28 March 2012

seedlings in toilet paper rolls

I'm so excited to be starting my seeds for this years garden, you have no idea. I've been waiting and waiting for spring.

I considered for a while, investing in soil blockers, like this:

They look like a fantastic idea, and I've heard and read wonderful things about them. I may give in one day. For now, what can I say, I'm too darn cheap.

Last year I bought one of those jiffy tray things. I didn't like it at all. The fabric around the peat was really too strong, it didn't allow the plant to grow naturally, and by the end of the summer, it was still intact, no decomposition. I guess I could have cut it off but.. I didn't. I didn't want to spend much money, either. So I started searching blogs for other ideas of what I could start my seedlings in this year.

I came across this idea, of using toilet paper rolls for seedlings. Oh and we definitely have toilet paper rolls. Every time I walk into the bathroom, I take one off of the holder. I knew that since obviously no one else changed the roll of toilet paper, they wouldn't risk being put in the recycling by someone else. (Yeah, that's a poke.) So, I started collecting them, and they added up really quickly, even with double rolls.

I also wanted to cover the seedlings while they were germinating, to retain more moisture. So, I also collected a bunch of containers from strawberries and things. They have the added bonus of holes in the bottom, to allow water in.

Since I knew about soil blockers and how the soil stays together in  blocks, I thought that cutting 4 little slits into each toilet paper roll, and origami-ing them was a waste of time. I couldn't be sure of how much moisture would wick up either. I just cut the toilet paper rolls in half, open on the top and bottom, filled them with moist soil, and voila. Seedling pots.

I placed the "seedling pots" into the strawberry containers, and put them in the trays I kept from last years jiffy seedling things. Then I can just water the tray and have it wick up into the soil. Then I put them under fluorescent grow lights in my basement. It's really important for the light to be super close to the plant, otherwise the plant will stretch to try and reach it and become really weak and fall over. The small amount of heat given off by the fluorescent lights also helps with the pepper germination, since they won't do a thing unless the soil is consistently above 17 degrees C, although they'd prefer 25 - 30 degrees C.

I started 14 of each Red Rocket, Bulgarian Carrot and King of the North Peppers. And over 20 Amish Paste Tomatoes. I only planted 1 seed (or sometimes 2) in each pot, instead of the pick the best of 3 method. I just think, that way, it's centred in the pot, and I don't have to worry about thinning each of them. I just allowed for seeds that don't germinate by planting a few more. It's not like I'm wasting mony on pots.

I still have the Anna Aasa baby tomatoes and a few herbs to start, but had to get more potting soil. The truth is, the weather turned cold, and I'm finding it hard to motivate myself to go outside and put my hands in water at 2 degrees C. It's hard enough to get wet laundry on the line.

I'm so excited to see my little baby tomatoes coming up. They're so cute. When they sprouted, I took them out of the strawberry containers, and placed them directly in the tray. I feel bad for the ones who have trouble getting the seed shell off, and want to help them. Although I'm sure I'd be too rough and accidently tear them in half, then feel really bad. I better just let them be.

I know I'm going to have to repot, at least the tomatoes, into something a little bigger once they have some "real" leaves. It should be easy enough to tear the wet toilet paper rolls off of the soil. I was thinking of making 4" newspaper pots for them, then. That will be a little more work, but at least the seedling has sprouted, and I know it's alive, so I won't be wasting my time.  :)