Using what you’ve got…

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Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

With an electric blanket, shop lights and my plants all lined up in a row!

… Oh, wait a minute. That’s not right…

I like to think life is a continual journey of understanding. I don’t think we ever cease to learn during our lifetimes, always making mistakes and understanding the world a little better because of those mistakes.

It’s something that I, as a recovering perfectionist, have to work actively at remembering, but it’s something I truly want to embrace.

With that in mind, I’ve been trying to embrace my past mistakes and make changes that help me grow. Gardening is no exception. I’m young, and my years of tinting my thumb green are few compared to so many more experienced gardeners out there. But I’m continually working at it.

For many years, I have started my garden from nursery plants However, last year, when I learned more about the production of our food, including the concerns with GMO seeds, my mom and I decided to start our plants from seed in order to have complete control over the varieties of fruits and vegetables we grew. We ordered all of our seeds from Baker Creek Seed Company, a wonderful heirloom seed company known all over the world that just so happens to be located about 45 minutes from our house in Mansfield, Missouri. I’ve continued my love for Baker Creek, and used only their seeds so far this year too.


Mom’s first Baker Seed order of the year

We ended up with a beautiful harvest of vegetables throughout the year between our two gardens, but our plants were a little spindly and lacked the thick stems of the nursery plants we’d previously used.


Part of our 2013 harvest

So, this year we were on a mission to improve our seed growing abilities and produce stronger plants.  After a little research, we decided that our plants probably didn’t get enough light, although they were in a very sunny window. So, they were putting all their energy into growing upward in hopes of drinking in more light instead of bulking up around the stems.

We looked at grow light stations and different setups online, but they were all so expensive. With new hives, new chicken house, new fruit trees and all the other expense we’ve put out into our homestead this year, we just can’t afford to buy an grow station online. So, what’s a girl to do? Make what you’ve got work for you.

Here’s my new setup. I can’t say if it’ll work yet or not, but I hope it does!

1. First, I decided to sacrifice our kitchen table for the sake of our garden for the next couple months. Honestly, we really don’t eat at it very often anyway, instead eating at the bar in our kitchen or in the living room (gasp!). So, I just pulled it over to the sunniest spot in the kitchen next to the sliding doors and south facing window. Be warned though, if you come over for dinner, you may have to eat from a plate on your lap while you’re sitting on our couch, and there will likely with three very interested dogs at your feet.


2. Since I’ve read that it is best to keep the soil around 70 degrees for more plants during the seedling phase, I decided to pull out an old electric blanket from the linen closet. We haven’t used it much, so we won’t miss it during its use in the next couple months. I plugged it in and kept it on the lowest setting.


3. Since electric blankets probably shouldn’t get wet, I took a big lawn and garden trash bag, cut it down the sides so it was one large flat piece of plastic and covered the blanket.


4. I used some old bricks in our basement to create a “stand” (if you can call it that) to place an old florescent light from our garage on. From what I’ve read, you can use regular old florescent lights for growing seeds with pretty good results.


5. From the advice I was given, you want to keep your lights about an inch from the plants. As the plants grow, I’ll probably add more bricks or come up with some other way to hang them.




So, here’s to hoping the new plan this year helps produce more successful plants! Have you rigged up a homemade setup for your seed growing? I’d love to hear about it.

This post is featured on the Homestead Barn Hop #149:


One thought on “Using what you’ve got…

  1. WOW – your haul from last year’s garden looks delicious! What a fantastic idea to put them on an electric blanket – I never thought of that. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

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