Create your Own Seedling Pots with Newspaper

After your seeds have started, these easy-to-make newspaper pots are perfect for transplanting your new seedlings.

Forget pricey plastic sets and excess pots—-all you need is some extra newspaper and a small cup or mason jar and you are on your way.

Since the newspaper will decompose naturally, you can then plant these right into the garden.

Here’s how to make your own newspaper pots in 6 easy steps:

Step 1.

Cut sheets of black and white newspaper in half or thirds, depending on the size of pot you want to make. Make sure not to use pages with color, since this will be going directly into your garden. (Color newspapers may contain heavy metals that are unsafe).


Step 2.

Align your mason jar or cup with the newspaper so that a few inches of paper are above the opening of the cup. Roll the newspaper so it circles the cup.

Step 3.

Push the sides of the paper that are above the cup opening inside, so they are wrapped around the lip of the cup.

Step 4.

Remove the cup gently, while still keeping the pot’s shape.

Step 5.

Use the bottom of the cup to reinforce the pot’s bottom by inserting it inside the newspaper pot. Tamp down the inverted ends, so it seals the bottom.

Here’s what it should look like after it’s done:

Step 6.

Add soil  and transplant or start your seedlings.

When they reach the size for transplanting outside, they can be placed directly into your garden. This will also alleviate root disruption for healthy, happy seedlings!

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March 14, 2010 at 1:48 am 3 comments

Extending the Season

By Alison Thompson

Nothing can revolutionize your vegetable self sufficiency quite as much as a polytunnel.  While the growth and survival of outdoor crops has a strict correlation with the weather, plants grown in a polytunnel or row cover have crucial protection from the elements, and can really help to extend the growing season by several weeks at each end.

A top quality commercially produced polytunnel can cost several hundred dollars, but it doesn’t have to be a budget blowing investment. You can make one on the cheap by building a structure using agribon, timber and sturdy PVC or copper pipe hoops.

Here’s a plan for a simple row cover that can be built in less than an hour, from Willi Galloway of  Digginfood.

Gardening with a polytunnel makes it easy to grow crops that don’t traditionally do well when grown outside in a temperate climate. In the height of the season, they are ideal for many tender plants, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, salad, eggplant and peppers.  Whereas traditional greenhouses tend to be quite small, a polytunnel or row cover is much more spacious (extra hoops mean extra length), so the easiest way to cultivate is to build raised beds and then rotate crops as you would outdoors, helping to keep pests and disease at bay.

Make sure to close your row cover up tight or iris the cat may jump in!

To take advantage of the spring extension, plant an early variety of new potatoes and some root crops such as carrots and spring onion seeds, which can all be sown in three months before last frost—they’ll be ready to harvest three months later. Similarly, beets can be germinated in a propagator and then the seedlings transplanted into the tunnel in two months before your last frost date, for an extra early crop.

With your polytunnel, salad crops can be grown for both early and late cropping.  Sow seeds for a winter hardy salad in early October, (just in time to let them germinate and gain a little growth for overwintering) and by February and March you will be picking young salad leaves.  Then, later in the summer, plant lettuce, herbs and mustard greens to have great winter salad after frost hits. The four degrees of frost protection you’ll get with the polytunnel goes a long way, and with some careful planning, you’ll be in the green well into winter.

March 12, 2010 at 3:28 am Leave a comment

DIY Seed Starting for Any Space

By Kaitlyn N. Watkins

If spending a hefty sum on transplants at the local nursery in the spring fills you with dread, why not try starting seeds at home? You don’t need a huge amount of space, just a nice windowsill, some recycling, and a few CFL lamps to get started.

cauliflower start in a reused soda bottle

Many plants can be started indoors several weeks before the first frost date, and you can use materials you have lying around your house or apartment.

Make a Windowsill Greenhouse

Cut an empty clear plastic soda bottle in half, poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage, and fill with moist seed-starting mix. Plant your seeds by just pressing into the soil (you will probably need to add soil after they sprout to avoid “leggy”-ness).

Reattach the top half of the bottle to the bottom with tape, label, and set in a south-facing windowsill. The greenhouse will soak up warmth and light from the sun and collect condensation to water the seedlings. It’s a good idea to wrap the bottom of your bottle in tin foil to act as insulation to warm the soil and protect the roots from direct sunlight.

If you’re planting several seeds, reuse an old flat—the kind used by garden centers to sell plants. Follow the steps above and cover with plastic wrap. Also try setting your flats and bottles on a metal baking sheet, which will conduct warmth from the sun and replace the need for a costly heating mat.

Easy CFL Growlight Setup

Most seedlings need 14-16 hours of light to get a good start before being transplanted outdoors.  Instead of purchasing pricy grow light setups, try using a table lamp and a CFL light bulb, which provides a similar type of light spectrum. In the evening, place your bottles and flats under the lamp, or use two lamps and set plants between them. To focus light from the lamps, line the lampshade with foil. You’ll find that your seedlings sprout very quickly this way.

March 8, 2010 at 4:53 am 1 comment

Grow Indie Test Kitchen: The Soyabella

The Soyabella and Fresh Hemp Milk

After that whole carrageenan scare about store bought soymilk, I decided to take matters into my own hands and start making milks at home. Crazy you say? No, it’s actually really easy (and saves a ton of money).

Enter the Soyabella—it effortlessly makes soymilk, raw nutmilks, soups, grinds spices, and even makes tofu. (Yes tofu!). It’s quite a powerhouse actually, and has been put through the ringer at the Grow Indie Test Kitchen, and hasn’t let us down once.

I first intended to just make soymilk, but the Soyabella makes it really easy to make raw nutmilks, so we gave those a try and were amazed (it’s kind of magical).

Check out our video to see the Soyabella in action:

There are two types of milks you can make—soy or all the rest. For soymilk, the Soyabella actually cooks the beans, and then grinds them (taking a total of 15 minutes). For raw nut milks, you simply soak the nuts overnight, put them in the Soyabella, and grind them up (this is pretty instant). I’ve even made Hemp milk without pre-soaking and they work just fine. The Soyabella’s filter makes a really smooth milk, so you get much better results than just, say, using a blender.  You can also make a thicker milk by adding less water, and vice versa, depending on what you like. Then,  just add vanilla extract, stevia, cacao powder, maple syrup, or nothing at all, and store in the fridge.

Tip: You can use the leftover almond pulp to make these tasty chocolate truffles. Leftover soy bean pulp can be thrown into veggie burgers.  Nothing goes to waste with the Soyabella.

Cost: The Soyabella Soymilk Maker with Tofu Kit costs about $125, including shipping, and can easily pay for itself the first year.

I did the math, and you can have fresh organic soymilk for about .75 cents a liter, and fresh hemp and almond milk for about $1. Oh yeah, and you actually know exactly what’s going into your food, you can’t really put price on that.

Benefits: Making your own milk is also so much better for the environment, since there are no transport fuels or containers to throw away. That stuff really adds up over a year if you think about how much you drink every week.

Deal:

Use the code Grow Indie and receive a free One Pot Wonder recipe book by Elysa Markowitz with the purchase of a Soyabella Deluxe Soymilk Maker with Tofu Kit and Lid (model SB-132). Just add the book to your cart and use the code to get it for free through March 31, 2010.

February 7, 2010 at 7:27 pm 1 comment

Growing Your Own Cat Grass


It’s really easy to grow your own cat greens on a sunny windowsill, anytime of year. Not only do they grow super fast, but it’s just  the bit of green you need to brighten up a bleak January. And, it’s so much nicer to grow your own, so you know for certain they are organic and pesticide-free.

Renee’s Garden Seeds makes a seed pack of Mixed Gourmet Greens for Cats, which features a great blend of organic rye, oats, barley and wheat grass that’s perfect for cats (and will prevent them from attacking your houseplants). So, I gave it a go and put them in a nice sunny window. They grew voraciously (i mean, like, Jack-and-the-Bean-Stalk speed once they sprouted) and within weeks I had bright green shoots that were so welcomed with all of our Zone 6 dormancy.

The packet made a lot of greens, so I was brought a few pots around to friends houses to liven up their winter after our last snowy day. My friend Marilyn’s cat Kato (the king of cats), pictured above, loved chowing down on his fresh pot of greens.

Although carnivores by nature, cats crave fresh greens to keep their digestion in check, which is why some tend to go after houseplants. It’s now been about three weeks since our cat greens sprouted and and they are still growing strong (despite a few mowings). It’s amazing how fast they grow.  Kids will love watching it too, since it’s pretty magical in the dead of winter. I like to put mine in fun planters, and put them around the house.Happy planting!

January 31, 2010 at 7:29 pm 2 comments

Beware of Carrageenan

As a vegetarian and all-around nice person to animals, I used to buy alot of soymilk, specifically Silk, thinking I was being pretty healthy. It’s organic, it tastes good, they make that tasty eggnog version at christmas, but I was recently enlightened about a very dangerous additive found in most store bought soymilks—carrageenan.

A natural food additive derived from seaweed, carrageenan is a proven carcinogen and has been found to cause all sorts of digestive problems for people, and was shown to cause intestinal lesions in animals (which we are). Turns out, carrageenan is a cheap additive that big companies are using to save costs, and putting us at risk. It’s found in many things too, not just soymilk, so check your labels. You’ll find it in ice cream, chocolate milks like Nesquik, diet sodas, yogurt, cottage cheese, even beer. Oh, and carrageenan is even used to de-ice airplanes. YUM.

Here’s a link to the full study. And, here’s an excerpt:

Wakabayashi and associates (72) demonstrated the appearance of colonic tumors in 32% of rats fed 10% degraded carrageenan in the diet for less than 24 months. The lesions included squamous cell carcinomas, adenocarcinomas, and adenomas. With exposure to 5% degraded carrageenan in drinking water, there was a 100% incidence of colonic metaplasia after 15 months.

100 percent— That’s 10 in 10, people. I’m not experimenting with that. On the positive side, I’ve learned that it’s actually really easy to make your own soy and nut milks at home, and a lot cheaper too. Stay tuned for more on that. In the meantime, check labels and if you need to buy soy/rice/nut milks, choose one that’s carrageenan free, like West Soy.

January 9, 2010 at 10:02 pm 7 comments

Storing Apples Over Winter

By the time I already heard it was almost too late—County Line Orchard, with some of the best locally grown, organic apples around, was having their annual one day, stock-up-for-winter sale. It was very hush-hush and unadvertised, and I was lucky enough to hear from my friend and homesteader Lala, who warned to get their early because all the locavores line up. The impending snowstorm had other plans, but while most of the Northeast was frantically running to the grocery store to stock up on bread and milk, we headed to Kempton, PA to stock up on bushels of organic, local apples to store. No apples from Ecuador for us this winter! And, think of the transportation emissions and carbon we were saving by buying local. And they were organic! It really didn’t get much better.

With proper storage, apples will keep all winter, and here’s a really easy way to do it.

Step 1: Get a Box and Some Newspapers


Cut up an old newspaper into smaller squares, large enough to wrap around the apples. Get a box to store all of your apples. Watch any cats within a 100 foot radius find the box and jump in. Get ready to wrap.

Step 2: Inspect and Prep

You’ll want to only store apples that are bruise and nick-free, so inspect them before wrapping. If damaged at all, use these sooner, and do not store.

Step 3: Wrap the Apples

Once you have your storage apples ready, put an apple in the center of a piece of newspaper…

…and wrap it up, pulling the sides up and to the top. Twist to lock it in, like this:

Step 4: Pack the Box and Store

Place the apples in twist side down, so the newspaper stays on. Fill the bottom, than keep layering on top until the box is full. Then, store the apples in a cold area of the house or root cellar. Not too cold though, you don’t want the apples to freeze (this bruises them). Make sure to keep them out of light too.

Apples with thicker skins store longer, but most apples will keep for at least two months if properly stored. And, then, next time it snows, you can make pie with your own local apples!

January 5, 2010 at 2:54 am Leave a comment

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