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Make your own seed packets (packet templates)

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Last year I did origami seed packets last year which worked out pretty good though I only got two per sheet of paper and didn’t hold too many seeds (especially large seeds like peas) with the many types of seeds I am collecting this year I decided to try another option.

I looked online and found many templates, though I couldn’t find any with standard seed package sizes.  Eventually I gave up and created my own and thought I would share.

Small Seed Packet (2.75” X 3.00”) 4 packets per sheet pdf  doc  docx
Typical Seed Packet (3.00” X 3.75”) 2 packets per sheet pdf  doc  docx
XLarge Seed Packet (4.50” X 5.25”) 1 packets per sheet pdf  doc  docx

Basic idea is pretty simple, just print them out and glue the flaps on the inside.  I used a plain old grade school glue stick which worked out great.  Not only does this work great for new seeds collected, but I also used them to reduce much of the space my large seed packets were taking for a small number of very small seeds.

Make your own paper seed packets (origami)

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When I posted about my adventures in saving onion seeds I mentioned the desire to purchase some small envelopes to hold the seeds. jimmycrackedcorn promptly responded with a comment scolding me for my lack of cheapness. Which I shamefully have to agree completely and took his advice and decided to make some of my own.

I followed the directions from the ICPS Seed Bank though I did do a little improvising to make the packets a little smaller and I got lazy on my folding so I have provided the cheap/lazy directions below.

Step #1: Start with a sheet of paper and fold down the middle, this will allow two seed packets per sheet of paper:

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Step #2: Use scissors to cut out the individual triangles which will be come your seed packets

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Step #3: Fold one corner one third of the way across the paper

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Step #4: Insert the other corner inside the fold and fold flat

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Step #5: Open top and pour in seeds, add a label, and fold over top

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I like this design since it is easy enough that even I can do it, it naturally has a funnel to pour in/out seeds, and is fairly compact which is good since my pickle jar seed holder in my refrigerator is getting pretty full.

Saving carrot seeds

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Like many of my seed saving in devours they have occurred by accident.  This year saving carrot seeds with one of those cases.  I must have missed picking on of my carrots last fall, this carrots would be completely woody to eat so I left in in the ground knowing that carrots go to seed after their second year.

To get the best results I only kept the first three umbels for two reasons.  This will give me the largest and best quality seeds.  Second, this means less flowers for the bees to pollinate so I should have a better changes of having a higher number of quality seeds.  At the end of the summer I cut off the umbels and hung them upside down in my garage and forgot about them for a little while.

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Harvesting the seeds is pretty easy, just rub the umbels between your hands into a large bowl or container.  Pick out any remaining stems or big pieces of chaff.  Rub between your hands a little more to cause the chaff to become closer to a powder.

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Now with a quick shake in a sieve (used from the kitchen) most of the chaff should fall through leaving the seeds.  Just to remember there are up to 2000 carrots seeds in a teaspoon so don’t go overboard since these seeds normally only last a maximum of 3 years in the refrigerator.

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You may notice that the seeds do not look like the ones you buy in the packets and have funny little “beards” (which is actually technical name) surrounding the seeds.  You can leave these on but it can cause the seeds to stick together making planting a bit more difficult.  You can take care of these by giving the seeds a hard rub into the same sieve with firm pressure from your finger.

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Though this takes a little more time than some other seeds in about 15 minutes of work I have fairly clean seeds which is more than enough that I can use for this season and more to share/trade with others.

Using WonderSoil for seed starting

I had great results using coconut coir last growing season it was great to work with, retained water great for young seedlings, and was economically priced.  The only challenge was actually finding some to use this year.  No luck in local stores, last year I only could find a single block in one hardware store.  Online there are plenty of locations that sell them, but unless you have a need for a couple metric tons, the cost of shipping can be more than the the product itself.


Finally, I found a solution to my problem WonderSoil  Their main product line consists primarily of the same core component but they sell it in many different convenient sizes for various uses.  One great feature of the product is it expands up to 12 times its original size.  For someone like myself that does not have the space to store bags of peat/potting mix around my already full garage this is a great feature.  You can check out all of their products but the ones that felt matched my growing needs were the following:

  • Shake, Water, and Plant — 1/2 inch mini wafers that can be added to any of your pots.  In my case I underestimated the expansion of these little things and made a little mess and it overflowed on my table (apparently 3 was the magic number not 4)
  • The Tube — There are larger wafers made specifically for 4 inch pots, in my case this would be newspaper pots
  • Reground Wafers — This is basically a loose version available in 2 or 5 lb bags.  This is a more economical option which I will plan on using when doing larger seed trays.

For Christmas I got indoor seed starting kit which came with pots/seeds/peat pellets.  I decided this would be a great opportunity to do a little side by side comparison.  From the start I was WonderSoil seemed like the obvious winner.  After adding a little water, it fully expanded in just a few seconds and was fluffy and ready for me to drop a seed in, the peat was a swampy mess.

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Peat pellets Left, WonderSoil Right

After a few minutes and fluffing with a fork the peat was ready to planting.  I put cucumber seeds in both peat and WonderSoil pots and I will provide some updates on how things progress on my little experiment.

After the WonderSoil had some time to settle in my cheap LED grow box I did see some strange formations appear in the soil.

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I little concerned I went back to their product and I believe this is their “water saving polymers” in action which I would assume is some sort of gel crystal which is supposed to save up to 50% water.  They also boast about use of worm castings which I am definitely a fan of as well as addition of a balance of various micronutrients.

I will have to wait and see if the product produces as well as it claims, but I must say I am definitely impressed at this point and have high hopes for WonderSoil for this years seedlings.

UPDATES:

Christmas light LED grow box – Update #1 (WonderSoil)

Urban Farmer Seeds Vegetable/Flower seed kit giveaway

     

They great people at Urban Farmer Seeds have graciously offered their Flower Seed Kit and Vegetable Seed Kit to giveaway to the readers of CVG.  Like many seed companies Urban Farmer Seeds is environmentally conscience, one unique thing they do is use recycled magazines to make their seed packets as you can see in the picture below.

We will pick a winner on 02/12/11, as usual there are multiple ways to enter:

  • 1. Add a comment to this post
  • 2. Like CheapVegetableGardener on Facebook (add an additional comment to the post)
  • 3. Mention this giveaway on your site/Twitter (add an additional comment to the post)

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When to start garden seeds indoors: Seed starting calculator

When to start your vegetable seeds

When you start seeds indoors in a vegetable garden, it can be difficult getting your schedule down to ensure that start your vegetable seeds with enough lead time that they are mature enough to venture outside but also not so large they take over your growing area.

Personally this has been a difficult part for me where I am really good getting the early vegetables started on time (onions, peppers, tomatoes) but when it comes to the later plants and/or second/third plantings is where I begin to get forgetful.  Over the years I have come across a couple of great tools to make this easier that I thought I would share.

No matter which option you choose to start garden seeds indoors you will need to determine an important date, your last frost date. There are many sites/tables out there that will give an estimate I actually have a couple posts on the subject but at the moment my favorite site that makes this very easy is WeatherSpark, it uses historical data with great visuals to easily determine when the best probability of picking the right date. Here you can take a look at this historical data and make your call of what date you think will be safe.

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1. Create a garden schedule.  Just by figuring out your last frost date and doing a little math (Excel works great for this) you can determine the optimal seed starting dates and even get a general idea of when your plants should be ready for transplanting.  What I love about this technique is you can tweak it each year as things worked well (or not so well) in previous years to get the schedule finely tuned to your particular garden and the micro-climates within it.

In addition knowing an estimate of when these plants will be venturing out in the wild can assist in your space planning for your seeding area as well as having a reality check if you see your peppers will be ready to be transplanted in March when it doesn’t get above freezing until mid-June.

Here is my schedule for starting seeds indoors my area and estimated last frost date (April 20th), though sure everyone that is reading this will not have the same date as mine so thanks to my infinite nerdiness I made the following table so you can adjust the “Last Frost Date” to yours and see how my schedule would look in your area.

 Last Frost Date:  
Vegetable Name Seed Start Date Estimated
Transplant
Date
Estimated
Harvest
Date
Celery 1/19/2013 3/18/2013 4/24/2013
Onion 1/19/2013 3/25/2013 5/24/2013
Leeks 1/19/2013 3/21/2013 6/3/2013
Kale 1/26/2013 3/7/2013 3/22/2013
Artichoke 1/31/2013 4/27/2013 6/20/2013
Kohlrabi 2/9/2013 3/15/2013 4/5/2013
Pak Choi 2/9/2013 3/6/2013 4/10/2013
Parsley 2/8/2013 4/6/2013 4/24/2013
Lettuce 2/9/2013 3/6/2013 4/5/2013
Broccoli 2/9/2013 3/15/2013 4/20/2013
Pepper – Jalapeno 2/9/2013 4/28/2013 4/25/2013
Pepper – Bell 2/9/2013 5/4/2013 4/25/2013
Swiss Chard 2/16/2013 3/20/2013 4/7/2013
Cabbage 2/16/2013 3/31/2013 5/7/2013
Brussel Sprouts 2/22/2013 3/31/2013 5/23/2013
Collards 3/2/2013 3/24/2013 5/1/2013
Tomato 3/2/2013 5/4/2013 5/21/2013
Spinach 3/9/2013 4/23/2013
Peas 3/9/2013 5/13/2013
Turnips 3/9/2013 5/8/2013
Watermelon 3/16/2013 5/27/2013 6/14/2013
Basil 3/24/2013 5/14/2013 6/22/2013
Potatoes 3/30/2013 7/8/2013
Radish 3/31/2013 5/5/2013
Beets 3/31/2013 6/4/2013
Carrots 4/9/2013 6/23/2013
Corn 4/9/2013 5/7/2013 6/28/2013
Cucumber 4/9/2013 5/16/2013 6/8/2013
Okra 4/9/2013 5/11/2013 6/13/2013
Pumpkin 4/9/2013 5/7/2013 7/28/2013
Summer Squash – Sunburst 4/9/2013 5/16/2013 6/3/2013
Winter Squash – Hunter 4/9/2013 5/16/2013 7/3/2013
Zucchini 4/9/2013 5/16/2013 6/3/2013
Lettuce 4/13/2013 6/7/2013
Beans 5/4/2013 7/13/2013
Dill 5/11/2013 7/15/2013
Carrots 5/27/2013 8/10/2013
Broccoli 6/22/2013 8/2/2013 8/31/2013
Cabbage 6/22/2013 8/2/2013 9/10/2013
Kale 6/22/2013 7/22/2013 8/16/2013
Kohlrabi 6/22/2013 7/29/2013 8/16/2013
Cabbage – Napa 7/24/2013 8/21/2013 10/7/2013
Pak Choi 7/24/2013 8/21/2013 9/22/2013
Onion – Bunching 7/24/2013 10/2/2013
Turnip 7/24/2013 9/22/2013
Lettuce 8/3/2013 9/27/2013
Spinach 8/10/2013 9/24/2013
Corn Salad 8/10/2013 9/29/2013
Garlic 10/12/2013 2/14/2014
Pak Choi 12/14/2013 1/26/2014 2/12/2014

* N/A because vegetables should be sown directly in the ground.

 

2. Create a garden plan online and get reminders.  My favorite online vegetable gardening software is GrowVeg.  It is very easy to use and provides some great visuals when to specifically plant seeds and transplant your seedlings outdoors, which you can see below.

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In addition you also can recreate a virtual copy of your garden and plan exactly where you want to plant your vegetables, to ensure your ambitions for growing a huge crop this year does not exceed the reality of the limited space you have to actually grow.  It also remembers where you planted vegetables in previous years to help enforce crop rotation to ensure pests/diseases will be forced to remain in check.

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Though one of my favorite features is the weekly reminders, once a week you get a simple email letting you know what plants you should be starting/transplanting that week.  This was very helpful later in the season where I probably would have completely forgotten about my carrots without this helpful reminder.

 

3. Buy a garden planning book.  If you want something that you can really get your hands on you might want to check out the Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook helps with this problem by providing weekly reminders of what vegetables you should be order/planting and what preparations you should be doing in your garden.  This can be a very helpful tool in getting a little more organized in your vegetable garden.

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Already falling behind on your seed planting here are a few great options to get a great selection of seeds without spending a lot of money:

  • One of my favorites is Burpee Seeds, they have been around since 1876 and definitely know their stuff. The actually have a seed sale going on now where you get $15 off on order of $75 (just use code AFFB4A35) expires on 1/15.
  • The name is not too exciting but Generic Seeds offers no thrills packaging with quality seeds and very reasonable prices and if you spend $20 or more shipping is on them.

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