Category Archives: Gardening and Veggies

Seed Starting – What’s Growing in 2016

I’ve been blogging pretty regularly on my author website, but I’m afraid I don’t get over here as much as I’d like. But today, today I’m here. Why? Because it’s one of my favorite times of the year. Seed starting time!

I didn’t have a garden last year. It’s the first time since my kids were tiny babies that I didn’t start any seeds. I did, however, end up publishing three books and one novella, so it was a productive year. Just not for crafting or growing.

As you may know if you follow my author blog, we moved last November. I absolutely adore our new house, and this year I’m going to try container gardening. There are tons of pins all over Pinterest featuring homemade self-watering containers, usually made from storage tubs and five-gallon buckets, and my husband is going to make me a bunch! This is the plan he likes the best, and it’s the one we’re going to try.

I’m also going to try potatoes for the first time this year. Apparently they grow well in containers. I don’t know. We shall see.

If you’re new to seed starting, you can check out my original seed starting post back from 2014. There’s not much to it really, but it did take me a few years to get the knack of it.

So here’s what we have started so far:

  • Cherry Tomato – Gardener’s Delight: I’ve never grown this variety before, but it gets great reviews, so I’m excited to give it a go. We planted six cells.
  • Tomato – Fourth of July Hybrid:  These tomatoes are supposed to bear very early, very flavorful, small fruits. These and the cherry tomatoes are my only tomatoes, but I’m debating starting a late season heirloom variety as well. We’ve planted six.
  • Sweet Pepper – Carnival Blend: This seed packet contains a mix of purple, white, orange, yellow, and red bell peppers. I’ve planted six cells, but I’m thinking of adding more. The packet is supposed to contain 20% of each color, but you don’t know what you have until the peppers mature! I really want some purple.
  • Pepper – Anaheim Chili:  Every summer, my mom used to buy roasted anaheims from a local farm, and they are very good.  This year we’ve decided to roast our own. We’ve planted six.
  • Lettuce – Grand Rapids: I love salads fresh from the garden. After this batch moves outside, I’ll start more to grow inside for the hot summer months. We’ve planted twelve.
  • Spinach – Baby’s Leaf Hybrid: Just like with the lettuce, when these little guys move out, I’ll plant more inside. We planted six. (Note–I’ve found that spinach seeds do not save well. If you buy some, make sure you use them this year)
  • Basil – Mammoth: Basil smells amazing in the garden! We’ve planted six.
  • Parsley – Single Italian Plain-Leafed: This type of parsley is supposed to be more flavorful than the curly variety. I’ve never had luck growing it, but I’m hoping this year will be different. We’ve planted six.
  • Rosemary: I just now noticed the seed packet doesn’t have a variety printed on it, so I’m not sure exactly what type it is. Hopefully it’s good! We’ve planted six.
  • Cilantro – Coriandrum Sativum: I love cilantro! Like parsley, I’ve never been able to coax it to thrive, but since I’m container gardening this year, I’m hoping it will go better. We have six.
  • Moss Rose – Double Mixed Colors Portulaca: Moss rose is beautiful! If you’ve ever planted these vibrant annuals, you’ll know how easily they sprout up from seed (my mom has them come back in her containers every single year, and she brought the originals home from the garden center at least eight years ago). We planted seventy-two.
  • Marigold – Crackerjack, Mixed Colors: Marigolds are very fun for the kids to grow because they are nearly fool-proof, and they almost always start flowering before we get them outside. We planted seventy-two.
  • Zinnia – Mini – Zini Mixture: I’ve mentioned it before; zinnias are one of my favorite garden flowers! They are so bright and cheerful.  We planted seventy-two.

That’s all I have started for now. It’s still early, so I’m sure we’ll end up with more. We always do. I’ll definitely start some perennials once these are out of the seed-starting trays. In our last few moves, I’ve lost my all my daisies, so I’ll need to do some of those.

I’d also like some calendula and thyme. And I’d really love to try petunias this year. I planted a flat of them back in 2013, but they never sprouted. Since then, I learned they need light to germinate, so I’d like to give them another shot. They aren’t the easiest seeds to find, at least around here, so I might have to order some in.

What are you growing this year? Have you started your seeds yet? I’d love to hear about it!


Giant Snap Peas Taking over the Garden

It’s day 2 of Camp NaNoWriMi, and it’s going well. That’s an understatement, actually. It’s going fantastic. I’m at 9,329 words and counting,  and it’s been a pleasure to write. I outlined, outlined, and outlined some more with this project, and it’s paying off.  After reading an interesting interview with James Patterson, I even wrote a brief paragraph for each and every chapter in the book. Who hoo!!!

In other news, giant snap peas are taking over my garden. It’s terrifying, really. I’ve been picking them every other day, and I didn’t get out there yesterday since it was NaNo day 1.  This is what happens in one day (sorry for the blurry phone picture):

Giant Snap Peas
Burpee’s Super Snappy Snap Peas – Click the picture to go to their page on 

Do you see those things? They are unreal.  They are no good for eating fresh, so I’m going to parboil them and toss them in a freezer bag for steaming up with other veggies later.

Now if my little green tomatoes would just grow as quickly…

First Year Growing Tomatillos

After a long and turbulent early spring, my garden is finally in, and it seems to be thriving. I’m growing all the veggies I started in this post, plus a few (couple dozen) more I couldn’t resist from the nursery. This must be our year for peppers, because we walked out with four chili peppers, one Big Jim pepper, one cherry pepper, and six various kinds of bell peppers–and that doesn’t count the twelve I started from seed! We also brought home a four-pack of tomatillos. I have never in my life grown, or know anyone who grows, tomatillos. Jake had a tomatillo sauce at a Mexican restaurant in Denver once, and loved it. So we thought, why not?


So far the tomatillos are the stars of the garden. They have tripled their size and are already starting to bloom.


My heirloom tomatoes are close behind, and the Early Start tomatoes I started from seed are right behind them.

A little tip for growing tomatoes–pull off a few of the bottom leaves and plant them deep in the soil. Their furry little stem will sprout roots and by mid-summer you will have more tomatoes than you know what to do with! I’ve heard you can do this with tomatillos as well, but I haven’t tested it.

This is one of my Early Start tomatoes. With the weather as crazy as it was this spring, they had a bit of a rough start. It's warmed up and they're doing great now!
This is one of my Early Start tomatoes. With the weather as crazy as it was this spring, they had a bit of a rough start. It’s warmed up and they’re doing great now!

And look-a friendly garden visitor!!! Unfortunately, it’s resting on a little weed that sprouted up right next to one of my tomatoes.




Starting Vegetable and Flower Seeds

There are several reasons I start my own seeds. Here are a few:

1. It’s cheaper than buying plants. We’re talking tons cheaper here, especially when you have a collection of seeds. All of my seeds are at least a year old–some of them are three or four–and they still germinate. I didn’t spend a penny on seed starting supplies this year; they were all leftovers. I take that back, I bought a 20 cent pack of cherry tomato seeds. So I spent 20 cents on seed starting supplies…

Starting Seeds
Starting Seeds

2. You can choose exactly which variety you want to plant. For example, I have both giant zinnias and dwarf zinnias planted. Sometimes it’s hard to find the exact type of flower or vegetable you want in the nursery.

3. It’s gratifying. There is nothing like planting little lifeless seeds and watching them come to life. Later in the summer, when your little seedlings  produce vegetables or flowers, you will feel an amazing sense of accomplishment.

4. To kids, it’s a magical process. Okay, it’s still kind of magical to me. God is amazing. If you’re homeschooling, starting seeds is a must when you study plants (I think it is, anyway).

 I usually place 2 seeds in each pod–except for squash, and then I only plant 1.  If there are two healthy seedlings in each pod, I separate them when they have two true leaves. Here’s what I have started this year:

10 Zucchini Dark Squash – These are the seeds that are several years old. Right now, 60% of these seeds have germinated. They have been in the soil for almost two weeks, so I think that’s all I will get. If you plant old seeds, make sure you plant extras. I did, and right now I have 6 zucchini plants. If you’re familiar with squash, you will know that’s way more than enough…

Zucchini Seedlings
Zucchini Seedlings

10 Roma Grande Tomatoes – These are last years seeds. I didn’t notice any difference in the germination rate than the year before. Since I have 2 in almost every pod, I will separate these once they have two true leaves, and end up with about 15 – 20 plants.

6 Early Treat Hybrid Tomatoes – Also last years seeds. After I separate, I will have 10 – 12 plants.

Tomato Seedlings
Tomato Seedlings

26 – Large Red Cherry Tomatoes – As always, I planted lots of extras to give away to friends and family. I planted these later, so they haven’t spouted yet, but I should end up with 42 – 50 plants.

6 Sweet Hybrid Mix Bell Peppers – Just planted. I should end up with 6 – 10 plants.

6 Hot Salsa Mix Hot Peppers – Just planted. I should up with 6 – 12 plants.

10 Lavandula angustifolia True Lavender – Just planted. Should end up with 15 – 20 plants.

10 Matriccaria recutita German Chamomile – Just planted. Should end up with 15 – 20 plants.

46 – California Giants, Mixed Colors Zinnias – My favorite, favorite flowers. Love them! Just planted. Should end up with 80-92 plants. Just think of how much it would cost to buy those in the nursery!

Zinnia Seedlings
Zinnia Seedlings

20 Thumbelina, Mixed Colors Zinnias – Just like my favorite, but only 6 inches tall! Just planted. Should end up with 32 – 38 plants.

There are several vegetables you can’t start inside –peas, carrots, radishes, and beets are a few examples. There are a few vegetables I don’t recommend you start inside, but you can. Two that come to mind are pumpkins, which get massive very quickly, and cucumbers, which don’t transplant well.

Herbs start well, as do many flowers, especially annuals. One thing to keep in mind, many perennials will not flower the first year they are started. I plan on starting two whole flats of daisies once this batch of seedlings is in the ground, but I’m not in any hurry, because they won’t flower this year. You have to wait a long time for your first blooms on many perennials, but it’s worth it! If you want nearly instant gratification, plant marigolds. Those almost always start to bloom before I get them in the ground!

You will need a few basic supplies if you want to get started.

1. Seeds – That’s kind of a given, I think.

2. Seed Starting Soil – Sometimes I use plain potting soil, but your seedlings are safer in sterile potting medium. You risk damping off if you use potting soil. Basically, your baby seedlings may die over night because of pathogens in the soil. Not fun.

3. Containers — these can be flats, six packs, egg cartons, yogurt containers…you get the point. I prefer flats of six packs from garden supply companies, but last year I bought the cheap ones from Lowes. Since that’s what I had leftover, that’s what I used this year. Make sure you have some sort of tray underneath. I like to water from below, so I just pour water in tray and the soil sucks it up.

4. Light – In my old house, I had a beautiful south facing room that worked very well. My husband bought me a cheap storage tower from Wal-Mart, and we set it up about six inches from the sliding glass door. I started hundreds and hundreds of seeds that way. In my new home, I don’t have a room that gets enough light. This year I have taken over my husband’s work bench in his garage. There’s a lovely fluorescent light hung low just above the bench, and it was just begging to be used for seedlings. This seems ideal. The only drawback is that I had to wait later in the season before I started the seeds; it’s important the temperature in the garage doesn’t dip too low. If it looks like it will, I will have to bring all my flats inside. This isn’t as fun as it sounds.

Seed Starting Bench with Fluorescent Light
Seed Starting Bench with Fluorescent Light


Planting is easy.

Fill your containers with soil, plant the seeds according to the directions on the packets.

Drizzle water from above using warm–not hot–water. Be careful not to disturb the seeds. I like to use the spray nozzle on my kitchen sink set as low as possible.

Cover with plastic wrap or the clear lid that comes with the flats (I don’t always do this–especially if I must use plastic wrap), and then take the cover off when your seeds begin to sprout.

Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soaked. Make sure the temperature in the room is comfortable, and provide lots of light! 

Later I will show you how I move my seedlings to the garden! 

Tell me, are you starting seeds this year? If  you are, what you growing?