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HomeTown Seeds: 3-Tray Kitchen Seed Sprouter Review and Giveaway

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Last year I played with sprouting seeds in a mason jar to hold me and the kids over during the winter until it was time to start growing for the following spring.  The process worked great but I ended up with way more sprouts than I could consume and most of the sprouts were wasted.  One option was to use smaller jars and stagger the starting of the seeds, but this would leave me to fill and drain 3-4 jars a couple of days.

Fortunately Hometown Seeds has a product (3-Tray Kitchen Sprouter) that solves these problems for me and when they asked it I would want to review this product I jumped at the chance.

The kit comes with 3 trays and a packet of 2 oz of organic alfalfa seeds, which you can fill each with a half of tablespoon of seeds to get a full tray full of sprouts in 2-3 days.  Each tray is easily removable so you can choose to create 3 trays worth of sprouts at a time or create start a new tray every day to always have a fresh supply of sprouts.

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After you have added the seeds you put the pieces together and simply fill the top reservoir with water and the sprouter does the rest.  The sprouter uses a syphon technique to allow the tray to partially fill with water before draining to the tray below it, to repeat the process for any other trays you have.

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Here you can see the syphoning in action.

I have not tried it myself but I don’t see any reason if you bought multiple kits and stack them as high as you want and have a sprouting factory on your kitchen counter.

Overall I was very impressed with the sprouter it was easy to use and entertaining for my 6-year-old to watch the water drain through the various levels.  Also produced clean quality sprouts without making a mess all over the kitchen counter.  The only negative observation is sometimes the seeds/sprouts can clog the syphon if too many get packed together.  Fortunately when this happened to me, I simply removed the plastic syphon cap and pushed away a few of the seed/sprouts blocking the drain and didn’t have any problems after that, but something to keep an eye on.

Here are some sprouts I after growing for 2 days…tomorrow they will go on some sandwiches.

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Hometown Seeds has also graciously offered one of these sprouting systems to readers of CVG, so if you are in the continental United States, just enter a comment below and I will pick a winner at random in one week (9/18/2010 Midnight PST)

Frugal way to grow a garden with bird seed for temporary spaces

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Many people love bird watching. It is the favorite pastime of many gardeners too. For drawing the birds to the garden, you need to use the feeders. Instead of buying and storing the feeders every season, you can as well consider turning a special part of your garden exclusively for attracting birds. If the feeders are able to sprout, you can use them for growing the plants. Once the plants grow and mature, the birds can eat the seeds from the plants directly. Apart from that, you can pick the best seeds and store them away for the next season. If this interests you, here is how to grow bird seed.

1. Find a special spot

If you have a large garden, you can make use of the space effectively. Divide it into many parts. One special spot can be left for the birdseeds. The first thing to do is to find the best spot in your garden to attract the birds. The best thing is to consider an area away from your main garden. The birds will not disturb your garden and other useful items there.

2. Choose a good mixture of seeds

Choose a good mixture of seeds that can produce a wide variety of flowers. This can add a lot of color to the area and attract a lot of different types of birds. When the plants grow and produce different kinds of plants and flowers, various birds come to your garden automatically. In order to make the seeds grow well, you have to take the necessary steps.

3. Growing the plants

The soil should be well suited for growing the type of garden and plants you are looking for. First, begin with loosening the soil with a garden hoe. This will make it easy for planting the seeds. When the soil is ready, take a handful of seeds and scatter them on the loosened soil. Rake some topsoil over the scattered seeds. Sprinkle some water lightly over the topsoil to provide enough moisture for the sprouting.

4. Harvest the seeds

After the plants grow well, they start producing the seeds. Harvest these seeds at the end of the season. Store them properly in an airtight container. They can be used for feeding the birds during the winter season. Or, you can also leave them on the plants so that the birds eat them directly from the plants.

The best thing about these plants is that they will produce different kinds of colorful flowers before producing the seeds. So you will be able to enjoy different kinds of flowers and plants in your garden. At the same time, you can get a large amount of seeds for the next season. This is one of the best ways to produce healthy bird seeds in your own garden without spending money too often. Once you get used to the procedures, it will be easy to maintain the garden and follow the different procedures for taking care of the things. Choose an ideal location in your garden and spend some time with the birds daily. Children can also learn a lot of things from your garden.

 

About the author: Alia Haley is a blogger and writer. She loves writing on technology and luxury. Beside this she loves gardening in free time. She recently bought a book on Japanese Garden. These days she is busy in writing an article on patio umbrellas.

5 Easy Money-saving Gardening Tips

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Starting and keeping a garden is a great way to spend your time for those of you with a green thumb. I just recently took up the hobby, and was shocked at just how expensive it was to start a relatively large garden in my back yard. Undeterred by the cost, I opened my wallet, pulled out the no fee credit cards and began buying seeds, mulch, and the tools I needed to keep my garden looking great.

Make you own compost. There are two big benefits to composting.  First, those scraps from the vegetables and other foods you spent your hard-earned money on don’t go to waste, allowing you to make the most of your purchases. More importantly, however, compost is free nutrient rich soil for your garden.  It’s easy, too.

A very simple way to create a compost area is to choose an area of your yard that’s away from everything else and section it off with chicken wire.  Once you’ve built your bin, simply toss your scraps, veggie peelings, egg shells, and more into the bin and let it decompose. Compost soil takes about a year to be ready for gardening, but once it’s ready, you’ll have some of the freshest free soil around.

Cut back on mulch. Have you laid mulch and then had pesky weeds pop up anyway? If you answered “yes,” there’s a good chance that you also purchased more mulch to lay over the invading weeds. There’s a simpler solution, however.

Next time you go to lay mulch, take some of those old newspapers out of your recycling bin and lay them flat over the area where you’re going to lay the mulch.  With this biodegradable layer between the weeds and the mulch, you’ll see fewer of their little heads popping through the wood chips, and you’ll save money since you’ll have to reapply your mulch less often.

Buy self-seeding plants. Another really great way to save money on your garden going forwards is by not having to by new plants every year. Many plants – like Foxgloves, Oriental Poppies, etc. – are self-seeders.  This means that as they deteriorate in the colder months, they will release seeds that will germinate when the weather gets warm again.

This is a great way to save money on your garden because it removes some of the monetary burden of purchasing all-new flowers at the start of each warm season.

Start small. One way to facilitate the lushness of your garden is to buy larger, adult plants instead of growing from seeds. Many gardening stores sell larger plants because they are more expensive to the buyer, however.  To save some money this year, but smaller, starter plants or grow your garden from seeds. Seeds and smaller plants cost less because they’ve cost the growers and distributors less to grow and maintain.

For some, growing a garden can be challenging, but if you’re willing to try, going this route will save you money upfront and could very well produce just as beautiful a garden as larger plants.

Become a plant food chef. Another expense that can be very important to your garden (and its health) is purchasing plant food.  Plants, like all other organisms, need certain things to thrive—water, light, nutrients, and more. And one of the ways we give plants nutrients is with expensive plant foods.

You can, however, save money on plant food by making your own. Here’s how: take compost and place it into a large container of water for a week.  When the week’s up, the water should be murky and brown. That means it’s ready. Now, use this mixture to water your plants—it will work as well as store-bought foods, but will lack the chemicals found in them.

The biggest tip I can give you is to keep it small and simple until you get the hang of it. Gardening is supposed to be relaxing, not complicated. If you want complicated, try understanding section 529 college savings plans.  That’s complicated.  Gardening should be the opposite of that, and once you get the hang of it, it is.

Saving some more pumpkin puree

 

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I cooked up another pumpkin to make some more puree to last be though the rest of the year.  This time I used silicon liners which made the removal of the frozen pumpkin pucks a piece of cake.

Last year I made a delicious pumpkin pie with some of this puree, this year I decided to be a little more health conscious and used this recipe for a low carb, gluten free pumpkin pie.  Just as delicious, but with almost half the calories and none of the sugar/carb rush/

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Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers for seed starting/hydroponics

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Many times I see some packaging and eventually get an idea how I can reuse it with some minor modifications for starting seeds or some other purpose in the garden. I had one of these moment as soon as I opened my Healthy Choice General Tso’s Spicy Chicken Café Steamer   In case anyone is wondering what the purpose of this new packaging is, I could try to explain it but I will allow their marketing department do it for me:

“Our innovative product line utilizes a new and unique microwave Steam Cookerâ„¢–so you can lock in all the naturally fresh flavors of restaurant-inspired meals by steaming them yourself. With new Healthy Choice Café Steamers, vegetables stay bright and crisp, meat and seafood are juicy and tender, rice is moist and fluffy, and pasta is firm.”

After being delighted in the science of their frozen food steaming technology, I discovered I could easily repurpose the packaging completely as-is.

My first initial thought was to use this for starting seeds since it is the perfect size and depth for seeds starts before requiring their first transplant. As an added bonus they already have great drainage holes and even a reservoir in case of excess watering or allowing for wicking if I am going to be away from my seedlings a couple days.

My second thought was hydroponics, which is the process of growing vegetables without using soil. The basic idea is the plant gets all it needs from the nutrient solution which is applied always keeping the roots wet in the preferred growing medium. By adding a growing medium such as coconut fiber or Rockwool, adding some nutrient solution and an air bubbler to the bottom portion of this tray you have a cheap hydroponic system.  It is even big enough to support at least three small plants.

With either option the removal tray is also easily removable incase of overwatering or to change nutrient solution with very little disturbance to the plant(s).

One other benefit use is actually consuming the contents (preferable before used for gardening) which I did try and though the packaging has some interesting uses after you eat it, the meal tastes just about as bad as any other TV dinner I have eaten.

Planting seeds outside


I always enjoy any seeds I required to start outdoors since they normally thrive with little effort from myself other than the occasional watering and given I live in the rainy Seattle area that does start until mid-June. Even if you have started many of your seeds indoors to extend your growing season some seeds should always start outdoors since they are sensitive to transplant shock. If you have been to a garden center or nursery lately you can get an idea by what types of plants can be transplanted easily. If you are now looking at your seed packets wondering if you should plant these indoors or outdoors here are my suggestions:
Plants that can be started indoors:
Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumbers, Cukes, Eggplant, Herbs, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Muskmelons, Onions (seed), Parsley, Peppers, Swiss Chard, Summer squash, Tomatoes, Zucchini

Plants that should be started outdoors:
Beans, Beets, Carrots, Cilantro, Corn, Cucumbers, Garlic, Muskmelons, Onions (sets), Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Scallions, Spinach, Turnips, and Winter/Summer squash

You can see from the list there are some plants on both lists which shows that it is definitely possible to transplant some of these sensitive plants, but if you want to avoid the hassle and avoid killing a few plants without requiring surgical precision I would recommend opting for the direct seed planting approach.

Hopefully now you have an idea what you can plant so now comes how to actually do it. Your seed package which will normally give instructions something along the lines of planting the whole package of seeds in a row and thin out to the appropriate spacing. This has been the basic method that many gardeners have been doing for years. This normally leads to thinning 70% of the seedlings or so of the row, which is time consuming and since you can save seeds over a few years this method will definitely be more costly. To avoid this, I plant 1-2 seeds at the proper spacing, if the seeds have been saved for a couple years I add a couple extra seeds since even with proper seed storage the germination rates can decrease over time. After a week or two I simply thin the weakest of the seedlings by chopping them off with a small pair of scissors being careful to not disturb the seedling next to it. If you want to give your larger seeds a little head start, try soaking them in lukewarm water (add inoculants if they are in legume family) overnight before planting them.

Following these steps you should have some great activity in your garden with minimal maintenance and cost.

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