Grow lights are probably the easiest way to grow seedlings in the frosty regions of the northern hemisphere. Unless you’re home has big windows with fantastic southern exposure or you own a greenhouse. For the rest of us grow lights guarantee our seedlings get a tan on cloudy days. The drawback of course is the electricity that is required and the fact that after doomsday it will be a luxury.
The simplest alternative to grow lights is to not grow crops that don’t require transplanting. Corn, beans, squash, potatoes, carrots, peas, and many other crops can easily be grown even with short summer. My issue is I want to have early spring crops, peppers, tomatoes, and good size onions every year. Also, unless you have a lot of good edible perennials you’ll most likely be eating over-wintered kale and squirrel for every meal during the hunger gap.
The coolest solution I can find outside of the obvious is a hot bed. Back in the day of our great grandparents most small time gardeners grew their seedlings under a big glass frame. Essentially just a cold frame, but they would take the by product of their transportation, horse manure, and mix it with straw in the spring. Placed a foot and half deep with some soil over top it would keep the seedlings toasty warm under the glass.
I would love to test this with my cold frame, but my only beast of burden is a dog. Even though I probably have enough land mines strategically located all over my property, I doubt it would do much at this point. For now I’ll continue using my grow lamps and put my lettuce and brassica crops in my cold frame.
Truthfully though if your really lazy you can always just use the south facing window or at least a south east window. Place containers with garden soil and compost mix in the window and make sure to rotate every couple days as the seedlings grow. Just make sure to give them a little extra time.
A couple free old Google Books to read about gardening, hot beds, cold frames, and varieties that are no longer.
Gardening for Profit
Home Vegetable Gardening
I’ve been poking the soil every few days for the last couple weeks, but Saturday I was finally able to bury the pitch fork. Only in one area though, most of the garden is still soggy or slightly frozen, but the section right against the house with good southern exposure practically has its own micro climate.
Of course after lasts years very warm spring I had to start a digging a bed for my peas, because if you read any pea seed packet it says as soon as the soil is workable. Sadly after I setup my bed I was informed by my wife that a foot of snow is forecasted for tomorrow. I’ll save the seeds for now and hope the snow melts quickly.
I planted some Dakota Tears Onions in trays at the beginning of the month. They’re great yellow onions that store very well. I actually failed at growing them last year and I had to restock my seed supply. Onion seed is really only good for about a year or two.
I also planted some celeriac (celery root) for the first time. I’m giving it a shot even though I hate growing celery. It’s to finicky and requires to much pampering for what you get in return. Celeriac on the other hand is supposedly easier to grow, less susceptible to pests and actually stores for up to six months in a root cellar. We’ll see how it goes, I’m hoping the nutty flavored celeriac will fill in for celery in my post apocalyptic soup.
If buying bottled water is an Eco sin. Then buying bagged potting soil has to be a close second.
I’m guilty as charged. For years I would plant my seeds in organic (technically not certified) potting soil. Then it dawned on me that I was buying mostly bark mulch and some dirt.
I scanned the Internet (Google) and found out that I can use garden soil for seedlings, but I should bake it first to kill harmful things in my soil… Apparently my soil can kill seedlings.
Bake it first? My wife would kill me if I was baking small batches of dirt in her kitchen.
I decided after my exhaustive search I would make this process a lot easier. I grabbed some soil from my garden mixed in compost and planted seeds. A funny thing happened it grew without an issue.
A couple tricks to using garden soil for your seed starting mix. First recognizing your seedlings over the weeds. Think of it as practice weeding before summer arrives. It really isn’t that bad, unless you’re really bad at weeding during the summer.
Secondly you need to realize that seeds don’t need anything special for at least the first week of life. They have all the nutrients they need in the seed. Soon after you should begin the regiment of watering the plants with compost tea. I’ll explain how to brew the good stuff later.
To prepare my garden soil for planting in the spring I store it in 5 gallon buckets in the fall. I just set them in the basement with a lid on and then fill trays and containers with the soil as needed in the spring. I try to take more then needed, just in case.
If you’re more motivated then I am you can make a better organic potting mix. You’ll need a third of garden soil, a third of compost, and a third of good leaf mulch. Ideally the leaf mulch should sit for a year so it is wet and sticky. Mix it in a 5 gallon bucket and store for the winter. This mix will hold moisture a little bit better. Straight garden soil tends to dry out quicker, but I tend to hover over my plants so watering isn’t an issue.
For the rookies out there you get a pass if you don’t currently have a garden or a compost pile. Just pick up some decent potting soil and get ready to start planting some seeds.
I’m the optimistic type. I like to think that if doomsday shows up we’ll be able to rebuild, but to rebuild we need to be eating something other than canned pinto beans.
The most important thing you’ll need if the apocalypse were to break out isn’t firearms and gold bars. It’s water followed only by food. Hopefully you will have some local food sources, but eventually they most likely disappear. A million squirrels only last so long if everyone is eating them.
Maybe you bought one of those survival seed cans, full of heirloom varieties for the end of the world. Great, if you know how to grow a garden. If you don’t start following this blog.
Anyone can grow food in bagged potting soil and fertilizer pumped garden beds. The real trick is growing food with just a shovel and some seeds.
Hopefully I can teach you a thing or two, start by picking up some open-pollinated seeds. Spring is just around the corner up north.