DIY Paper Pots for Seed Starting

There is snow falling outside again – wonderful!! – but inside I’ve got a brooder of little chicks and packets of seeds and dozens of sprouted herbs and veggies and perennials, all an optimistic acknowledgement that springtime is indeed here!

If you’re a gardener, you’ve probably browsed seed catalogs and displays at feed stores, stocked up on seeds, planned your garden, and probably even eagerly started seeds indoors a few weeks too early. Oh, well, there are worse things. Gardening is a wonderfully thrifty sort of pursuit, but some of those seed starting supplies can add up pretty quickly. Newspaper pots are a quick and free alternative to peat pots for seed starting, and here are a few tips for making sure they turn out well and hold up!

These sturdy, biodegradable little pots are formed from strips of newspaper, each approximately 1/3 of a newspaper cut lengthwise (fold the paper in thirds lengthwise and cut along those folds) and are rolled around a cylindrical item, such as a spice container or a pop can, depending on how big you want your paper pots. I played around with a couple of different sizes for these pots, what I liked the best was a pop can (well, V8 to be precise, since I don’t drink pop) for size.

Starting at one end of your newspaper strip, roll it around the can, not too tight, so you can then slide it off one end of the can until about 2 or 3 inches are left on the can. The part still on the can will be the sides of the pot, and the rest will form the bottom, by folding it over the bottom of the can. Play around with a folding method until you find one that works for you, but smaller, overlapping folds work better than bigger folds. I find it works best to start right over the end left from rolling the pot, to capture that edge and better hold the pot together, and as I get closer to the end, I tuck the new folds underneath the already folded part. Take some time to get your folding method down, since solid folding equals a solid paper pot. That’s also why I find a pop can works best. A spice jar works okay, but with a pop can, the rim and the indent in the bottom of the can allow you to get a really good series of folds in the paper, making a solid base for the paper pot. Once everything is folded and tucked in, gently slide the pot off the can and it is ready to be used!

These little pots are quick to make and can be a fun time filler. Obviously, once you’ve planted in them and watered them, they do get soggy, so handle them gingerly if you have to move the pots, but when you’re ready to plant your seedlings out in your garden, just plant the whole thing and the paper will disintegrate on its own! I’m growing my starts in disposable baking sheets with plastic covers, which provide a great humid environment until the seeds have sprouted, and then when they are well enough established the cover comes off. So far, I’ve had about a 100% germination rate with what I’ve planted.

Springtime is a wonderful reminder of God’s provision, His sovereignty, and His Creation design in which mankind was created to partner with God in the care and keeping of His earth. It is God who brings or withholds the weather we need, and it is He who ultimately provides, and because of His orderly Creation, in which like produces like, and kind multiplies according to kind, I can plant seeds and grow an expected harvest. Pursuits such as planting and growing and animal husbandry allow us to participate in this world as stewards, as God designed us to be, faithfully using our means and abilities to nurture and foster growth and life in this world, to care for God’s creatures, and to provide for ourselves and our families. So enjoy these springtime pursuits, friends, and thank God for His care and provision!

The Last of Winter, the First of Spring

According to the calendar, spring has arrived, but in western South Dakota, we know better than to put too much store in that! For us, winter lingers sometimes into June, but we’ve begun to taste the springtime and I’m itching for those warmer temperatures, those springtime tasks, mud instead of ice, warm dirt, growing things, and baby animals!

Our relatively mild winter was punctuated with days and weeks of unseasonable warmth, and then punctuated again with unseasonable, bitter cold. And, as always, it starts to feel like it has always been winter, sometime around the middle of February. Those little tastes of springtime that tantalize and taunt us every year, tease us with the warmth that is so close, so close. And we are so ready for springtime, and we’re praying for rain, or a good spring snowstorm to bring some much-needed moisture to the parched landscape.

Of all the seasonal changes, perhaps the most bewildering and wonderful is the change from winter to spring, from the time of slumber and death to a time of waking and birth, from a time of fading to a time of renewal, from surviving to thriving, a time of preparation and planning to a time of action and initiation.

Everything that is easy to accomplish in warm weather is a challenge in the winter, especially when the temperatures plummet and snow and ice freeze us in. A five-minute outdoor task takes fifteen minutes to prepare for inside, and twenty minutes to warm back up after coming inside again. A snowstorm wreaks havoc on travel when you live 30 miles outside of town, or your driveway is a mile long. The ground is frozen solid, everything seems poised to break, the cold creeps into the house until the best way to get some heat going is by turning on the oven and opening the door. An unfortunate calf born in the middle of a frigid cold snap is a struggle to keep alive.

And through the sleepiness and struggle of winter, we dream of spring. We dream of spring, and begin preparing. Gardens are planned, seeds are ordered, harvests are imagined, and a million other projects start forming in the mind, ready to send into action when the cold snap breaks, or when the snow is gone, or when the ground melts. Ranchers watch their cows get heavier and heavier, and pray for a good calving season.

And then at last, spring arrives. We see it on the calendar, and we see a 10 days at time of forecasts for temperatures in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. We see the first shoots of green grass. We feel the first raindrops. We feel the first truly warm breezes and smell the earth warming up. Rock-hard, icy ground turns into a mud slick, and how wonderful the mud smells! The multiple layers of jackets and sweaters diminish to the ease of a shirt and light jacket, stocking caps are replaced with ball caps, and I always cherish the first day I can wear a tank top and sandals!

The garden beds begin to soften under their preparatory layer of plastic. The first load of laundry is hung on the clothesline outside. The first meadowlarks appear. Seeds are started. Those calves that were unlucky enough to be born into the cold snap are now a month old, frisky, and thriving.

What a transformation!

In the winter, we are forced to slow down. It is a sabbath of seasons, in a sense. We are forced to slow down from the seemingly self-sufficient business of the rest of the year and only do those things that are necessary, limited by the cold, the frozen ground, the shorter days. It is an exercise in trusting God for the day-to-day necessities in the day-to-day struggles. And then in the springtime, God turns that trust into joyful action.

Happy springtime, friends! And pray for rain!

Summer Firstfruits

After several years of being sabotaged by the weather, it is so much fun to finally be getting some beautiful fruit from our gardening efforts! Sure, we’ve gotten vegetables from previous gardens, and some of it has been nice, but it really is just plain hard to garden in the Hills without either a greenhouse or a hail structure. Or, as this summer is showing, containers on our deck. There is something absolutely peaceful and restorative about pruning our tomato plants, or pruning and dead-heading my flowers, and the whole process of cultivating and caring for plants is immensely satisfying and energizing.
IMG_0316IMG_0313IMG_0308And nothing beats a sandwich with thick slices of freshly-picked, sun-warmed tomato…

Dirt and Daydreams

As I walked down from Grandma’s house this evening, back to the cabin my sister and I share, and I caught a glimpse of the laundry hanging on the line and our ever-expanding container garden on our porch, with the evening sun streaming gold across the green of everything, it all seemed so perfect. My castle, I thought. One of the joys of living in a small house in the country is that the outdoors becomes an extension of everything that happens inside. It is almost as if the front door didn’t exist. This summer has been a delightful time spent largely outdoors, getting dirt under my fingernails, callouses on my hands, getting sunburned, sweaty, and stronger.

I love getting to the end of each day and actually being tired, and waking in the morning with muscles sore from the day before. I even love ruefully slathering aloe on sunburned shoulders because I forgot sunscreen while mowing the lawn. I love the sweat trickling down my back and down my face, and the dried mud on my pants. I love the nuisance of driving our laundry up to Grandma’s since we are without a washer or dryer, and the peacefulness of hanging the clean, wet laundry on our clothes line and watching it flutter in the breeze. I love our pots of tomatoes lined up neatly on our porch, and the overflowing planters and hanging baskets filled with a cacophony of color, flowers flashing and sparkling in the sun like gemstones. I love looking down at dirt- and sweat-streaked arms and filthy hands after planting flowers or starting seeds, and I love the quiet task of watering everything. I love the summer sights around our house – the wildflowers, Trixie lounging on top of her dog house, the cats frisking in the yard. I love morning or evening walks or runs.  I love the tasks that keep me outside, those things that blur the line between indoors and out. IMG_7947eIMG_7486IMG_7953eIMG_7941eIMG_7926eIMG_7919eIMG_7908eIMG_7814eGod has sure blessed me in ways I didn’t even know I wanted…with a country life full of color, dirt, and sweet daydreams.

 

 

Perspective

A recent storm tore into our neck of the woods, leaving us with drifts of hail, shredded trees, and some damage here and there – and a few clear reminders.
IMG_3165 No. 1 – Gardening and the Black Hills are not companions. If anything, they are indifferent to antagonistic acquaintances. If a late frost doesn’t kill the garden, the drought will. If the drought doesn’t, the grasshoppers will. If the grasshoppers don’t finish it off, the hail will. If the hail doesn’t, an early frost will. This time, it was the hail.IMG_3190No. 2 – A storm that “doesn’t look like much” can still pack a punch. As it rolled in, Mom and I almost took bets on whether or not those clouds contained hail. I would have lost by a long shot. The storm rolled in, spitting little rice-like pellets of ice. A cloud of fog blew in, and the storm intensified, gradually dropping bigger and bigger hailstones, which bounced and leapt in the grass like popcorn. They got larger, sounding like bricks dropping onto the deck, shattering every direction. When the hail finally stopped, it looked as if it had snowed.IMG_3173No. 3 – Those things that we see as “bad” are often accompanied by a blessing. Sure, we got a smashed garden, but we also got almost an inch and a half of rain, between the storm with the hail and a storm the previous day. We are moisture starved here, and that inch and a half will do wonders. We went to check the rain gauge, and the top had shattered off. A well-placed hailstone.IMG_3205No. 4 – No matter how bad things get, there is always someone else who got hit harder. Mom had worked hard on her garden this year, and it was just starting to produce! Some regret is only natural. But one of the nurses at the clinic where I work has a daughter who lives in Houston, and we’ve been getting updates from her on the state of the storm. Meanwhile, we have a lot of haze in the air from wildfires further west. Montana is burning, Texas is underwater, and all we have to complain about is a smashed garden. What storm were we talking about again…? Nothing like perspective.

Canada/Alaska Adventure | Entry #8

On a rainy, dreary day, the greenhouse really is a wonderful place to be. Comfortably warm inside, with fresh, cool air from the rainy outdoors. Rain plinking on the roof. We’ve had a lot of rain over the last two weeks, and the greenhouse happened to be in need of a spring cleaning. Spent a good part of yesterday afternoon organizing pots, flower tags, gardening tools, fertilizers…and drinking tea and listening to Adventures in Odyssey.
IMG_9559eIMG_9557eI’ve always thought gardening was a nice idea, and I’ve had a few gardening projects that were successful – mostly because they required no effort. Such as the 12-foot tall sunflowers and the moonflower vines that took over our porch. But I’ve always lived in places where heat and/or humidity were real barriers to my interest in that art and science. I can’t say I enjoy gardening when temps are in the 80s and 90s, and I’m sweating and tired and a little grouchy after pulling two weeds! But being able to spend hours in the garden or greenhouse, working with my hands, getting dirty and having dirt under my fingernails, having mud on my jeans, working hard and being appropriately tired, sweating because of the work, not because of the heat, having sore muscles and a wakened mind – that is hard to beat. IMG_9564eA lovely afternoon.

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