Self Watering Seed Starting Kits

I found something interesting today related to seed starting.  The older I get, the more I think I should simplify.

I was looking around on line for some cool indoor containers that would be fun to grow basil seeds and found this cute little kit.  It seems a bit pricey, but it looks sleek and contained.

This unit is self contained and includes:

  • a grow light
  • a self watering system with water reservoir
  • cartridges of special soil with seeds already embedded in them (evidently these are re-usable)


How it works:

According to the video, you pop in a pre-planted seed thingy that has the perfect amount of nutrients, special soil, etc. all in a cartridge of sorts.

  1. pop in a cartridge,
  2. fill a reservoir with water,
  3. and plug it in.
  4. Self watering seeds are a go.


Who Could Benefit from a Product Like This:

It could potentially be awesome if you are one of those crazy busy people who wants fresh basil, but can’t handle one more thing to remember to take care of.  Or if you are going to be gone for a few days, and don’t want to have your seedlings dry out, this might be something worth checking out.

The company claims you can grow your own cherry tomatoes in it, but I am highly skeptical about that.  Do they have a clue as to how huge a cherry tomato plant gets?  Even if it’s a super dwarf variety meant for containers, I would still not plant a cherry tomato in it, unless you plan to just start the plant and then plant it outside once it gets about 5 inches tall or so.

Plants that I think you would have the most success with using this unit:

  • basil,
  • cilantro,
  • arugula,
  • mizuna (Japanese mustard greens),
  • radishes(if using for microgreens),
  • beets(for microgreens),
  • basically, any kind of plant that you would like to eat regularly for microgreens.

Why I think small leafy greens would work best:

The reason I think it could work well for herbs that you eat regularly, is because you can maintain a small enough size plant that is compatible with the size of the unit because you will be eating your greens regularly.

I would love to test this product out and give a review!  I think it would be great for a city dweller with a small apartment or condo who doesn’t want to mess with a huge garden, but enjoys being able to pick a few tasty herbs to garnish meals, or simply to scratch and sniff!

What do you guys think of the look?

I found this little gizmo intriguing.  What do you think of it?  It’s a self-watering seed starting kit. There is a short video description of how it works with a time-lapse growing video to see it in action.  Click the pic if you want to learn more from the manufacturer.


Radishes: How to Make Haters Love Them

watermarkradish french breakfast 8 x 12Heading out to the garden to pick some radishes, and actually eat them! Finally tried them sliced thin and sautéed in fresh garlic, rosemary, parsley, butter, olive oil, and then seasoned w/kosher salt. They were actually good! And I thought I hated radishes! Even steamed the greens and ate them too.

4 Garlic Cloves Finely Chopped

1 Stem Fresh Rosemary (leave the leaves on the stem)

4 Stems Fresh Parsley Chopped

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons Butter

1.  First heat the olive oil in a 12 inch skillet

2.  Saute the herbs on low to medium heat so you don’t burn the garlic

3.  Once garlic is sautéed after about 3 minutes, add the butter and melt.

4.  Then add the thinly sliced radishes and sauté until tender, then add about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and toss.

5.  Add about 2 Tablespoons water to the skillet, and then steam 4-6 cups of baby radish greens, baby kale, and baby spinach for about 1 minute or until barely wilted.

This makes a beautiful green edible background for Tuna steaks, or whatever steak you are in the mood for.  I had mine last night with pan seared Tuna steaks and a side of Flax and Quinoa pilaf.  Yum, and my kids thought I was a rock star chef and devoured it!

It’s April. What Vegetables Can I Plant Right Now?

It feels like spring.  Finally!  We can all get out, get some air and get our hands dirty again.  But what can we plant that isn’t going to freeze on us and have to be replanted again later?  Here’s a list to get you started in your veggie patch.

  1. Potatoes:  as of Good Friday, you can start planting seed potatoes.
  2. Carrot seeds
  3. Beet seeds
  4. Peas
  5. Raddish seeds
  6. Broccoli Plants
  7. Cauliflower Plants
  8. Cabbage Plants
  9. Salad Greens
  10. Kale
  11. Arugula
  12. Mizuna
  13. Bok Choi
  14. Pak Choi
  15. Sweet Corn
  16. Asparagus crowns
  17. Strawberries

I’m sure there are many more, but this is just off the top of my head and will at least get you started:)

Wilcox tools are great for digging holes for annual flowers and vegetables, especially for those of us who don’t like to get down on our knees!  The extra long handle is 18″ long, super sturdy from tip to tip, and made in my native state, Iowa!



Click here for a great online seed selection

They Have Nice Flushers Here

1392324729713This one is for Ben, my little noticer

at the ripe age of three,

who notices things that seem trivial to you and to me.

Flushers are what gets him of late

Flushers all kinds he thinks are just great!

“They have a nice flusher” he states upon entering

The loo at the grocers without any mentoring

From me or from dad or grandma or gramps

The boy loves his flushers, his flushers are champs.

Upon going to church, the first thing we must do

is drop what we’re doing and go to the loo.

“Hey mom, they have nice flushers here too!”

He says as we enter

Unbeknownst to him that he is the center

of chuckles inside of the mind of a lady

Just on her way out to tell of that baby

who liked the flusher in the church loo

What a funny thing to notice thought she of my B

Why does he like flushers of old and of new?

Beats the heck out of me

Says me the mommy

I do not understand why

These flushers that flush seam so fly

To a little boy at the ripe age of three

Who loves his flushers that flush in every loo that he’s been.

I Garden Because I Can….Pun Intended

This post is about gardening, and why I love it, why I hate it, and why gardening will always be a part of my life!

I garden because I can!

There’s no place I’d rather be.

In this place, treasures abound,

when searching around,

hunting on bended knee.


My arms are getting itchy,

The bugs are beginning to bite!

Yet still,

I feel,

A calm respite.


My buns are sweating, 

My back is breaking, 


I should be staking!

Muscles I never knew I had,

soon will be aching!


Weeds are tall,

My patience is shrinking!

My boobs are sweating!

My armpits are stinking!

And then I start thinking:


How I would love to fall into a pool

But then I look at my haul,

and I begin to drool!


My shirt is stained

My body is drained

My thirst needs quenched

My clothes are drenched




My mind is clear

My soul is cheered

My heart is full

along with my bucket!


My bucket is full

of gardeners’ loot.

I’ve hit the jackpot

in multiple pounds of delicious fruit!


My garden may not be perfect,

after all, it’s full of weeds,

but still it remains

an escape for me.


Not to be alone,

but to live in community

with birds and bees…….

and those stinking rabbits,

the snakes that give me the shivers,

the caterpillars,

other creepy critters

and let’s not forget the coons!

Yes they have a right to be here too,

so I guess I could spare them a tomato or two.

©Marie Stephens 2018

Are You Ready?

If after reading this poem, which is almost a disclaimer stating that gardening is not glam, you still want to give it a try this year, then I found a collection of seed at a decent price to get you started!  I read a little bit about the company, and it warmed my heart!  Take a peek and see for yourself when you click the pic!

The “I Garden Because I Can” Gift Collection, by Marie Stephens Art

Below, is a link to a small collection of “I Garden Because I Can” items that I created as gifts for gardeners and home grown food preservation fanatics!  They can all be personalized and shipped directly to you or to the person you’d like to send the gift to!

So far, I have designed a

  • kitchen floor mat with funny canning puns and phrases,
  • a tshirt that can be ordered in multiple styles and colors,
  • an apron,
  • a bandana to hold your hair back on canning day,
  • and a mason jar mug with the graphics I designed to make your fellow gardener/canner smile, especially if they hate bunnies…even though they really are so cute!

I hope you will get a chuckle, and if you do order something, thanks so very much!  I earn a royalty for the items purchased with my art on them!

Canning and Gardening

7 Reasons You Should Grow Microgreens


This is the book I bought to learn about how to grow microgreens, available on Amazon.


Why the Sudden Interest in Microgreens?

A few years ago, when my boys were ages 2 and 7, I discovered microgreens.  It had been a long winter, and I was aching to be outside.  January and February are the months when my family gets a new seed catalog in the mail at least once a week!  This may be from my last 17 years of mail ordering seeds and bulbs!

The first time I heard the term, microgreens, was at a “Grow Your Small Market Farm” class my husband Tim and I took at Iowa State University during our days as cut flower growers.  I had no interest in microgreens at the time, because I was deeply invested in growing cut flowers.  I was always curious about what they were and how to grow them, but never made the time to learn more, until that long, cold winter a few years ago.

I must have seen something about microgreens in one of our seed catalogs, and decided to learn more that winter.  It was a fun project that I could do with my 2 year old in one arm, while planting seeds with the other hand, and hopefully, providing my kids a tiny learning experience at the same time

7 Reasons to Grow Your Own Microgreens  

1. Microgreens taste great:  They give your salads a kick in the pants by adding a little bit of spice but not too much.  Radish microgreens, for example, have a kick, but are not nearly as strong as eating an actual radish.  I would say they have about 1/3 or less of the spice of the actual full grown radish.  The same principle holds true with other plants.

2.  Microgreens are super easy to grow:  Most of my favorite microgreen varieties will sprout from seed in 7 days or less.

3.  Fun and Easy Project to do with the kids:  Since the seeds germinate so quickly, and      large quantities of seed are broadcasted over the seed tray, kids will enjoy it.

4.  Microgreens are packed with nutrients.

5.  Microgreens take very little space to grow.

6.  Microgreens take very little supplies to grow.

7.  Microgreens can be grown year round in your home.


The picture below is what full grown arugula looks like. Arugula is a fun one for beginners, because the seeds sprout really quickly and easily. Arugula at this stage is very strong tasting, and sometimes, a little bit too intense in flavor, but if you just eat the little microgreen seedlings, the flavor is subtle, sophisticated, and delicious as a garnish, salad accent, or atop a beautiful panini, burger, or cold cut sandwich!

Arugula seed is really inexpensive, quick to germinate, and very rewarding in terms of flavor when harvested as a microgreen!  Click the photo on the right, if you want to get some of your own seed to try.

To order Arugula seed on Amazon, click the pic above!



Below is a packet of Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch Kale.  It sprouts very quickly, so it’s really rewarding to plant these with kids!  It’s packed with nutrients, because, well, it’s Kale!  It can be harvested as a microgreen, or allowed to get a little bigger for baby salad greens.   But let me tell you, even though it is Kale, it tastes so much milder when you harvest it when it’s only 2 or 3 inches tall with cute little baby leaves!  I have waited until the leaves are about 1inch by 1inch, and then pinch them at the base of the stem without removing the center of the tiny plant, and gotten several cuttings throughout the summer this way.  I suppose letting it get this big, probably makes it less of a microgreen and more of a baby salad green,  but regardless, it’s a great addition to salads, and it also holds up in soups…think potato soup with Italian sausage.

To order Dwarf Blue Scotch Kale on Amazon, click the pic above!t



Radish seeds are super easy to sprout, and they will pop up in a week or less!  And these little cuties are purple!  Don’t let their cuteness fool you though; they pack a spicy punch in that tiny little seedling, making them perfect for spicing up your burgers and sandwiches!  This variety is called Rambo.

These little purple beauties are radish seedlings!  Click the pic to order on Amazon!Ra



Below are Bull’s Blood Beets!  Quite a bit different from what we all normally think of when we think of beets.  They are so fresh and colorful, and would be so beautiful and nutritious as a garnish to just about anything!  Well, maybe not with cereal.

These guys are so colorful, especially in the dead of winter! Click the pic to shop for Bull’s Blood Beet Seeds.


 Japanese Mizuna is another easy to sprout seed that is packed with flavorful punch!  Plant these little guys if you are a fan of the spicy mustard flavor of wasabi.

Dark Purple Japanese Mizuna
Re-used Take out food containers made the perfect mini greenhouse for growing microgreens!  Just make sure to wash with soap before adding your germination potting mix.

The tray to the above is a tray of peas sprouting just 3 days after we planted them.  The tray to the right is all Arugula about a week after we seeded them.  The trays are re-used take out containers from a local restaurant.  No drainage is required.   I would recommend using a shallow container no more than 2 inches deep to prevent excess moisture and seed rot.


We used regular Miracle Grow Seed Starting Soil.


Let’s Play in the Dirt!

We poured some soil in a 2 gallon bucket, brought it to the kitchen sink, and used the sprayer to wet it down.  Potting mix takes a while to absorb water, so you get to squirt water on it a lot…bonus for my little guy.  Then you get to stir it up with a big spoon until it is just right.  Not sopping wet with water standing in it, but wet enough that if you picked up a handful, and squeezed it, you could form a ball.

How to Plant the Seeds

1. Once the soil was moist, we put it in our cleaned take out trays, pat it down a little bit, and then scratched the surface so it was rough and not totally smooth.

2.Then we took our seeds and scattered them just as if you would be sprinkling salt on a steak.  About 1 seed every half centimeter or so.  Not precise, just scatter and have fun!

3.After we spread the seeds, we scratched the soil a little bit again gave it a love pat, and covered up the tray with the clear lid.  A perfect moist environment to get them going.

4. Once you get them planted, you can put the tray on top of the fridge, so they get some bottom heat, which speeds up sprouting(germination).

NOTE: If you keep the lid on your trays, you should not need to water them until after they have sprouted.  I kept a mister on hand, and misted the seeds right after we gave them their love pat, and then left them alone.

How Do I Care for Microgreens Once They Sprout?

We checked our seedling trays daily for signs of life, and after about 3 days, the peas began to sprout.

KEEP THEM COOL AND BRIGHT!Once they all sprouted, I removed them from above the fridge and place them in a cool, yet sunny window, and away from heat vents.  An ideal temperature average would be between 60-70 degrees F. once they sprout. Microgreens can also be grown in a cool place like your basement with fluorescent lights overhead.

How do I water them?

In order to not disturb the soil too much, I usually would turn the kitchen faucet on the lowest pressure possible, and directed the water along the side of the container to let it seep down to the bottom, so as to water the roots from the bottom up.  I might have used about 1 cup or less of water per tray, let it soak up, and then poured the excess off by tipping the tray gently to one side.  Not a lot of water is needed.

Once the lid is removed, it is important to maintain even soil moisture for your microgreens…but not have the sprouts sitting in water.  If you think you put too much water in the tray, just gently tip it at an angle to allow the excess water to drain over the edge of the tray.

After about a week and a half, we had a crop.  I just left them in the container, with the lid off, and snipped as needed to put in my salads or on sandwiches and burgers.  The kids actually loved eating the pea shoots.  Peas shoots are sweet, tender and delicious.  They also make a beautiful garnish if you like things fancy.

That’s it on microgreens for now.  I hope you learned something and that you’ll consider giving this fun little project a try!  Stay warm!

If you look closely, you will notice that each type of seed sprouted at different times.  This is one reason why I would rather purchase separate packets of seed types instead of a mix several kinds of plants.
When the seedlings are about an inch or so tall, with about 2 little leaves on them, you can begin cutting what you want to eat!
I like to label each type of plant and also mark the date that I planted the seeds, so I can keep track of when to expect them to start sprouting, and of course, remember what flavor to expect before I sample them! Popsicle sticks, or even plastic spoons could work.  Pencil is the best utensil to write with.