow bag, just cut the rolls and placed on top of the bag, filled with soil and planted the seedling in the roll.

There's a lot of videos on youtube for growing tomatoes in Wall Mart bags as well.

For small pots for herbs and things, how about foil lined food/drink containers? Robust enough to last the growing season, easily cleaned, and colourful.

Looks like you've had a better start than me this year :D.

Still waiting for those first little leaves to show. But then I'm in the UK and it's cold and rainy :D.
we use the plastic cartons that soft fruit come in, like strawberries - they already have drainage holes so are brilliant. Some of them have lids and they are like mini propagators - we start the cucmbers and zucchini in them (but we also have a polytunel so it all goes in there). The weather in the UK may be wet and damp, but it is also wonderfully mild with rich soil and sunny spring and summer days that are not too hot are ideal...

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