Seed Starting Hacks That Will Make Growing a Garden Easier

Sometimes your plants might need a little bit of a head start before they will be able to grow outside in your garden.

These crops might need just a little bit longer to grow before they are ready to be planted outside. Plants that have smaller seeds are especially important to start indoors because if they are planted outdoors they could be overwhelmed by the harsh environment.  I definitely want all of your plants to be able to grow to their full potential, so it is important that you learn about the importance of seed starting.
 

So let’s talk about seedlings.

Seedlings are planted in individual pots and grown indoors before they are moved into the garden later after they have had a chance to develop. This ensures that your plant will have the best chance of growing and producing successfully! 

There a lot of seed starting kits out there to choose from. I can help you decide using the following tips and a list of the most popular starting kit products on the market today.

How to Select the Right Seed-Starting System

So, when you’re choosing a seed-starting system you need to consider 3 things:

1. Choosing a good growing medium

2. Providing adequate sunlight

3. Maintaining the right amount of moisture in the soil throughout the seeds’ growing period.

But what kind of seed container will take into account all of these? Don’t worry, you’ve got options. From milk cartons to paper cups and other biodegradable or recycled containers, the list goes on and on.

My recommendation, especially for first-time gardeners, is to invest in seed starting kits.

When choosing the right starting kit for your seedlings, it’s important to keep certain characteristics of your plant in mind, such as, how long your plant takes to grow, the root depth of the plant, and the size of the seed.

Seeds vary from ones that grow very quickly to others that are more difficult to grow (or require a longer period of time to grow before being transferred to the outside garden).

In plants that grow slowly, you need to maintain consistent moisture in the soil to enhance growth. You also need to make sure your plants get the right amount of light and air to avoid diseases.

        Certain plants need to have their roots intact when they are transplanted outside into the  garden. The best seed starting kits for these plants are the specifically designed for plants with deep-roots.

        While slower-growing seeds such as peppers, onions, and perennial herbs will thrive in long-term, small housing, fast-growing seeds such as tomatoes and zinnias will outgrow smaller pots quickly. Because of this it is important to make sure you don’t keep fast-growing plants in small pots for longer than necessary because it could ruin your plant!

        Another characteristic that is important to keep in mind is the size of your seed. While planting a large seed is easy, planting tiny seeds can be difficult! I recommend that instead of trying to plant just one of these tiny seeds, you plant a small pinch of seeds. This makes it so much easier! After the plants start growing you can gradually thin them out.

Suggested Seed Starting Kits

I have learned that gardening is a continuous learning process and that expertise comes from experience, time, and patience. The same is true in matching seeds to the right growing systems. Experiment with these different seed starting kits to find the one that works best for you and the plants you choose.

  1.      GrowEase Self Watering Seed Starter Kit

These environmentally friendly plastic pots from GrowEase are 100% recycled, but they are also heavy duty. I love that this seed starter kit is designed with a self-watering system that prevents over and under watering. This makes seed starting SO MUCH EASIER, especially for beginners!

  1.      AeroGarden LED Grow Light Panel

This artificial lighting panel will help nurture your plants to grow with the right amount of light and warmth. This light panel comes with a stand and hanging kit that fits most standard size seed starting trays. This light panel uses a 45-Watt LED which makes it energy efficient, so the lights can last for up to 30,000 hours!

  1.      KORAM Seedling Starter Tray Kit with Dome and Base

This kit is a little mini greenhouse for your seeds. This tray comes with a dome that controls humidity. This helps to reduce water evaporation and keep the soil moist. The base tray also provides the seeds with warmth and maintains moisture levels in the plant bed.

  1.      Indoor Grow Light 3-Tier Stand with Plant Trays

This compact 3-level light stand is perfect for starting seeds indoors. The plants are lit and heated and the lights can be adjusted to the correct height above the plants. I also love that this product made here in the United States!

  1.      Jiffy 42mm Professional Greenhouse 25-Plant Starter Kit

This professional greenhouse seed starter kit is made from recyclable plastic which is awesome and eco-friendly! Most importantly, the 25-cell count allows you to grow variety of seedlings. It is great for starting tomatoes and other vegetables indoors.

Big things come in small packages, or so they say. Do you use a seed starting kit? If so, which seed starting kits do you recommend?

Try These 2 Ridiculously Easy Hacks For A Healthier Garden!!

Ok, so gardening can be really hard for beginners.

The first year I started gardening I remember being so frustrated that my garden wasn’t producing like I wanted it to.  Gardening takes A LOT of work and patience and so it can be really frustrating for beginners when their garden isn’t doing exactly what they want it to.

That’s why I’ve decided to share a gardening tip with you every single month, so that your garden can be just a little bit healthier this year! I love it when there are simple tricks I can use that can make my garden more productive! I used these simple hacks and it helped my tomatoes to grow so much healthier last year!

 

And these simple hacks are something you can easily do at home! And I love that these hacks are cheap and DIY!

 

So let’s talk about the soil in your garden.

 

Your soil is obviously very important in helping your plants grow. But you have to do more than just digging a hole and plopping your plants down inside. My first time gardening ended in disaster because I didn’t do anything to my soil to help my plants grow correctly. I didn’t know that I needed to give my plants a little bit of a head start by adding nutrients to the soil, so they could be more productive.

Tomatoes are really popular plants especially for first time gardeners.

Because who doesn’t love fresh salsa? So my hacks today are going to focus specifically on growing tomatoes, but they’re useful for other plants too!

classic tomato sauce

My first tips is to use ground egg shells as a natural fertilizer for your tomatoes!  I love using egg shells in my soil because it’s natural, I have tons of them, and they’re a great fertilizer.

 

Egg shells are full of calcium which is great for plants, especially plants such as tomatoes and peppers! I also have TONS of egg shells because we have around 200 chickens right now. So this hack is awesome for me! I highly recommend this hack for all chicken owners because it’s a frugal way to add nutrients to  your soil!

 

What I do is grind up my egg shells leftover from my boiled eggs (which are my favorite by the way). I normally use a mortar and pestle like this one to grind up the shells. I grind the shells because grinding the shells up helps them to decompose faster than if you just put them in the soil as is.

 

It does take time for egg shells to decompose, so I recommend tilling your egg shells into your garden in the fall and then again in the spring! Adding egg shells to your tomato bed is a great way to give your tomatoes the nutrients in their soil that they need!

 

My next hack is a classic.

Try putting a banana peel in your soil to help your tomatoes grow! Ok, so I know this trick is pretty common for experienced gardeners, but I want to make sure all of you first time gardeners learn this hack because it’s awesome! This hack really is classic. I remember watching my grandpa carefully place banana peels in the bottom of each hole before he planted his tomatoes. And he always grew the best tomatoes, so it must work right?

Here’s what I do:

 

First off, I always buy organic bananas, especially if I’m planning on using the peels in my garden. I don’t use pesticides in my garden, so I don’t want to introduce any harmful chemicals into my garden that were on the banana peel. I would rather be safe than sorry! And at least in my area organic bananas are only a couple cents more than conventionally grown ones, so it’s worth the splurge when I’m planning on using them in my garden.

 

So after I eat my banana, I clean off the peel with water and baking soda. I love using baking soda to clean off my vegetables because I feel like due to the grittiness of baking soda it gets off anything from the peel that is potentially harmful. Again, I would rather be safe than sorry!

Next dig your hole for your tomato plant. After you finish digging your hole simply place your banana peel in the bottom of the hole and then plant your tomato on top of it! It’s so simple, but the nutrients from the banana peel will help your tomato to grow better!

 

After using this simple hack all you need to do is sit back and relax and enjoy the yummy homemade salsa made from your delicious tomatoes.

 

Are you a first time gardener just starting out? Check out my book about backyard gardening!

 

Do you have any gardening hacks? Help a sister out and share them with me in the comments below!

 

10 Father’s Day Gifts Your Gardening Dad Will Love!

Father’s Day is coming up, and so I’ve started looking for gifts for the hubby. And there is absolutely nothing I love more than gardening themed gifts!

 

I wrote a post about gardening themed gifts for Mother’s Day and I thought it would be fun to write another one for all of the dads out there. So here are my favorite gardening themed Father’s Day gifts!

 

  1. Garden Tool Organizer

I love any DIY project, especially if it is gardening related! This DIY project is super easy and it could be pretty much free if you have any extra pallet wood laying around.

 

I love using pallets, so this project is exactly what I want to make for this Father’s Day. All you need are a couple of spare boards that you can nail together and some hooks to hang those spare garden tools on. Plus, you’re giving your husband a gift and helping him to be more organized at the same time. That’s a win-win situation, right there.

 

  1. Gardening Tool Belt

Ok, so I’ll admit the first time I saw this DIY gardening tool belt I thought of a fanny pack. But, there’s nothing cooler than a gardening themed fanny pack, am I right?

 

Seriously though, I love this tool belt because it is so handy to be able to have somewhere to put all of the tools you could possibly need for a day spent gardening. All you need for this project is a small amount of fabric and an old belt. Get more detailed instructions here

 

  1. A hammock

Ok so even the best gardener needs to take a break every once in awhile. So I love the idea of giving dad a hammock that he can use to take an amazing midday nap! I love these hammocks because they can be easily stored and cleaned!

 

  1. DIY Camping Stool

 

I love this DIY camping stool idea! I love the classic, old-fashioned camping stools because they are so useful! You can use them for sitting around the campfire or somewhere to sit while you are weeding! I love this project because it’s simple and inexpensive!

 

Or if you aren’t into making things yourself check out these awesome camping stools on Amazon!

 

  1. Gardening Gift Baskets

 

So I love gardening gift baskets! They are so fun! This basket is made out of a gardening hose which is great! Here’s a tutorial on how to make a basket out of a gardening hose. You can make the basket and then fill it with seed packets, gardening tools, or gardening gloves! This is a quick and easy DIY gift that any dad will love!

 

  1. Rock garden markers

 

I love these cute DIY rock garden markers! All you need to do is to head out to the garden and find some rocks and pull out your craft paint and you’re good to go!

 

  1. Free Printable Planting Calendar

 

Do you have a stubborn husband or dad who doesn’t want you to buy them a gift? I definitely do. That’s why I love this printable planting calendar! This would be a quick (and free) gift for dad to help him keep track of when he needs to plant seeds! It’s useful and won’t break the bank.

 

  1. DIY Vertical Herb Garden

 

So I love the gorgeous “herb gardens” you see at the store and online, but I am definitely not willing to fork out several hundred dollars to buy one. So I love that this project is DIY!

 

Ok so this project is a little bit more time intensive (and by a little bit I really mean A LOT) But I love that this project creates a beautiful (albeit large) herb garden that is well designed! This would be an awesome Father’s Day gift! Check out the full tutorial here

 

  1. DIY Herb Planter

So I love herbs if you can’t tell. This tutorial is a simpler, less time consuming project for those of you who aren’t willing to put hours of work into a Father’s Day gift (I’m not judging I probably won’t spend that long either). All you need for this project is 5 different pots or containers that you stack on top of eachother. Check out the tutorial here

 

  1. DIY Gardening Glove Rack

This gardening glove rack is a simple DIY project that you can make for Father’s Day. All the project requires is a piece of plywood, twine, and some clips! It’s a simple and fun gift for any gardener!

 

Do you have any more gardening themed gift ideas for Father’s Day! Share them with me in the comments below!

We used Eggshells in Our Garden. It Took 2 minutes & Improved Our Tomatoes 100%

Ever see a tomato plant with the leaves dying back, or with dark brown tinting on the leaves? Or, have you ever seen a plant full of tomatoes…except all those tomatoes have brown and black spots on the ends that just seem to get bigger?

 

These are symptoms of calcium deficiency – and your garden needs some serious first aid!

 

You CAN fix it – if you’re fast enough! That’s where your leftover eggshells come in. If you have chickens or eat a lot of eggs, you can repurpose your leftover eggshells to improve your garden!

 

Calcium is an essential mineral, and it aids plant development by helping them form healthy, strong cell walls. Without calcium, your plants will experience lags and slow growth, and could die in the long-run.

 

As you can imagine, since we have so many ducks and chickens, we have a LOT of eggshells, and it’s a shame to just throw them away.

 

Eggshells, which are mostly calcium, are a perfect way to improve your tomato harvest  – and in this article, I’m going to show you how to do just that!

 

Stopping Disease In Its Tracks

Tomatoes can develop blossom end rot – which is a symptom of not having enough calcium. Should your tomatoes develop this disease, you can add crushed eggshells directly to the soil to help your plants.

 

Stop tomato diseases in their tracks by using eggshells in your garden!

 

Despite common belief, you can help a plant that’s developed blossom end rot, and the plants can produce healthy fruit once they’re no longer calcium deficient.

 

Before adding them to your garden, grind the eggshells in a blender or with a mortar and pestle to make the calcium more bioavailable. You can then mix the powder with water or  add it directly to the soil.

 

Just note that adding eggshells to your garden before the planting season will help prevent blossom end rot, and it’s better to prevent than to fix it.

 

Preventative Measures: Adding Calcium to Your Compost With Eggshells

While you can add eggshells directly into your garden, taking the extra step to compost them is also a good idea. As they degrade, they’ll help neutralize the pH of your compost, as well as leave rich minerals behind.

 

Be sure to wash and crust them before adding them to your compost so they won’t attract insects and other animals and so they break down faster.

 

Starting Tomato Plants In Eggshells

Another idea, if you’re feeling creative or truly committed to making sure your tomatoes have enough calcium, is to start your tomato plant seedlings IN eggshells.

 

When you transplant them, you can transplant the seedling AND the eggshell (which you’ll bury directly into the soil).

 

Stop tomato diseases in their tracks by using eggshells in your garden!

 

Whenever you start your tomato plants, clean out eggshells, leaving most of the shell intact. Place potting soil in the shell, and then insert your tomato seed.

 

As it sprouts, it will get nutrients from the soil, and the shell will continue to feed it long after it’s been transplanted (you should still side dress with compost when it flowers, however).

 

Safeguarding Against Pests

Coarsely crushed eggshells have the ability to develop a strong and highly effective barrier against the incidence and occurrence of pests such as slugs and snails, which also happen to love chomping down on tomatoes.

 

Slugs and snails have soft bodies, and the sharp spiky shells can cause some deadly harm – so the pests avoid the ragged eggshells at all costs.

 

Simply arrange the crushed layer of the eggshells around your tomatoes, and you can rest easy that snails and slugs will find something else to eat for dinner.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Have you used eggshells to improve your tomato garden? Leave a comment below!

5 Pro Tips To Use Coffee Grounds In Your Garden!

Coffee grounds are one of those hidden treasures that can transform your garden.

 

If you make a cup of coffee every day, then you have an amazing source of organic matter at your fingertips that can help you grow a healthy harvest of fresh vegetables.

 

Coffee grounds are full of nitrogen, which as you know, is the difference between a garden that’s lackluster and a harvest that can support your family through the winter.

 

So how much nitrogen is actually in coffee? Well, according to science, coffee grounds are approximately 1.45% pure nitrogen – ideal for your backyard garden.

 

But nitrogen aside, coffee grounds are also awesome sources of magnesium, potassium, calcium and other types of trace minerals which help your organic garden grow healthy.

 

Not sure how to use coffee grounds in your garden? Here’s 5 pro tips to get you started!

 

Pour spent coffee grounds into your compost bin.

 

There are organic gardeners I know who regularly go to local stores to collect their spent coffee grounds (so if you don’t make coffee yourself, you can try this in your local area – a lot of places are happy to recycle as long as you provide a container.)

 

As you probably know, when it comes to compost, there’s “green” matter and “brown matter.” Green matter is full of nitrogen, while brown matter has carbon, and is a natural accompaniment to the nitrogen. Especially if you hot compost, you will want your ratio of carbon to nitrogen to be correct.

 

Although this seems unbelievable, especially due to the fact that coffee grounds are brown, they’re a “green” in compost rubbish, meaning that they’re highly rich in nitrogen.

 

Simply toss your coffee grounds on your compost pile, making sure the ratio of carbon to nitrogen is correct.

 

Add coffee grounds directly to the soil in your garden

 

This can be done in a wide variety of ways; you can choose to scratch it into a couple of inches of soil at the topmost layer, or just sprinkle the spent coffee grounds into the top layer of the soil and leave it alone.

 

Coffee grounds are comprised of some useful mineral materials, and these can help in adding to the fertility of the soil, especially if your plants are lacking nutrients or if you just want to be proactive.

 

They can be used to create a barrier for slugs and snails.

 

Coffee grounds are abrasive and acidic, and a barrier made of them will fend off slugs and snails that otherwise might snack on your harvest.

 

To create these barriers, lace grounds around plants that are highly susceptible to slug infestations. To preserve their soft bodies, slugs will find another plant to eat.

 

Make coffee ground “tea”

 

To make this, all you have to do is add 2 cups filled with used coffee grounds to a 5-gallon bucket of water.

 

Leave the “tea” to mix and steep for a few hours.

 

The concoction you’ll wake up to in the morning can be used as a liquid fertilizer for both garden and container plants.

 

It is also an awesome source of foliar feed, especially for plants like peppers, which need SOME nitrogen, but are liable to grow only leafy green leaves instead of fruit if they get too much.

 

Add some coffee grounds to your worm bin

Although you might not be aware of this, worms are actually suckers for some good coffee grounds. The worms will consume them, leaving healthy castings you can use as plant food.

 

However, you should be very careful to add too much; you don’t want the acidity to harm or repel your red worms.

 

Just add one cup every week to your worm bin, and that should be enough to do the trick perfectly.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Will you try adding coffee grounds to your garden? Leave a comment below!

How To Plant A Perennial Herb Garden

One of our goals this year is to expand our herb garden, and try to establish it as a true perennial herb garden.

 

I’d like it if, year after year, we got as many plants as possible to voluntarily grow and produce aromatic herbs and seeds.

 

Our hens love herbs, and it’s one of those small luxuries that’s easy to produce, and easy to impress other people with. And it doesn’t even take a lot of space.


Have chickens that LOVE herbs? (Who doesn’t?!)

nesting box herbs

Yes, my hens love herbs!

 

For this project, we chose a shady plot in the garden, since many herbs do well in the shade, and it’s a good use of otherwise limited land.

 

Cilantro, in particular, is one herb I want to establish since I like to cook with cilantro and coriander.

 

Some herbs are hard to find in the store (like super fresh coriander) or you have to buy a TON just to get a tablespoonful (who uses a half pound of dill, for example?).

 

Your own herb garden solves both those dilemmas.

 

If you also want to plant a perennial herb garden, here’s some tips.

 

1. Decide which herbs to grow

 

If you’re just starting your garden, decide which herbs you’ll most likely use and enjoy, and plant those. If you use a lot of rosemary in bread baking or as a savory for steak, it’s a great bet to include in your garden.

 

You’ll end up using it frequently, and feel fulfilled after stepping just outside your door to snag a handful of fresh rosemary.

How to Grow a Perennial Herb Garden. It's a simple luxury that's easy to grow! Here's how to do it, and what you need. From FrugalChicken

Don’t just focus on only herbs you can cook with – if there’s a particular herb you love for the scent or just to look at, plant it!

 

For example, if you love lavender, but don’t necessarily see yourself using it a ton, you should still plant it. You might end up trying to use it, and discover a new flavor.

 

Just remember to plant herbs according to their needs – are they ok in full shade or do they need 8 hours of sun? Do they need only 4?

 

Will some grow so tall they’ll shade out others? Does your herb need to be 12 inches from another plant or 2 feet?

 

You get the picture.

2. Choose herbs that are likely to establish themselves in your area

 

Not all herbs will survive all climates, so do your research and figure out which herbs will survive your local environment. An herb that can survive in the extreme cold of Minnesota might not live in the extreme heat of Arizona.

 

Rosemary, mint, parsley, and oregano are some herbs that will survive winter, although you might have to use a cold frame around your herb gardenLavender and yarrow are two that do well in hot environments.

 

If there’s an herb you want to grow that won’t continue to reseed itself year after year, it’s better off in a container. You can bring your plant inside as needed to keep it growing.

3. You can start from seed or buy established plants

 

Some herbs are tough to start from seed. Or perhaps you started a bunch from seed but a wayward goat ate them or a chicken scratched up the seedlings.

 

I’ve had luck raising some plants from seed.  Sage in particular has been easy to start, and – surprisingly – so has dill.

 

How to Grow a Perennial Herb Garden. It's a simple luxury that's easy to grow! Here's how to do it, and what you need. From FrugalChicken

 

Others…let’s just say I’ve struggled with some.

 

I struggled with cilantro for years, and couldn’t keep even potted plants alive.

 

After some research, I learned that cilantro has a long tap root for an herb, which means in order to survive, the tap root (or main root) needs to dig deep into the earth to provide nutrients to the plant.

 

It’s one herb I purchased as an established plant, and transplanted into my garden. Finally, I’m having luck, and eating a ton of salsa!

 

Basil, on the other hand, is an herb I’ve always had an easy time growing even in containers. It grows wonderfully in a garden, and can grow large and bushy.

 

4. Consider different varieties of the same herb

If you have an established garden, or just want to try a bunch of different herbs to test your homesteading skills and your pallet, try different varieties.

 

Try a boxwood basil next to a traditional, large leaf basil. Try lemon mint next to peppermint. There’s also a ton of varieties of thyme!

 

Different varieties of the same plant species bring different flavors to the table, and are a great way to diversify your garden.

 

They also bring a different visual texture to your garden, since some might be large and leafy, while others might be short with tiny sprigs going out every direction.

 

How to Grow a Perennial Herb Garden. It's a simple luxury that's easy to grow! Here's how to do it, and what you need. From FrugalChicken

5. Prepare your soil

 

Once you decide what to grow, it’s time to prepare the soil. To get rid of any grasses or weeds that might be growing, I use a spade to remove an inch or so of soil, leaving only fresh dirt exposed.

 

I add a couple inches of composted manure, and mix it with with the soil by chopping it together with a hoe. Next, I use a metal garden rake to flatten the area so water doesn’t collect. A flat area is also easier to work with.

 

Using a hand trowel, I either dig a hole for an established plant or loosen up dirt to plant seeds. 

 

I use a hand rake a ton in my garden to dig around stubborn weeds to yank them by the roots.

 

I love leaf scoops to remove mounds of pulled weeds from the garden quickly.  They make a super tedious job quick and simple.

 

You definitely want to get good, sturdy equipment – I’ve bent many a trowel digging up a stubborn root.

 

6. Help the plants establish themselves

 

Whether you’ve started your herb garden by seed or used purchased transplants, give them a while to become established. Water regularly in the morning or evening (not during the day to prevent sunburn). 

 

Keep pests, chickens, and small hands away from your garden to help your plants establish themselves. 

 

Keep your herb garden weed free by removing any unwanted plants and laying down mulch or garden fabric to kill any potential weeds.

 

Steer clear of putting down hay – I’ve found that seeds from volunteer weeds like to hang out in hay, and can be hard to destroy once they’ve gotten their claws into your healthy, nourishing soil.

 

Make sure there’s a lot of branches on your herbs by regularly trimming the top of the plant an inch or so for the first few weeks – this will help the plant grow healthy and increase your yield.

 

It also keeps the herb from shooting straight up and going to seed by prompting the plant to put energy into creating strong, healthy roots.

 

Don’t harvest until your herb is least 6 inches tall to give its roots time to grow and spread into the soil.

 

7. Harvest, then allow for reseeding

 

Harvest your herbs continually throughout the spring and summer so they don’t immediately go to seed. Simply cut a couple inches off the top every now and then. 

 

Not only does going to seed deprive you of their herbal lusciousness throughout the season (because they’ll stop producing), but once they start going to seed, it can change their composition. 

 

Cilantro, when allowed to go to seed, gets thinner and a little bitter. To keep the leaves large and fresh-tasting, pinch off any flowers.

 

How to Grow a Perennial Herb Garden. It's a simple luxury that's easy to grow! Here's how to do it, and what you need. From FrugalChicken
When the season is over, though, let your herb plants go to seed – they’ll first bloom flowers, then drop their seeds. Your garden will hopefully be established when your plants grow voluntarily next year.

 

Which herbs will you try to create a perennial herb garden with this year? Leave a comment below!