Seed Tray Labeling

When I first started gardening, I wanted row labels. I fell in love with the polished brash signs on sticks. They were out of my price range.

Channeling my inner child, I looked into¬†Popsicle¬†sticks. While researching types, sizes, pricing, and local sources, my mind wandered. Did I have some Popsicle sticks in my craft shoebox? I went to look…nope. What did I have that might work?

Colored toothpicks!

Things I (re)learned (that)day:

  1. Things that are on hand are often better than specially made things that cost money and take up extra space. (I like relearning this in new areas of my life.)
  2. Reusable is important. When I’m done with this tray, I’ll simply brush off the toothpicks and put them back in their (designated garden usage only) jar.
  3. Color is fun, but not necessary.
  4. Save the gardening budget for things that actually grow, or directly feed things that grow, when at all possible.

But wait a minute, you say, how do you remember what’s in each row?

The answer is simple: Magic.

Or a camera phone (or other digital camera, or pen and scratch paper)

It’s important, I’ve found, to do nothing else with my brain in between placing the seeds, laying out the packets, and taking the pictures. I can’t move the tray (I might rotate it and if it’s just rows, or quadrants, I may not remember which way is “up.”) That sort of thing.

If you notice, the toothpick layout does not exactly match the seed packets. That is what happens when you want to make sure you take the picture before going for your nightly walk…and forget to lay the last two seed packets down.

So even though I laid out my rough “grid,” laid out my seed packets to “match,” and took my pictures, I could have still had an “oops surprise” later on trying to remember what those last two spots on the right with the orange toothpick were.

Mystery solved!

Now you may be saying, that picture is small, from a cell phone, I can’t read the fine print – what’d you plant?

Pictured above (left to right, top to bottom as you move left to right):

  • Lark’s Tongue Kale
  • Even’ Star Land Race Collards
  • Dark Green Italian Parsley
  • Lemon Basil
  • Cumin
  • Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce
  • Cimmaron Lettuce
  • Gentilina Lettuce
  • Little Gem Lettuce
  • Mignonette Rouge Lettuce
  • Rodan (Chadwick’s) Lettuce
  • Rouge Grenobloise Lettuce
  • Cracker Jack Mix Marigold
  • Red Cherry Marigold

I liked the romaine I grew last year in flavor, but not in production, and the other varieties of lettuce I grew I didn’t want to eat. That makes this season a Try Again one when it comes to greens. From this myriad of choices, I’m hoping a few stand out as delicious, productive, and happy plants. If I luck into a few such species, they’ll be rewarded in my Fall 2012 garden with more space. Whereas some of the underperformers will have joined other packets in my Trade Box.



A few days ago, the first little white wriggles of onion life appeared…in half of the tray.

Things I learned:
1) Seed trays with high side edges need to be rotated to allow for even sun exposure.


Now is a vital time in the little sprouts’ lives. They don’t yet have a root system to sustain themselves through drier times, so it’s even more important for me to remember to mist them every day than it was before they sprouted. An unsprouted seed may still sprout, but a dead sprout is mere compost.

Last night I was still without any tomato or pepper sprouts. That was ok. It was still early. I almost made it to bed without watering them, though. The heated soil dries out more quickly than the room-temperature onion soil, so I skipped the spray bottle and gently poored water over the surface.

This morning:


The odd looking fellow in the corner is an unhappy Donkey Ear offshoot. I need to move him to the succulent pot.

Most exciting about these first tomato sprouts is that they are saved seeds! The ones on the left are from a local farmer’s market, where you can purchase a pint of mixed miniature rainbow tomatoes. The ones near the top of the photo are from a farmer’s market in Newport, Oregon.

And while there’s all this excitement already, the mailman delivered even more excitement:


These will come in handy in two ways.
1) I can plant these in the garden in a few days or a couple of weeks, depending on my taste for risk taking.
2) If my onion sprouts from seed turn to compost again this year, I have these for Plan B.

Ordering starts like this is also handy because I don’t have to plant them right away. They can hang out just like they are for a few weeks, feeding off their little bulb.

Being the cautious adventurer that I am, I’ll put some of these out this weekend, some out in two weeks, and the rest the first weekend of February.

Also this weekend:
– Starting seeds for beets, kale, collards, and other pre-FFD greens.
– Hopefully a road trip east for some cheap organic manure
– Continue addition to garden bed
– Soil testing and amending as needed
– Research soil desires of blackberries, melons, and ground cherries.

What is going on in your neck o’ th’ woods?


I had a lazier garden day, today. I found a free manure source on Craigslist whom I need to call. I checked on the lettuce transplants (most appeared happy, a few weaker ones may not recover.) I assembled the latest weed eater, edged both front yard sections, the walk, and whacked around the garden boards.

I spent a spell sitting on a crossbeam spanning the turned earth, munching almonds, and watching the soil. Overturning a spot of leaves with a twig revealed an acorn. Setting down my stick, I cracked the acorn. Carefully prying it apart, I could see hundreds of tiny insect eggs.

Uh oh.

I laid both sides egg-side up on my beam in the sunlight. I set about to find more acorns, disturb the eggs, and hopefully reduce spring infestations of detrimental life.

Things I learned today:
1) Acorns do not belong in garden mulch.
2) Weed eaters are an art form to utilize well. I require more practice, for following a concrete drive in a straight manner was never required in my country childhood.

Seeds ordered!

I ordered seeds last night for my next garden. Among the new varieties include melons, winter squash, and strawberries which are all new to me and my garden.

Today I broke ground on adding another 50 square feet to my 5′ x 20′ bed. It’s wet and muddy work this time of year. The grass and weeds dislodge easily in the damp soil with my spading fork. The heavy clay clings to the prongs. Every few pries requires clearing the tool with the side of the sole of my shoe. After about 10 square feet. I’m ready for a different task.

Digging a new bed is hard labor, and it’s been nearly a year since I last did the work. It will be nice to get back into “gardening shape” but it will take time, so 10 square feet at a time is it for now.

I moved back to the rear fence to continue removing the vines that had taken deep root there. There had been a two foot span of earth, between a chain link fence and a privacy fence. It had come to fill with vines, leaves, and other debris over the last decade, I assume. My lovely other half had removed the chain link two weeks ago and begun removal of the hackberries and more intertwined vines. He was busy wrestling, literally, with a toilet repair project so I thought to lend a hand.

I finished by using my new Hori Hori to uproot a handful of volunteer Red Romaine, Green Oakleaf, and Black Simpson heads to move the out of harm’s way (in the path of the garden plot expansion) and into the garden.

After cleaning my spade, spading fork, and hori hori, it was time to go indoors for a snack of diced strawberries and yogurt.

Things I learned today, thanks to The Heirloom Life Gardener:

  1. Do not compost tomato plants (oops!) Apparently the diseases that afflict tomato plants build up in the garden over time. Best to burn or toss.
  2. Only mist carrot seeds for germination. A full watering will prevent sprouting. (This explains my 2% germination rate across five varieties from three seed companies this fall.)
  3. Squash bugs are as hard to kill organically as I’d come to discover. Well, poo.