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Today is the third of three straight days of rain. As a gardener, I find I’m suddenly grateful for rainy days. The rain has not been constant, but the air is moist and cool and the ground solidly rain-saturated. The moisture nourishes my little seedlings outside and gives me time to rest and regroup again here inside where I’m warm and dry. And, because I’ve been mulching with pine needles as I’ve planted the seedlings into the garden bed, I’m confident they’ll have plenty to drink for much of the coming week. Weather forecasts for Friday and Saturday are in the high 70s. Grow, garden, grow!

By putting out the last of my peas and the lettuce, I have opened up several flats and space on my sunporch that I can now use for the next batch of seedlings. Three weeks ago I bought several packages of peat pot cells that had been reduced for clearance (30 percent off), and as I’ve moved out the cold-hardy seedlings into our garden plots, I began filling new pots with potting soil and placing them in the empty flats. In the past couple of days, I have planted two varieties of broccoli, muskmelon and a low-growing red nasturtium called Empress of India, adding them to my sunporch filled to the brim with flats of Roma tomatoes, marigolds, leeks and cilantro. A couple of weeks ago, I was beginning to get impatient with the four rows of spinach that I had planted directly into the garden, and I finished off the seed packet by planting what was left in an empty 50-cell flat. As it turned out, the flat seedlings sprouted about a week before their sisters outside. I intend to plant these babies just after I get in my last flat of lettuce mix. I also have begun sowing flats from a large packet of perennial flower mix, and I have infant alyssum, lupine, shasta daily, calendula, coreopsis, dianthus, poppy and Rudbeckia sprouting up all over the place.

I don’t know how much the purchase and use of peat pots, flats and soil mix will speed up and perhaps increase my harvest in the end. But these cheerful little seedlings have been great encouragement for this novice gardener, steady reassurance that perhaps there will be lavish bounty of peas and greens as early as June. In the meantime, while I’m waiting out the rain, I am once again at work filling my flats. Today I sowed the last of them: rosemary, thyme, chives, oregano, basil, and a climbing nasturtium mix (Fordhook Favorites Mix, W. Atlee Burpee & Co.).

Apart from the cold hardy crops that I will finish transplanting later this week, plants from the other flats of seeds and seedlings on my sun porch will wait for transplanting (unless they are bursting out of their pots and can’t wait) until after I have put in the seeds that will be sown directly into the garden after the last spring frost date, which is May 15 in our area. Having these seeds started and growing will make me feel less pressured to get everything out into the garden right away, once mid-May arrives. I’ll be able to spread out the planting over a week or so, which will be much less stressful for these old bones. And, once I’m finished with planting, it will be time to start thinking of taking in some of the lettuce for a great big salad.

I’ve shared many photos of my garden space and sun porch. Let me share a little of the scenery that surrounds us. This photo was taken four days ago at sunrise.

The view from my lettuce patch at sunrise.

The view from my lettuce patch at sunrise.

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I’ve been inspired by Joe Lamp’l’s attempt to start seeds on the cheap. (See Joe’s blog here and The $25 Victory Garden Facebook group here.) I wish I had thought to do this before I spent $24 on empty seed flats earlier this spring.

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At first, I thought I would like the milk bottle starter best on top right, as it has a flat side. To open, with a utility knife, I cut three sides of a rectangle on the milk bottle’s side facing the top, leaving the last side of the rectangle uncut so that it can act as a hinge. Inside the bottle I layered 2 c. water topped by 3 c. potting soil formulated for seed starting. Last, I scattered spearmint seed over the soil, then used my fingers to cover it up just a bit. I taped the whole thing shut along the cut lines with packing tape.

However, the two-liter soda bottle (pictured bottom left) ended up being my preferred starter. After removing the label, I used packing tape to attach two wine bottle corks to one side about three inches apart. This is a very nice solution to keeping the bottle from rolling about. Then, as I did on the milk bottle, laying the bottle on it’s side, I used a utility knife to cut three sides of a rectangle on what is now the top side of the bottle, leaving the last side to serve as a hinge to fill the bottle with water (1 c.), potting soil (1-1/2 c.) & some seed (I used oregano) scattered on top and lightly worked in with a finger tip. I sealed the bottle shut with packing tape.

I think the two-liter bottle is the superior choice. It’s more slender and will fit on many window sills. It also is more transparent, allowing for better sun. Ironically, I believe it is more sturdy than many of the purchased seed-starting flats. When the seedlings are ready to transplant into the garden, take off the tape and the seeds then can be easily scooped up and replanted.

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