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.

 

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Tip of the Day: Hunting for the Best Asparagus Bundle at the Grocers


It’s Valentine’s Day, and I have a funny plant fact for you.  Did you know that Asparagus is considered an aphrodisiac?  Evidently, some people consider it’s shape to be phallic, and in early France, it was once tradition for a bridegroom to consume 3 courses of asparagus before his wedding night!!!   In Elizabethan times, Asparagus was thought to “provoketh Venus”

If you are in the mood for love today, you are in luck!

Asparagus is on sale at Fareway for $1.88 per bundle!!!! EEEEP!

So, I was just at the grocery store and guess what?  Asparagus must be in season in California or some part of the US, because it’s on sale!!!!  Normally, it’s about $4/bundle!

I was very excited, so naturally, I bought some!

Today’s Tip is super easy!

Question: How do you find the best bundle of asparagus?

Answer:  Look for the bundle that has it’s cut ends still in the tray of water in the cooler section!  That’s it!

Reason:  If the cut ends are still in water, the asparagus stems will be nicely hydrated, plump and juicy for when you cook them.

Question: What if there are none in a tray with water?

Answer:

  • When you get home, re-cut about a half an inch off the cut ends (UNDER RUNNING WATER) and then place them in a glass with about 2 or 3 inches of water.
  • You can put them back in the fridge in the glass,
  • or if you plan to eat them that night, just leave them out on the counter.

Reason: 

  • Think of your own body, if you get a cut, you bleed for a bit, and if you are an average, healthy person, eventually, a scab forms, and you stop bleeding.  The same thing holds true with cut plant stems, like Asparagus spears!
  • If the wound/cut part, is dried out, or scabbed over, so to speak, it will be less able to absorb water and rehydrate when you put them in a glass of water.
  • Re-cutting the stems under running water, is kind of like starting a siphon for the Asparagus stems, making it easier for them to slurp up a gulp of water throughout the day/days prior to cooking them.

Quick Roasted Asparagus Recipe:

Heat oven to 425 degrees F

Ingredients:  Fresh Asparagus, Olive Oil, Kosher Salt

Directions:

  1. Rinse Asparagus spears under cool water
  2. Starting from the top of the stem, gently bend the stem, working your way down to the cut end.
  3. When the stem snaps, keep the top end, and discard the bottom.  This process will prevent you from having woody/chewy pieces that are not fun to bite into!
  4. Grab a cookie sheet
  5. Place a sheet of tin foil on top of the cookie sheet
  6. Place Asparagus on top of the sheet
  7. Drizzle Asparagus with a few tablespoons of olive oil
  8. Toss Asparagus until coated with olive oil
  9. Bake at 425 for about 15 to 20 minutes
  10. Remove from oven when Asparagus is bright green, and still slightly firm, but juicy on the inside.
  11. Sprinkle with Kosher salt, toss, and devour!
  12. The same thing can be done using a grill basket out on the grill!

Did You Know?

  • Asparagus is a urinary system stimulant
  • Asparagus is high in vitamin C
  • Asparagus is high in beta carotene
  • Asparagus is high in the mineral, selenium
  • You can eat a whole pound of it at the cost of only 120 calories! If you leave out the butter, and sauces, etc
  • If you have a lot of patience, you can grow asparagus from seed, but you have to tack on an extra year before you can harvest
  • Gardening guides from the 18th century once recommended that a small family should plant 2 acres of asparagus!  That’s a lot of asparagus!!!!
  • Asparagus harvested from your own garden is thought to contain 66% more vitamin C than Asaragus that is shipped across country, like from CA to NY for example.
  • Asparagus is a member of the Lily family
  • Asparagus is a perennial, meaning, it comes back year after year
  • A well maintained Asparagus bed can be prolific for more than a hundred years!
If you would like to try growing your own asparagus this year, here is a link to a popular, disease resistant, and prolific variety. You may be able to order now, and then the crowns will be shipped in the spring. Otherwise, bookmark this page, and order in March or April.

Order Purple Asparagus Seeds


Order Green Asparagus Seeds 

When Should I Start Tomato Seeds?


This is one of my favorites! Pink flesh with hardly any seeds in it, low acidity, and huge! To order on Amazon, click the pic.

When DOES one start tomato seeds?

That’s a good question!  I have had many people ask me about this, especially momma friends who would like to do this as a project with their kids.

Roma Tomatoes are a great for making sauces, and canning because they produce a ton of fruit and the fruit is very meaty, resulting in thick delicious sauces. Click the pic to order from Amazon.
When should I buy tomato seeds?

Usually, the best time to buy them is in January of the year that you plant to grow the tomatoes.  That’s when the seed catalogs start rolling out, and garden centers start putting out the seed racks.  I would recommend taking your kids to the garden center to help you select seeds they think would be fun to try!  But if you would rather just order on line, I have provided a few links for you.

This is the Hillbilly Potato Leaf Heirloom Tomato. It has beautiful flamey striations in the fruit and is a delicious blend of flavor between a zesty red and a milder yellow tomato. Click the pick to order seed from Amazon.

 

How long does it take to grow a tomato plant from seed?

To get a tomato plant that is big enough to grow outside, similar in size to a plant that might come in a 4pack at the garden center…..8-12 weeks

Growing Time Depends on what variety of Tomato You Grow,

so look at the back of the tomato seed packet, and the directions will tell you how many weeks to start indoors before you plan to plant the tomatoes outside.

When Should I plant my Tomato Seeds?

This answer depends on where you live.

  1. Look at the  back of the seed packet
  2. find out how many weeks your tomato seeds take to grow 
  3. Find out when the FROST FREE DATE is in your area
  4. pick a date that you plan to plant your tomatoes outside (WHEN THERE IS NO MORE DANGER OF FROST)
  5. Count backwards from your outdoor planting date, the number of weeks it says on the packet.
  6. VOILA! That’s when you should plant the tomato seeds!

If you live where I do, in Iowa, the date you start your seeds will be later than someone who wants to start seeds down in Kansas City.  The reasoning is because of FROST!

Tomatoes are weenies when it comes to frost!  Nothing is worse than to nurture a crop of baby plants for weeks and then to set them out too early only to be destroyed by a late frost!  It’s devastating!  Be wary of planting your baby plants out on the first nice day we get in the spring.  They need to be acclimated, or hardened off to their new outdoor environment.

In horticulture, we use a term called THE FROST FREE DATE:  the date after which your area should no longer have chances of frost that could kill all of your seedlings.

 

Frost Free Date for the Quad Cities:  May 10th ish:  It’s always iffy, I usually wait until around the 15th or 20th just to be safe, unless if I have a plan to cover my seedlings in the event that we do get a late frost.

Example:

I buy a packet of seed that says to start seeds indoors 8 weeks before the frost free date in my area.  My frost free date is May 10th.  So I count backwards 8 weeks from May 10th and I get March 10th.  I should start my seeds on or around March 10th.  If I would like to have a larger tomato plant when it comes time to plant outside, then I would want to start my seeds a few weeks earlier.

What kind of pot do I need to start tomato seeds in?

I have tried lots of things, and failed at lots of things in this department.  I have had the most success with peat pellets by Jiffy.  They are compressed discs of peat moss with a little hole in the center where you can just drop the seed in!  Then you put them in a saucer, or an old clear salad box that you get from the grocery store, you know, the ones with the lid on them, and the whole box is clear?  They make a perfect miniature greenhouse for your tomato plants.

1.You set the discs in the salad box,

2.pour about an inch or 2 of water in the bottom,

3.and they will expand to about 4 times their size.

4.Then you can drop your seeds in the hole in the center of the disc,

5.close the lid to the box, and you have your very own growing chamber!

These are what the Jiffy peat pellets look like before they get wet. Click the pick if you want to order online.

 

When Should I Prune My Korean Lilac Bush?


I just thinned mine out today, while it is in full bloom!  Giving it a little trim now shows off those lovely purple flowers that sometimes get lost under the leaves.  The picture below shows the effects of a little trim.  The right side shows before the trim and the left shows after the trim. My Lilac now looks like it spent the morning getting fluffed and buffed at the spa!  Subscribe to get a free video tutorial to see how I gave this lovely shrub its annual beauty treatment.

Support Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation While You Decorate with Wall Art by Marie Stephens Design


Gardenshapers

watermarktree leafing out in the country fence barn dandelionsDSC_0304 Early spring farm scene taken somewhere between Davenport and Eldridge while on a drive to Donahue, Iowa.

Support Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation when you shop for interior wall decor at Marie Stephens Design

SPECIAL NOW THROUGH AUGUST 14, 2015  Marie Stephens Design Will Donate to JDRF Team Aryn:

  • $15 of each 8 x10 photo print sold
  • $7 of each 5 x 7 photo print sold
  • $5 of each 4 x 6 photo print sold
  • and 15% of any other size photo print or gallery wrapped canvas sold

Enter TEAM ARYN in the NOTES SECTION at CHECK OUT, and a donation will be made to TEAM ARYN.  If you would like recognition for your donation, please let me know, and I will enter your name in the recognition spot when I donate the money.

Aryn is a personal friend of mine who has been living with Type 1 diabetes for…

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Support Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation While You Decorate with Wall Art by Marie Stephens Design


watermarktree leafing out in the country fence barn dandelionsDSC_0304
Early spring farm scene taken somewhere between Davenport and Eldridge while on a drive to Donahue, Iowa.

Support Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation when you shop for interior wall decor at Marie Stephens Design

SPECIAL NOW THROUGH AUGUST 14, 2015  Marie Stephens Design Will Donate to JDRF Team Aryn:

  • $15 of each 8 x10 photo print sold
  • $7 of each 5 x 7 photo print sold
  • $5 of each 4 x 6 photo print sold
  • and 15% of any other size photo print or gallery wrapped canvas sold

Enter TEAM ARYN in the NOTES SECTION at CHECK OUT, and a donation will be made to TEAM ARYN.  If you would like recognition for your donation, please let me know, and I will enter your name in the recognition spot when I donate the money.

Aryn is a personal friend of mine who has been living with Type 1 diabetes for about 13 years. To learn more about Team Aryn, click here:  Meet Aryn

Pick Your Own Strawberry Farms in Eastern Iowa


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Our basket of loot from the strawberry patch. ©2015Marie Stephens Design

It’s hot out, but if you can get there early, it’s worth the trip to head out to The Pride of the Wapsi this week to get some, oh so yummy, fresh strawberries!

The cool spring temperatures and nice rains we had this spring have made or some lovely, sweet, yet tart, little jewels!  This year, is by far, one of the best tasting years for strawberries in a long time, in my opinion.

I would recommend getting there as early as possible, wear light colors, hats, and use plenty of sunscreen.  A nice jug of cold bottled water is highly recommended for after the pick.  Oh, and prepare to end up with random strawberry stains in odd places! You will be given a tray that can hold up to 10 pounds of strawberries.  Price is $2/lb.  Then, you’ll get a ride out to the field in a golf cart, where you will be given instructions for where you can pick.  Hold on tight, it’s a bumpy ride! Afterwards, you’ll get a ride back to the shed where your berries will be weighed, and you can pay.  There is a nice, outdoor hand washing station with soap and paper towels, so you can clean up a bit before you leave. On our visit, we saw a resident cow and 3 huge pigs.  All in all, it was a fun experience, even for my 2 little boys who were dragging their feet about wanting to go.  They were pleasantly surprised.  I think they enjoyed the crazy golf cart ride that the young lad gave us out to the strawberry patch! On our visit, we saw a resident cow and 3 huge pigs.  All in all, it was a fun experience, even for my 2 little boys who were dragging their feet about wanting to go.  They were pleasantly surprised.  I think they enjoyed the crazy golf cart ride that the young lad gave us out to the strawberry patch more than the strawberries! Find a pick your own farm near you!

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©2015Marie Stephens Design
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© 2015 Marie Stephens Design

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!

Lilacs: How and When to Prune


A collection of lilac florets I meticulously arranged on construction paper one night after my boys went to sleep a few years ago.  There is something so soothing to me, to be able to be alone at night, after the house has reached a calm state, and to craft away with items I have collected from our daily outdoor adventures.  If you would like to purchase this print and customize it with a monogram or a name, I would be glad to help you!, Just click on the photo above, and it will take you to my etsy shop, Marie Stephens Design.
A collection of lilac florets I meticulously arranged on construction paper one night after my boys went to sleep a few years ago. There is something so soothing to me, to be able to be alone at night, after the house has reached a calm state, and to craft away with items I have collected from our daily outdoor adventures. If you would like to purchase this print and customize it with a monogram or a name, I would be glad to help you!, Just click on the photo above, and it will take you to my etsy shop, Marie Stephens Design.

My public service announcement for today is:  “Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their lilacs and trim, shear, thin, and prune them. ”  Always prune your lilacs, if they need it, right after they bloom, because if you wait too long after they bloom, you will be removing next years buds.

©Marie Stephens Design 2014  This is a Korean Lilac from my garden in Iowa last spring.
©Marie Stephens Design 2014 This is a Korean Lilac from my garden in Iowa last spring.

So if it needs it, do it now!  It’s also a good idea to remove a few of the really old branches from within the center of the plant.  Below is a link to an article by Fine Gardening Magazine on how and when to prune your lilacs. How to Prune Lilacs by Fine Gardening Magazine