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Starting Seeds (without flimsy trays)

I have been somewhat quiet on the blog the last few weeks. My spare time has been spent preparing for gardening season and 10 weeks of being a soccer coach. I use the title “soccer coach” loosely since it is U6 (under 6 years old). It’s actually more like herding cats, only slightly more challenging (and fun). I have a feeling my blogging will be slower during the growing season, busier during the winter when I can’t get outside and need an outlet. :)

Last year, I tried starting seeds for our first “real” garden. Six raised beds, 4’x8′, sub-irrigated (post to come). The garden was quite successful, but it was not because of my seed starting. I bought several of the flimsy trays from the garden center and put them in our living room windows. Some grew, most did not. A fellow gardening friend gave me some of her 7000 successful starts (thank you, again) and I bought the rest. So, I was determined to find a better way this year–in the form of a grow light shelving area in the garage.

soil cube But, the best part of this project was the soil cube maker I stumbled upon. For about $30, I could make my own seed starting “pots” without creating waste, (waste including those flimsy trays that barely make it through one season before needing to be thrown away). I used some plastic storage tubs with clear lids–size doesn’t matter, but you will want to make sure it has enough headroom for the seedlings to grow. In the containers I used, I was able to squeeze 40 cubes in–5 x 8. A little smashing together was required, but it doesn’t matter if they aren’t perfectly square (I keep telling my OCD tendencies that this is irrelevant). :) Then, using half compost and half peat moss, add enough water to make it a sloppy concrete consistency and pack the soil cubes. Fill each cube until it’s full, then flip it into your container, press down, and you have 4 little cubes with a depression in it for the seed! Drop in one seed per cube, cover, and wait. Boom. There is enough moisture from the cube creation that you will not have to water for many days. The seeds will start germinating well before more water is needed.

I placed mine in the garage under a LED shop light and a LED red/blue grow light. grow lightI used all LED lighting to reduce energy use. Seedlings can start with just the shop light, but the additional grow light gives the extra boost needed after they start growing and is critical for blooming (do you smell my next project brewing? LOL).

Supply Links:

socket outletSoil cube maker
LED grow light
LED shop light (I bought mine at Costco for under $40)
I plugged 3 grow lights into an outlet socket and a power strip.



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Seed Starting

DIY Grass & Weed Killer

I do not hide the fact that I despise Monsanto and pesticides/herbicides in general. I quit using Roundup before trying to get pregnant after reading countless articles and studies raising red flags about it’s effect on humans, hormones, and reproduction. There have been studies and reports out for years and years about possible negative effects (that’s me putting it nicely) and yet it is still in use. In 2005 (yes, 10 years ago), Environmental Health Perspectives published a study, concluding that Roundup may “be considered as a potential endocrine disruptor. Moreover, at higher doses still below the classical agricultural dilutions, its toxicity on placental cells could induce some reproduction problems”. No thank you.

path 1path 2Moving on, how do I kill weeds and unwanted grass without these toxic delights? With my hands–sure, to some extent. But I need something more than that sometimes. Natural options I found included using tarps to basically smother areas of unwanted vegetation (too hard), burning with a torch stick (to dangerous), or getting a goat (LOL).

I settled on a DIY grass & weed killer–a simple mixture of vinegar, salt, and dish soap. I really didn’t know if it would work or not, but it was cheap and easy to try. And it worked!!!!! So, I have been using it around a stone path I built by the garden beds. It was an impromptu pathway built with rock from the construction site next door, so I did not do it correctly–I should have put down a weed barrier first (I will eventually go back and fix this, ugh).

THE RECIPE: Weed & Grass Killergarden sprayer

1 gallon white vinegar
1 cup salt
1 Tbs dish soap

1. Pour all ingredients into a hand held garden sprayer. Shake to mix well, let it sit for a few minutes then shake again. You want the salt to dissolve beforespraying, otherwise you will clog up the nozzle. Yes, I know this from personal experience. Twice, because I’m stubborn. Heh.

2. Spray on areas you want to kill. Check back 24 hours later and you will see a lot of success. You may have to go over a few areas again if you didn’t get them covered well enough the first time.


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DIY Root Cellar

When we built our house, I was thinking about the garden I would plant. I was not thinking about the food that would come from it (due to a long history of pathetic yields, hardly serious attempts). Had I truly realized the potential, I would have definitely extended the basement foundation under the porch. I’m irritated that we ended up not doing that in the first place, but when I realized it would have been a perfect “cellar”, I was really kicking myself.  Oh, well…..I’ve moved on to alternate solutions. Specifically, 5 gallon buckets in the ground.

Google “DIY root cellar” and a myriad of things show up. From giant above ground mounds suitable for living quarters to burying small chest freezers in the ground—all things a HOA would frown upon. We live in the suburbs, we have to appear to “fit in”. (LOL)  I have created several berms in my day for legitimate landscaping purposes. So, what if I burrowed into a small mound of dirt–would that provide enough underground warmth to make it through the winter?

I proceeded to build a small berm outside of the backyard garage door. I built it on top of 3, 5-gallon buckets that were placed at 45-degree angles (drill several holes in the bottom for any drainage and a little extra heat exchange with the ground). I bought some screw top lids for easy access (not necessary, just part of my over-engineering tendencies), did some plantings on top so it looks like an intentional feature, and thought about what I would try to keep over the winter in it. I wasn’t going to utilize them heavily the first year, just to see what happened. So, I put some small “seed” potatoes in one, a few beets in another, and a couple of turnips in the last one. Amazingly, the seed potatoes survived very well–just one or two got a little soft. The beets and turnips started growing leaves–so I think that if I had actually checked on them sooner, they could have been eaten in the middle of winter. But, since they are already growing, I planted them in pots and we can use them for eating greens.

potatoesBut, the potatoes are the part that I’m really happy about. I saved enough that I won’t have to buy any for this years’ planting–so I have Yukon and French fingering. I did order a purple variety this year, but will be able to save those for next year, too!

My plan for this fall will vary with the success of the garden. But, I am thinking I would like to try carrots/parsnips in one, seed potatoes in another, and maybe beets to actually utilize and eat in the 3rd. I do need to fashion some kind of “door” to cover the lids–something that will serve as a top insulation and that could easily uncover the area in the event of snow cover. We shall see what this year brings… :)


Screw top lids for 5 gallon buckets

If you have a restaurant/food service contact, you can probably get some empty pickle buckets for free, saving them from the landfill and saving you a few bucks.


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DIY: Acid Staining Concrete

First off, let me just say this was by far the largest DIY project I (with my Dad being the majority contributor) have tackled to date. Our six raised garden beds were a large project with the sub-irrigation system (I tend to over-engineer things), but the acid staining concrete was messier and had to be done in a condensed time frame, so that makes it the winner…..the winner of being kind of a freaking mess dirty job. (more…)

Reducing Cooties: Bathroom Hand Towels

Last winter, between the boys and I, it seemed like we were sick every other week. So, in the spring, I decided to change our hand washing process in the common half bath and switched to single use hand towels. And we (knock on wood) have not been infested with cooties very much at all this year–and it’s January. I’m going to call this a success. (more…)

DIY Reed Diffuser

After removing so many artificial chemicals from Wooville, I realized that I missed air fresheners and wall plug types of products–which may have been because of the 2 little boys in the house (they don’t always smell like a spring breeze). Anyway, there are several types of electric essential oil diffusers out there, but I’m not convinced that I want to deal with another humidifier (because that’s basically what they are). So, that’s when I made Body & Linen Spray and experimented with ways to diffuse essential oils. To me, the easiest ways to freshen the air (short of doing laundry, dusting, vacuuming, insert blank stare here) are sprays and reed diffusers!!!  (more…)

DIY Wine Bottle Drinking Glasses

I’ve seen posts going around about these DIY wine bottle drinking glasses–but the method involves string soaked in lighter fluid–and that just doesn’t sound like it would end well. I made an entire set of glasses a few years ago and think they are freaking awesome. They are quirky, unique, and best of all–a way to reuse, not just recycle. I love that after the initial equipment investment, I can make replacement glasses whenever needed. No fire, just a bottle cutter, sanding pads, a little elbow grease, and water.

The main advice I have, no matter what method, is if you have certain bottles you are really eager to have as glasses—DO NOT DO THOSE FIRST. Practice on some you don’t really care about before proceeding. But, the worst thing that will happen is that you have to empty another of your favorites. If it’s wine, call me and I will assist. (more…)

DIY Coat Hangers. Repurposing Thrift Store “Decor”.

After living in our house for 1.5 years, and telling the boys to pick their coats up off the floor 7542 times, I finally found a way to hang coats in the entry. I know, I know–it’s rocket science, right? Well, it’s not a huge entry, they aren’t tall enough to reach the rod in the coat closet, and the place that a traditional floor stand coat hanger is supposed to be is where I have my grandma’s sewing machine cabinet (and it doesn’t hold coats well). I just learned how to end a stitch by hand, and it has made it so much easier then having to pull out the sewing machine every time. So, I’ve been trying to think out of the box for a wall solution, but when I would see a cute hook thingy at a store, they always cost waaaay more than I wanted to pay. And then I would forget and move on to another project (heh).