Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What I Did in the Garden This Weekend

It's the weekend so it must be time for a blog post!

I made a seed-starting contraption, using plastic bins, compost and a 9-foot rope light. The rope light warms the bottom of the bin, and thereby the soil, for seeds that need some help other than being out in the little portable greenhouse. We've had some rather chilly, overcast and/or rainy weather the past couple of weeks, so even though I had tomatoes and peppers sown in cups out in my little portable greenhouse, they haven't shown even the slightest sign of sprouting.

I had a rope light out in the shed that the husband bought several years ago, and had never used. I bought two plastic underbed storage bins with clear covers, and then laid out the rope light on the bottom like in the picture.

It came with a handful of little plastic clips, which worked fine to keep the rope light in place, but there weren't enough. So I improvised by drilling two tiny holes, one on each side of the rope, and inserted a twist tie. A solution that worked great!

I had to drill a hole in the side of the bin, near the bottom, for the cord to be threaded through.

I covered the rope light with sifted compost.

Then I nested the second bin inside the first, so that the rope light covered with sifted compost is sandwiched between them. Plugged it into the side of the shed, and put my tomato and pepper cups inside, so that they are heated from the bottom by the small amount of heat the rope light gives off.

I put the lid back on. Keep your fingers crossed that it works, I really want to use tomato plants that I sowed myself. I'm worried that the seeds may have rotted, so I think I may sow more.

In case you're wondering I found the instructions for this "incubator" here:

Which I first found through Tom's Seventh Street Cottage blog. If you haven't read his blog, you should. He writes daily, sometimes about pretty mundane stuff, but always interesting. And his enthusiasm for gardening and his energy make for very entertaining reading.

I do have lots of other seeds that have sprouted in my three portable greenhouses. I have some heavy pots with moist soil on the bottom shelves, to keep them from blowing away. We get some heavy winds up here on this ridge.

Annuals such as Cosmos, Celosia and Larkspur:

Also various Lupines, Agastache and Saponaria:
 Last but not least: What's under the milk bottles? Oriental Poppy seeds!
I can't tell you how many times I've tried winter sowing poppies, only to have them fail. They always seem to get to a certain point in the container, and if they don't get planted out small, during a certain small window of opportunity, they always just kind of melt away. So I thought I would try something different, sowing them in place in the bed, under a milk bottle cloche. To keep the milk bottle from blowing away, I cut flaps in the bottom, folded them up, cut two holes about two inches apart, and then used ground staples to staple them into the soil. They've been out there a couple of weeks, and haven't blown away yet!

Maybe this will be the year I finally grow poppies!


  1. You have been really busy. You have so much started in your greenhouses. I'd love to get one of those sometime so I'd have more room. My kitchen windowsill fills quickly. I've started tomatoes using bottom heat and it seems to help them sprout fairly quickly.
    I hope you get your Oriental Poppies!

  2. Hi Alison, This is such a cool idea and look at all the seedlings. Looking at new seedlings is always my favourite. Its like receiving presents. Thank your for linking this post. This is my first time reading about this ideas.

  3. What an excellent seed heating contraption! I've never heard of using one of those light ropes as a heating coil before. Thanks for the great idea!

  4. Just to let you know...I'm having a heck of a time starting oriental poppy seeds in southern California. Finally have some microscopic (almost look like green translucent Korean rice noodle threads) coming up and two of five finally have a pair of leaves. They look so fragile I feel this can't be right. And can't find a single picture of oriental poppy seedlings online via google or bing to compare results. I'm germinating under lights in peat and potting soil mix covered with plastic wrap to maintain humidity. They seem to grow or mature so slowly. Everything else I grow from seed does so so quickly. Am I on the right track with these seeds and germination technique?


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