Spring Garden Planning and making Paper Pots for the Seedlings.

I HATE PLASTIC! Oh you knew that.  I did not need to SHOUT then. But I hate plastic!  So I refuse to buy plastic pots for the hundreds of seedlings we grow each year. It kind of defeats the purpose you know.

So I make paper pots. They hold together remarkably well when packed in a tray. 

Yes, well the paper pot maker does have a most unfortunate shape, but it is a very handy wee thing. I bought it off the internet a few years ago.  Just google Paperpot maker (while you still can).  The seedlings will dry out faster in paper pots though so be vigilant.  Recycled plastic pots work too. My first father-in-law collected little stackable yoghurt pots, carefully pared a little plastic off the bottom edge with a sharp knife for drainage holes and used these year after year.  They were very durable. We do not eat processed foods, or foods packed in plastic so I ask  my consumer friends to collect all their cottage cheese containers  and yoghurt containers for me.

Make a plan. Of course later on you will chuck the plan out the window, but as far as timing and plant placement, a plan is useful.  My plan page is still in its early stages, but you get the idea.

Your first decision for the garden is what you want to eat.  No point in growing something in your vege patch that you will not eat. Especially if space is an issue.   If it is a small terrace or deck garden you will want to grow plants that you can keep snipping at as the summer goes  along.  For my spring deck garden I have sown a big pot of onion seeds, chivesparsley and sage.  I have my rosemary and mint in huge pots inside, and I will be doing cuttings from both of these for my neighbours gardens when it warms up. The thyme is in the garden already but will grow quite merrily in a pot.  In another few weeks I shall sow big pots of cool weather lettuce and spinach. Sow these seeds close together so your leaves stay clean  (no splashed soil from watering)and then pick the leaves frequently.  Both can take the cold and a few frosts.

The big vegetable garden takes more planning. Every year I am working towards growing enough food to feed my household for the entire year. So, all the plants will go out in succession then everything is resown and planted again, at two week intervals.   This gives me lots of time to gather and process the vegetables into jars and the freezer. Plus a constant supply of fresh food. So don’t sow all your seed on one day. We have a short summer out here in Illinois. I call it short anyway. So I do need to plan.

We don’t have a glass house (yet) so by late winter all the sunny patches inside are covered in pots and trays.  These are the plants that we want  to have ready to set out into the vegetable garden the minute the conditions are good.  At this point I am collecting my seeds. As we know John has already sown the first of his tomatoes but in a few weeks he will sow another lot.

Celery has been sown already as it can take up to three weeks to germinate, let alone grow. The lavender seed is in wet media in the fridge for six weeks. The onion seeds for the big garden have been  sown as well.

My last frost is mid April, so the majority of my seeds will be sown inside in late February.  These will be for the spring garden.  Cabbage. Brocolli. Lettuce (straight into the ground).

The summer garden is another list. We will get to that. Most of these will be sown outside in pots or directly into the gardens.

Our list of flowers for bees  is another list too. But I have been reminded by Claire at Promenade Plantings to sow my sweet peas early.  (Sweet peas are lovely in a terrace garden if you have a good railing for them to climb up). And Joanna has already sown her pansies!

And look at the new character in my kitchen. A lovely kind friend sent me a present. Isn’t it beautiful.  No, not the old parmesan grater or the basket of fresh eggs  or John’s great grandmothers  hard working coffee grinder.  It is the pasta maker.  A beautiful, old, heavy, hand cranked, Italian pasta maker. It is so shiny!  I am so spoilt.   I spent quite some time in the Bartolini Kitchens blog yesterday, finding the family pasta dough recipe and studying the process. I will begin to teach myself how to make really good fresh pasta today.   Because look at this weather. 

Here I am up in my winter loft studio planning the spring garden and it is snowing outside and getting colder.  19F now. I did the rounds of the farmy first today so that I could close all the doors against the snow, so please excuse me for posting late. Not one animal thanked me, they just watched their doors close with resignation. And went back to munching.

Good morning.


98 Comments on “Spring Garden Planning and making Paper Pots for the Seedlings.

  1. Oh no – spring’s gone 😦 That’s a nice garden plan you have there and I’m sure you’ll love making pasta 😉

  2. You are inspiring me to expand my plantings this year to more than simply lettuce and tomatoes. Perhaps raised beds may be in order and more pots on the patio.

    BTW, the weather in Minnesota today is frigidly cold, our coldest of the winter thus far with temps dipping below zero. Factor in the windchill and this is a good day to hole up indoors.

    Thanks, as always, for your encouragement to garden.

    • BELOW ZERO! oh we had those last year, do NOT send me that weather! that is too cold! Raised beds are a great idea. And pots are so easy to control as long as you add water every day! c

  3. Celi you are the most inspirational gal! I wish I could do half of what you do and then you still find time to share it all with us – you are AWESOME and then some! I am looking forward to your seeds process from being sown to being eaten.
    Oh I also have a hand cranked pasta machine – fantastic and fun “appliance” to have in the kitchen.
    🙂 Mandy

    • It is a fantastic process isn’t it. Taking that one tiny seed, popping it into soil and then feeding yourself with what develops! Magical really.. c

    • My biggest problem is being locked inside by the weather so I am always apparently industrious in the winter!! Then lazily industrious in the summer! c

  4. Celi, it’s cold outside! You’re making pasta & I’m making cheese. Love your garden plans and only with I had the space to do something similar, even if on a smaller scale. As it is, I’ll be happy with my containers with tomato plants. And if I can keep Max, the raccoons, and my nemesis: The Squirrel, away from them, I may actually get to eat a few this year. Hope springs eternal …

    • Our john wants to know what tomatoes you grow in pots, he has not had much luck with potted ones so far. And he wants to have one that he can bring in when it gets cold at the end of the year, so as to extend its season. c

  5. Love the paper pots! My family uses purchased peat pots instead of plastic, but newspaper is even cheaper–plus it’s recycling. Can’t wait to see what you do with the shiny new pasta maker!

    • Those peat pots drive me bonkers, when they dry out they are virtually impossible to rewet. Both in and out of the garden. So do keep them damp. c

  6. Hi Celi! You have inspired me once again! The front of our house has full sun now, so I’m thinking of turning it into a min-terrace and starting our seeds out there on it! If we have a freeze, we can just whisk the plants in through the front door. My John has tired of me reading all your blogs to him and is now checking in with you on his own. I’ve been trying to find the blog you wrote on Our John and the tomatoes that he loves best to share with My John. You wrote it several months ago. But I can’t find it in any of the categories. Please help! Di

  7. Parsley can also take a long time to germinate. Do you soak your seeds first? Decent sized individual seeds can be sown in those compressed recycled paper egg boxes – another thing to ask your friends for, as I don’t suppose you buy eggs! Things with long root runs: collect your toilet roll inners, and stand them in a tray of earth – great for sweet peas and runner beans etc. Warning: I had a lovely tray of these with sweet peas growing well when the cat decided it was a litter tray! The ritual scratching of earth afterwards made a dreadful mess of the new cream carpet in the spare bedroom!

    • I am the depository for egg cartons, because I need them to give eggs away. Now that toilet roll idea is a really good one. I shall do that. I am certainly never short of toilet rolls! And my sweet peas are going in for a soak shortly! thanks viv.. c

  8. Such a beautiful pasta maker! A dear friend sent me a dutch oven 2 years ago and it’s one of my favorite things ever.

    Your garden plan is so inspiring. I saw seeds at the hardware store the other day and I know it’s time to start getting ready.

  9. A terriffic garden plan! We bring the plants in at night as well until the threat of frost is gone. This year we’re going to try and make some hot-bed frames for starting the plants.

    • I have rhubarb and it comes up at the same time as my early strawberries.. (in fact they grow in the same bed) maybe I will make that pie!! It sounds like a fantastic combo. c

      • I would be grateful if you would and then tell me if you enjoyed it! The sweet and the tart makes it a real treat. Thanks for your terrific pictures. I love you writing, as you know, but your pictures lately have been professional quality.

  10. How amazing all these things… I loved this paperpot maker! I can’t get bored with you dear Cecilia, you are full of amazing crafty works… Thank you, and it is too late to say Good Morning now, BUT Good Afternoon and have a nice day, with my love, nia

  11. Yes they go straight in, though you have to be careful to keep the ground wet so the paper can rot down without binding the roots! My 500 asparagus plants down the back were all grown and planted in the paper pots. c

  12. I hate plastic too! We got a bunch of free plastic trays and pots from an old greenhouse and we use and reuset them until they break, but last year we also started making soil blocks with soil blockers. These are really neat tools we got from Johnny’s. (See our blog entry from last year’s soil block making party at http://mehaffeyfarm.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/potting-up/)
    Johnny’s sells a soil block mix, but we made our own mix from a recipe in Eliot Coleman’s book, using soil, compost, peat, bone meal, greensand, and sand, mixed in a wheelbarrow. Just add water and stir, like mixing up a batch of mortar. Using the soil block makers reminds me of building a sand castle at the beach. The resulting pots are fabulous and use no plastic. You start with small ones for starting the seeds, and then pot on up by plopping the small blocks into bigger ones made with a corresponding sized hole. The little seedlings thrive because they don’t get rootbound. The roots grow right to the edge and wait there patiently, until planting, where they immediately begin growing. No transplant shock!
    I just ordered all my early seed and as soon as they arrive, I will be planting my celery, leeks, and onions in the windows of my house. I rigged up some grow lights in the window seat area, and can fit about 20 trays there on electric heat mats. This is the first wave of our annual operation. Then, first wave of carrots will get seeded in the greenhouse in a couple of weeks. The next wave in early March will go into the big greenhouse of brassicas, flowers, melons, and tomatoes. Tomatoes go a month early into the greenhouse in April after the greenhouse is moved off the carrots and hearty greens which can now survive under row cloth. Whew! We have our work cut out for us!
    I have a pasta maker too. Haven’t used it since last year. You’ve inspired me to drag it out of my closet!

    • What a fantastic idea. I shall investigate further. We would need to make the pots the summer before because it is literally freezing outside, no mixing in wheelbarrows for a while. You do have your work cut out for you. I do envy you your big plastic house.. ! all those people you feed must be so grateful! c

  13. How do you do it all?? I would so love to have a veggie garden and I’ve always said I just don’t know where to begin…but here now is the plan!! Of course, I think I’m off season from you, most have planted in November here, but if I just start small….and start is the magic word…I just may be able to find myself being a true gardener!! (almost like you!)

  14. I have a pasta roller like the one photographed above. It is a beast and beaut. I make lasagna noodles and egg noodles. Once you start making your own pasta you will never like the box stuff again. I’m really excited for your pasta adventure! (I hate plastic too)

  15. Oh I absolutely LOVE the pasta maker. It does look shiny and you totally deserve to be spoiled :). I also LOVE your blueprint ;), and your garden plans. From the broccoli, lettuce, spinach.. to the thyme, chives onions and more… you are going to have a great garden :).

    • I don’t know. This has not happened to us before. Maybe too wet, but the seeds do need to be kept moist. Possibly also too warm or humid. c

  16. Thank you for the wake-up call! I just looked up my last frost date and it is about 4 or 5 days before yours. Not much when you consider the distance between us. I was surprised actually. I have my seeds, need more berry bushes, and strawberry sets, but basically I am ready. Will be looking for the handy pot maker now and setting to work. ~ Lynda

    • It is a great time of year. it feels like we are all waking up again doesn’t it.. getting ourselves ready for the summer! c

  17. I love your paper pot maker – we use donated yogurt pots but I fancy giving this a go! Very jealous of your plan – did I spot Hazelnut garden? And I´m about to have a big pasta making session as my hens are laying like crazy right now 🙂 have fun doing yours.

    • My chooks are laying like mad too! great! Yes i do have a hazelnut garden, they are only little yet but early days. I need to order another ten or so and i should do that today (onto the list it goes).. c

    • Excellent idea. No matter how small your garden is it is still the garden. We will be doing some talking about plants in pots soon so think of any tips you have gathered along the way.. c

  18. I think you must be one of the sanest people I have ever come across, with a recipe for happiness sewn up. What more wonderful experience than to plan such variety in the heart of winter, to envisage the seedlings coming up through the earth, to create a garden out of small seeds, nurturing it using such sustainable methods? It makes me want to run out to my own back arden – a tiny typically British plot – and fill it with plants 🙂

    • Oh you can, I did one once in a tiny space in Islington, not enough room to swing a cat and we ate out of it. Had piles of herbs, pots stuffed in the corners. This is the perfect time for you to start. What do you like to eat?.. c

  19. I’ll be using paper egg cartons for my paper pots to start seed this year, since we don’t have the luxury of chickens ourselves just yet! But you and Claire and Marie and the rest are getting me itchy to plant a number of things and see if I can’t outsmart the Texas heat with a few of them this time ’round. Your plan looks marvelous! Given our much smaller ‘allotment’ I’ll be using the veg just as much in the way of landscape beauty as in growing food, but then I think most vegetable plants are quite gorgeous anyhow! Thanks for the many tips here, and may you and all of your creatures stay warm and cozy until it’s mild enough to be tucking in those many seeds and seedlings.

    • Well done kathryn i must remind people about flowers and veges playing happy families. I love the smaller gardens there really is plenty of scope and water!!! c

  20. Very clever, those paper pots! Will have to try that this year. The peat ones I’ve used never disintegrate. Wish we had your snow here…we may not get any this year and everything is trying to bud and sprout right now as our temps continue to range from teens to upper 60’s within a week, confusing for insects as well. Love the pasta maker!

    • some years we get no snow too but got an inch this morning, which made for fun in the snow for tonton and i this afternoon! c

  21. i have butter pride! or should i say i am butter proud? it sure is a workout. i am searching for organic cream which is not pasteurized. why does my butter not have a deep buttery flavor? it is beautiful though! i will post it tomorrow!

    • Oh well done! the flavour you are expecting is probably from the food colouring and salts that they add to supermarket butter, and all that blending and stuff to make it softer.. i am not sure though as i am not your taste buds, but once you do find some good cream you will be away laughing.. excellent! c

  22. Am ashamed to say I have no idea when the last frost date is here. I will have to investigate. I have new seeds though! All sorts of exciting ones from the Real Seed Company, things I have never heard of that I am going to try this year. Earth chestnuts! So exciting. The random plantswoman, that’s me. Your plan looks far more organised than I ever get. We tried those root trainer pots one year, they grew good strong plants but were very fiddly to fill and you had to use all the seedlings in one go. I don’t like the peat pots much, they do that drying out thing like you say, but ‘someone’ keeps getting more. I have a paper pot maker in the garage but it hasn’t seen much use, maybe now is the time to make a few in readiness. Seed sowing will start for us at the end of this month I hope 🙂 Good luck with your plans !

    • yes i think the end of the month would be just about right for you, and this year just keep noting the frosts on your calender until they stop. I know about that someone who liked the peat pots too , until i threw a wobbly about using an irreplaceable resource, root binding and stunted growth and all the rest of it. I use the root trainers for trees. They are good for those. However Earth Chestnuts.. these sound interesting. i must investigate.. c

      • oops the seed for those came from Special Plants in Bath, UK. I tend to get very enthusiastic about seed catalogues so much potential… I am hoping this year that if I raise too many seedlings to stuff into my tiny garden that I can give them to friends who have allotments to raise. We’ll have to see. x Jo

        • I am thinking that with my extra seedlings, I might give them to the Food Pantry, with little How To stakes in them!? c

  23. Seriously? Your last frost is in APRIL? Mine’s not til the second week of May…. 😦
    All bets are off this year, though…I’m just praying that the apples don’t break bud before I get them pruned in March.
    (I got one of those pasta machines, too…Hope I get to use it. Before next winter, preferably…)

    • YUP every day since I got here five years ago.. late april though and you are probably early May. and you are so right.. who knows what we get this year! If my apple blossoms fall through i am going to be feeding my bees sugar gunk for ages.. are you still getting your bees, with AngelBaby and all?.. c

      • Sadly, the bees are on hold, as there’s no time to get the site prepped for the hives…The current big project is finding a good site for a Kid’s Garden, with easy-to-grow flowers, a big bean teepee to play in, and PUMPKINS.
        The Bee Man and I will re-figure our plan in the spring.

    • You have a terrace don’t you? Will you be growing a terrace garden? with your new book, that i cannot find out here! c

  24. It sounds like a hopeful and cheering thing to do to plan a spring garden while the snow keeps you inside. I love the little paper pots because I too hate plastic! I learned to fold a plastic rubbish ‘bin’ a while ago, and can do little ones too, but they are square and a bit wobbly. Yours look a lot more elegant.

  25. Lucky you to get the pasta maker. Have you ever used egg cartons for planting seedlings? They work a bomb for me.

  26. I truly believe in planting what you will use! Have a super fun time with the pasta maker – I use mine a lot 🙂

  27. Beautiful Post as usual…Fantastic views of Antiques, and Kitchen ware, and necessities,.. I’m not sure I remembered you are in Illinois. You must go through a lot of Peppermint Schnapps… Just Kidding, But…I did when I lived in Champagne-Urbana…Bless You…and your 20 foot snow drifts…
    Oh, by the way…do you have a great “Honey Bee Photo on one of your past post I can use on my next Blog Entry? I will Link Back to it of course, and brag on the photographer…es
    Bless You
    Oh, Yeah, LOVE the insertion ( While You Still Can ) pertaining to the Internet…

  28. I agree, Celi, down with processed food! Chemicals. I love plant-based dishes – lots of raw in the summer months – and just finished making a mega pot of 13-bean, oven roasted veggie soup. It is soooooo good – various squash, yams, onion, broccoli, carrot jazzed up with Chili Powder and Cumin. I still have veggies left so will make a quinoa stew.

    Food that goes schmack with a warm fire, sleeping cat and freezing weather.

  29. Hello Celi,
    I love the winter planning for the vegetable garden.
    I make roasted tomato essence with my Principe de Borghese tomatoes; they self seed each year. I have made it with Roma and Pear tomato; however, the size of the pear tomatoes makes it a challenge to push through the mouli.
    The pasta machine will give you so much enjoyment, what a wonderful friend.

  30. A wonderful post C ! From paper pots to your plans AND a pasta maker. Such much to think about there. I’ve tried paper pots a couple of times, I need to TRY again. Like the inners of loo rolls they always seem too wet or too dry. I can’t seem to get it right. But I might try them in the greenhouse on gravel trays ths year and see how I get on.
    And your plans, I LOVE plans 🙂 and I love yours, I have a real picture in my head, whether or not THE plan is followed through to the letter or not!
    But most of all I want to say CELERY! I’m impressed. I’ve tried it, it grows ok (ish) but gets tough as I simply can’t get to water them enough. so bravo, my friend, I adore homegrown celery. That horrid flavourles stuff in the shops shouldn’t be called celery.

    • This is the first year I have grown celery out here. In NZ it was in the garden every year. I will plant it and the parsley by one of the water barrels so they get water frequently. c

  31. Are you also one of those that looks at seed catalogs with lust in your heart? I’ve heard of people like that.

  32. Here I am, finally, enjoying a bit of time to sit and read the new Blogs I have added to my list this week. Thank you so much for dropping by Granny’s Parlour so I would know you exist! I find it interesting that you seem to have a special work space you call your winter loft studio from where you can oversee your domain, so to speak. This truly provides a good perspective, doesn’t it?

    • Welcome Granny! The winter studio space is in the loft above the woodstove. I also dry all the laundry up here, so it is warm AND sweet smelling! And yes i can watch the weather roll in from up here. c

  33. Pingback: Weekend Highlights – Noteworthy Articles by Fellow Bloggers – Jan 21, 2012 « Granny's Parlour

  34. Good for you for not buying plastic pots, Cecilia! It helps reduce demand. Clever of your Dad to convert old yogurt containers and re-use them, too. I grow my annual tomatoes in old plastic paint or laundry detergent buckets and my few herbs in some old plastic and ceramic pots.

  35. I have a pasta maker just like yours, found it on eBay for cheap. Last winter I collected all sorts of plastic containers to use as seed starters, now that we have a single stream recycling program in our city, I no longer have little pots. The paper ones and what ever might be left from last year will have to do. I need another garden bed built and filled with good dirt (our Texas backyard if full of rocks). It might not freeze again this year, they forecast another blazing hot summer. The pot of mint has lived outside all winter and has come back full of tasty green leaves now! Thanks for the reminder, I’ll be sowing seeds when I get home!

  36. Pingback: Plastic Fantastic ? | Promenade Plantings

  37. Pingback: Newspaper seed starters…a practical mental distraction! | breathelighter

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