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     What a week! Who turned on the cold huh? Well this is the moment I've been waiting for. The moment I had in mind when I started this blog last summer. I was kicking myself for not starting sooner... like last January.   I know it's dead of winter for most normal people, but for serious gardeners like myself, it's time to start buying seeds! You can find me at Atwoods and Lowes drooling over the early seed selection. Hi Mary Jane!  

I tried a number of things over the years from direct seeding to starting seeds inside then transplanting out, as well as a little bit of both. Last year,  I planted spring greens out as early as February under plastic and they did really well. I also started some carrots and beets indoors and then transplanted them out after about four weeks under plastic and they did really well. Most recently, I discovered a little thing called winter sowing, which involves planting seeds in moist soil inside a container like a milk jug or 2 liter pop bottle. Then you set it out in the open where it gets sun and rain and cold and sun and rain and cold and then eventually, the seeds sprout and become really tough little plants ready to go directly into the garden in April or May. I know it sounds crazy but it works! My biggest concern about this method has always been that if I start all my seeds this way, and some of them did not turn out, I would be sunk. But this year I've decided to throw caution to the wind and start most if not all using this method. What really encouraged me was watching videos on YouTube of people in zone 5 and 6 Ohio and Indiana etc, who plant their whole gardens this way was extreme success. This is zone 7 so why not, eh?

Basically what you do is... 0123171234 002First choose your containers, preferably food-grade. Milk jugs, juice jugs with handles, even gallon vinegar jugs work well. As you can see, I cut around the middle leaving the handle area for the hinge. Be sure to poke several drain holes in the bottom and fill with 2 inches of moist potting soil. Next, add seeds, then a thin topping of soil, lightly water, then tape the jug closed with duct tape. DO NOT FORGET TO LABEL!  0123171244 002You can leave the lid on but I take it off. This allows for ventilation on warm days also allows rain or snow inside. Some gardeners poke more holes in top. If we don't have snow or rain during this time, naturally you want to go out and check them periodically and water when necessary. But if there is any kind condensation on the inside, then they're probably moist enough. As far as how many seeds to use, that's totally up to you. Yesterday and today, I planted tomatoes and peppers. I could have planted 6 seeds each evenly spaced, but I probably sprinkled in about 10 to increase my germination rate. I would rather have too many than not enough. I planted Cherokee purple, Brandywine, black vernissage, a grape tomato, jelly bean cherry tomato, and a paste tomato. The peppers I planted were, Cayenne, habanero, and  sweet bell peppers. I also planted some Malabar spinach, which is a really pretty vine that is not an actual spinach, but it tastes like spinach and can grow in the hot summer. Being decorative makes it all the better! I promise to show you pictures this summer. And here they are tucked into the sandbox. 0121191710 002

     My plan for February is to plant spring greens including different types of lettuce, mizuna mix, cabbages and cilantro. Then in March I'll plant some jugs of red, lemon, sweet and Thai basil, all my squash and cucumbers as well as melons and pumpkins. I might even do my flowers this way! Of course by March, it's not really winter sowing anymore, but the method still works for summer veggies when it's just too early to plant. The beauty of this plan is you put them out there and they come up when the time is right. All I have to do is dig them out with a spoon and transplant them either into small nursery containers or directly into the garden. I will send update pictures when they begin to sprout and then when I transplant them. Until then, 0303170852a 002
     But I still have some things I'm starting in the basement. I have two flat containers of ginger root and one container of turmeric root on a warming mat with fluorescent lights. 0121191716 002I am going to start sweet potatoes this way as well. Here is a picture of some I did last year using this method. 0226170919a 002Once they get about 6 inches long, I will break them off and then root them in a glass of water to be planted in the garden in May.

As for the rest of the farm, all my chickens are still alive! Meeks the dog seems to be trying really really hard to be good, and Petri the duck is still bathing daily in an ice cold pool. I strung some electric fencing around the perimeter of the chicken run and hooked it up today.

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Hopefully just a couple of zaps from this will be all it takes to keep the dogs out. I intend to expand my chicken project in the spring and I will be adding ducks and turkeys to the menagerie.   

And last but not least, I cut into my first ripe casabanana this week! If you've been following my blog, you may remember I had a very large, tentacled vine growing over the chicken pen last year. It grew multiple, zucchini like fruits but only seven we're big enough at the end of the summer to pick. Being as they are like a winter squash, I brought them inside to cook and eat later. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they continued to ripen inside!0117191237 002So the verdict is, I like it! Tastes like a cross between a watermelon and a cantaloupe. It is very very juicy and very seedy. I think if you were to scoop out all of the seeds, you would lose so much fruit. So I just shoveled in a spoonful and spit out the seeds as I went along. Messy but so worth it. Naturally, I planted some of those seeds today as well. Hopefully we will have behemoth casabanana vines as far as the eye can see!

    That about ties it up for now. I have a couple of food related articles coming up, so keep checking back! Stay warm and God bless! 

Jill Barlow


Future articles will include information about gardening, meat birds, egg birds, photos and lots of project ideas.

For further information, to ask a questions or to suggest a program topic, contact Jill Barlow at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..