Have you always wanted to start a free garden from seeds but didn’t know how to do it? I can help! Building on my post from last year – a garden will make your backyard an even wicked-er cool oasis!
Spring is one of the most fun seasons. Every year I look forward to planting my garden and the taste of the first tomato I pick off on the vine. Over the years I’ve started to harvest seeds as we eat fruits and vegetables throughout the year. If you’re the type of person who likes lists or enjoyed sorting sprinkles during hell week, this is for you. This is an easy and fun activity you can do with your kids to teach them the lifecycle of food (or alone for some relaxing “me time”). I will teach you exactly how to do it and it will cost you nothing!
OK, Let’s Start A Free Garden From Seeds! Harvesting Seeds From Your Favorite Fruits & Vegetables
Harvesting seeds from fruits and vegetables is easy. You literally just take the seeds out of what you’re eating and dry them out. Peppers are my favorite because they are clean and pop out easily. Plus, one pepper will yield you so many seeds you can give them out to everyone you know (not that I do that… ok I do that).
Other seeds – like tomatoes, cucumbers or cantaloupe are a little more involved but relatively easy as well. You just have to wash off the gunk (pulp) which adds time and effort. If you want to add in a fun experiment have your child look at the fresh seeds through a microscope – like Microscope International’s Veterinary Microscope (a great holiday present for a curious kid!) – and then again a few days later once they’ve dried out. You can ask your child what differences they see and guess why they happened.
Start A Free Garden From Seeds: Drying the Seeds
Once you pull the seeds out you simply lay them out to dry for a few days. I spread them on a plate in a single layer on my table where they can get some sun. If it’s a very pulpy seed, I will add a paper towel under them to help remove the excess pulp. Every night I shuffle them around a bit to make sure they’re not sticking to the plate. I usually know they are ready when my husband asks, “how much longer do you plan to keep this plate of seeds on the table?”. Which in patient-mom-language translates to about 5 days.
Once the seeds are dried out, I put them in an airtight container. I like to use old vitamin bottles for this since they’re skinny (like me). Don’t forget to label them. Extra points if you spell “cantaloupe” correctly.
Start A Free Garden From Seeds: Planting Time
Every season I play around with when I begin planting. As a rule, I usually put things in my garden on Mother’s Day weekend. If you’re growing plants from seeds you need to start working backwards. Last year I began my seedlings in April and when it was time to plant them outside, they weren’t big enough, so this year I began in February and March.
It Worked! You Started A Free Garden From Seeds! Now Plant Those Seeds
In addition to saving seeds I save little yogurt cups, individual cereal cups, egg cartons (Costco has great plastic ones), and more throughout the year. I use these cups to plant the seeds. If you’re looking for an additional activity, you and/or your kids can decorate them before you plant in them. Sharpies are a great option for this and will stay on the plastic. Stickers work great for younger kids.
Fill your container 2/3 full of dirt (you can use any old dirt from outside or “upgrade” to potting soil), stick a few seeds in the cup (making sure to spread them out and not over crowd them), cover them with a little more dirt, give it a good watering, and place them on a sunny windowsill.
If you plant them in a yogurt cup with a lid, you can loosely put the lid on top to create a greenhouse. This will speed up the growing!
Watering Your Seedlings
I try not to water the seedlings too much so I don’t saturate them. This translates to when I’m cleaning off the dinner table, I spread out the water that’s left in my kids cups to my little plants. I also throw an ice cube in the pots if my ice machine shoots one out by accident.
*Side note* Ice is a great way to water plants – especially on a really hot day.
Oh My GOSH, I SEE A SPROUT!
Pepper seeds are not only easy to collect but they sprout fast. This is great for kids (and you) because it’s close to instant gratification.
This means it worked! Continue what you’re doing until May when it’s time to plant them outside.
Time For Your Outdoor Garden
Once my plants are sprouted, it’s May, and it is consistently warm out, they are ready to go outside!
So… I Need An Outdoor Garden? That Sounds Hard.
There are many options depending on how involved you want to get and how much space you have. For the least amount – you can put your plants in a bigger pot and have a beautiful potted garden. This is easy and minimal effort. You just need big pots and a lot of dirt. At this point I would suggest upgrading to potting soil.
If you have the space, time, and interest, you can plant them directly into the ground in either a raised or non-raised garden.
If you have a lot of animal visitors (we border a water basin, and our yard looks like Snow White’s Enchanted Forrest) you may also want to put up a wire fence around your garden.
A great tip for either option is throwing your coffee grinds and eggshells into the soil every so often for additional nutrients.
In They Go!
Planting your outdoor garden is both a happy and sad day if you started your plants from scratch. It’s like sending your kid off to Kindergarten. You have become so used to them being around and cared for them every day since they were a little seed. You know in your heart they’re big enough now to go out and be on their own. But you will miss them.
In addition to saving seeds and containers, I also save toilet paper rolls. When the big day comes and I’m ready to plant outside – I take the plant, put its roots through the toilet paper roll, and they both go in to the ground. The toilet paper roll makes a little collar protecting the plant and tells animals to stay the heck back. Because it is paper it will open as it gets wet and eventually decompose (look! You’re composting too!).
You can have your kids decorate other recyclables as plant markers, so you remember what you planted.
Watering Your Crops
How often you water your pants will be based on how often it rains. I think I over watered my plants last year, but its hard not to water them. It’s fun to visit your little friends!
Success! You Started A Free Garden From Seeds! Salad City Here You Come!
One day you will go out for a visit and – bam! – you see a little baby fruit or vegetable growing! This is big fat mama pride. Be sure to compliment yourself for being the smartest farmer alive. Next is watching your little harvest grow. Then one day they will be ready! As you pull them off the vine (and relish in the fact that you did this all by yourself and for free) you can taste the pure farm to table fruit of your labor with unabashed pride.
Or – you get absolutely nothing – curse a rabbit, say it cost you nada, (except the hours of gardening that was both relaxing and cheaper than a therapist’s co-pay), and try again next year. Hakuna Matata.
Either way, you did well. Be proud. You’ve earned a pair of overalls and a big straw hat.