Friday, November 21, 2008

Biodegradable Seed Starter Pots and Spring Gardening Preparation?!

I know, I know. I have strange timing. Many of you in the northern hemisphere are either heading into winter or already in the throes of it. But just as the earth becomes inwardly active to prepare for the outbreath of spring, so must we prepare for our spring activity. Here is a spring story to get you dreaming and preparing.

I have heap composts: three foot diameter hills of scraps and yard refuse piled near my garden. Some might think them unsightly and smelly. To me, they are more beautiful than a ballet. They are a transformative dance right here in my backyard. Imagine the time lapse twirling…. This is celestial feng shui. However, not everyone shares my love affair. So last fall, I decided to move them to a less-visible place behind my garage.

When spring rolled around, I prepared to plant in the rich earth where my compost had been. But when I went out to weed, I saw something curious. Mother Earth hadn’t “rolled around”; she’d been busy already! The ground was covered in green sprouts. They didn’t look like the weeds I was accustomed to, so I gave them a chance to show themselves. When they got their first leaves, I bent down to examine them. Now, I’m not an experienced gardener, but I thought some looked like squash leaves and others had fuzz on their serrated leaves that looked suspiciously like tomato plants. Again, I let them grow. When they got those pretty little star-shaped flowers, I knew. Eighty-seven tomato plants! The vines took longer to flower. But there were forty-two of them!

I can’t believe how many seeds survived my compost and were viable. My daughter and I spaced the plants out so they had more room. But there were still so many that we decided to replant some to give away to friends. I found this helpful idea from Mother Earth News magazine: biodegradable seed starter pots. It’s really easy. If you start collecting toilet paper rolls now, you should have a good amount by spring. We bundle ours up in rubber bands and keep them in a shoe box. This could also be a great fund-raising idea!

Our self-sown garden grew and grew, producing cherry tomatoes galore. And eventually (after much speculation), we found out what the vines were: butternut and kabocha and acorn squash—and cantaloupe! The rolly-pollies and possums got to the cantaloupe before they could get very big, but we ate a golfball sized one, and it was golden juicy deliciousness.

I have been so timid about gardening. I don’t want to waste money on seeds and starters if I fail. But here, my garden practically grew itself! I did spend some time getting to know it, though. I was in the midst of reading The Secret Life of Plants and found myself communing with these little plant beings and even playing my flute for them.

As you can see, my optimistic tomatoes are still flowering, but the fruit no longer turns red. Look, there’s even a cantaloupe trying to grow! I probably should compost what’s left, but there is still so much vitality there. It stirs my spirit. I hope my blundering love inspires you into your own spring dreams.


  1. Hey - we have one of those compost piles (or two) behind our garage too. I kept nagging my DH that we should really do something about it as some may find them unsightly but this is inspiration to let them be! Great idea for the toilet paper rolls too. Sophie loves toilet paper & paper towel rolls, now I have a use for all of them rolling around my house. :)

  2. Leilani, if nothing else, having the compost piles free like this makes it easy to turn when I go to add more to it. The birds love our compost, and we have a really healthy possum that lives nearby. You can see a black hole in our compost that it dug. It's so cute (for a possum)!

  3. Toilet paper pots - what a fabulous idea! I've made pots out of rolled newspaper. But, you have to tape the bottom shut, otherwise... bad things tend to happen when lifting the pot. I'm definitely trying out your TP version next Spring! Thanks for sharing the idea [and your compost piles :-) ].

  4. Newspaper! That's a good idea, too. There really are so many possibilities...that I have no excuse not to garden my little heart out.