Some ideas on Pinterest may seem like a good idea at the time…

At the moment what they are doing is weeding for me. The minute that becomes digging up seedlings there will be poultry on the menu

At the moment what they are doing is weeding for me. The minute that becomes digging up seedlings there will be poultry on the menu

Sowing the seeds of love, we’re off to a seedy start, I’ve sowed the seeds to a new season…  I could go on, the clichés are endless!  Entering into August puts us one month closer to spring and the weather is beginning to play with us.  One week it is warm and sunny and we haven’t had any heating on in the house for a week, and we become lulled into a false sense of the future.  “If spring is starting this early, then we are in for an awesome summer!”  The frosts of the previous week seem like a distance memory and considered no longer technically or physically possible.  And then today reminds us it is winter still.  A gloomy old day with so much rain that you don’t think it will ever stop.  I have the memory of a goldfish…  “ohh look a castle!”

My onions have finally gone in.  The latest ever.  But I did put their seed trays in the garden so they could feel the cold they need for their internal body clocks.

My onions have finally gone in. The latest ever. But I did put their seed trays in the garden so they could feel the cold they need for their internal body clocks.

But I have a wee thing I do for the first few days of August and I look forward to it with such anticipation.  Now is the time to sow my chillies and peppers as they really need a good long head start so they are big and strong enough once the risk of frost is past in late October.  I feel like I am gardening again, although it seems a little like I’m trailing behind my northern hemisphere gardening friends who are beginning to harvest their peppers and chillies and I shout from down under like some kind of kid sister  “wait for me…”  But it’s ok because we are now technically gardening together, albeit for a short period.

These small seeds represent so much for me.  They are full of the hope of a season.  By the time I cut into one to be chucked in to a meal the season will be closer to ending than beginning and so much will have happened.  It seems like they are the first to be sown and the last to come ripe.  But it is beginning that rings my bell right now.

It is essential for good garden practice to start with clean trays.

It is essential for good garden practice to start with clean trays.

It is these seeds that end up being cosseted and to be honest the only ones that I actually follow all the rules with precision.  I take their seed tray and I soak it in a mild bleach solution and scrub it within an inch of its life with an old toothbrush.  There will be no nasties lurking there. In a month the tomato seed trays get a bit of a swish is a bleachy solution, and for the zukes – I just dump out old dirt and add some new stuff.

I even wash my labels and write all details down on an excel spreadsheet.  Towards the end of the sowing season a barely legible name is scrawled across a previous used one, leaving you to wonder is it a broccoli or a squash about to emerge from the soil.  As for the details – they often turn up weeks later on a piece of screwed up paper in the pocket of a grubby pair of jeans about to head into the washing machine.

This is going to be awesome! It's from Pinterest - what could go wrong?

This is going to be awesome! It’s from Pinterest – what could go wrong?

Then they are the only ones allowed to stay inside.  All other seeds must remain in the greenhouse with their dirty ways.   Chillies and peppers are a little special.  Seeing them grow helps to get through that last month of winter that tends to drag a little.

A nice even distribution of the Christmas rope lights so all my seedlings can warm their toes.

A nice even distribution of the Christmas rope lights so all my seedlings can warm their toes.

The thing is, a little bottom heat helps them out and on top of a fridge is ideal – unless your fridge has cupboards above.  I don’t imagine I would have been allowed to design the new kitchen around my gardening needs.  So this is where Pinterest comes in.   I tucked away an idea ages ago to use Christmas rope lights as a heat mat for my seedlings.  I even bought some rope light in the January sales in anticipation.  I felt so proud of myself for my forethought – possibly bordering on smug.  I could hardly wait to pop it together.

Not bad for winter - soil at 20C. How much more toasty will it be when I turn on the lights

Not bad for winter – soil at 20C. How much more toasty will it be when I turn on the lights

This weekend I did a bit of further research on the internet and found a common agreement that kitty litter would be a good platform to hold the lights.  So I gathered my gear, a box, black plastic sacks – one to stop the cardboard box getting wet and one for over the kitty litter to stop it being used for its intended purpose.   It looked really good.  This is often a bad sign.

Down 5C! - why did I bother.  Now what do I do with 15 litres of kitty litter?

Down 5C! – why did I bother. Now what do I do with 15 litres of kitty litter?

Using my scientific mind I took the temperature of normal soil in a pot and then placed it onto of my ‘heat pad’ and waited for it to warm up.  It didn’t happen straight away and so I thought maybe it would take some time to radiate through the kitty litter so I left it overnight.  Come morning I leapt out of bed to see my lovely warm ‘heat pad’ only to discover, much to my dismay, that it had actually gone down 5°C.  Well it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Possibly the fact it is was a battery operated, energy efficient, multi-coloured flashing Christmas rope light may be what let me down.  But you can’t say I didn’t try!

Grow well little seeds.  Grow well

Grow well little seeds. Grow well

So my seeds are resting on my wine making heat mat which is a little too hot so it is balanced between dehydrator trays creating air flow and cooling things a little before it reaches my precious seeds.  I can’t afford for anything untoward to happen to them.  The hope of a season rests on their seedy shoulders.

Come again soon – pre-spring is a busy time!

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

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26 Comments on “Some ideas on Pinterest may seem like a good idea at the time…

  1. I often use that brand of cat litter to my potting media – it helps with aeration, drainage, water retention, and nutrient exchange. Much like perlite or vermiculite does.

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    • Thanks Kimberley for the tip. I may use it with my kumara because our soil is too boggy, I can’t plant them in the ground. By the time they are ready to harvest the ground is cold and wet and they just rot. So I grow them in pots. I think this will really help. This could also be the perfect excuse to grow loads more kumara. Yay!
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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    • Hi Julie. I just love this time of year. It is so exciting. Although experience has taught me to exercise caution as not everything needs this much of a head start and will only result in a tangled disaster in the greenhouse (done it before – wasn’t pretty).
      All the best with your growing season this year. I hope you end up with a bumper harvest.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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  2. Yay, chilli seeds 🙂

    I’m trying not to think about the fact that your seed sowing heralds the road towards autumn for us 😉

    Chuckled at the kitty litter and Christmas lights heat mat. I’m thinking that the ‘energy efficiency’ thing might be the issue …… 🙂

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    • Hi Elaine. Sorry about that. My excitement may give you a reminder summer doesn’t last forever. As payback – how about doing it to me in 6 months time!
      Yeah the kitty litter light thing…. probably best we don’t mention it again!
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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  3. Your weather sounds the same as ours and it has been unusually sunny for winter this past few weeks – gorgeous and feels like spring already. We are starting to get things ready too …. it’s a good feeling 🙂

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  4. Tomatoes?…Already?! This year I promised myself that I WOULD grow everything in my garden from seed so I am off to get some seed Ms Sarah and am going to follow your lead to the max!

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    • Hi Fran…. Not tomatoes yet. Peppers and chillies are good to go now from seed. They can take ages to come up and then grow slowly. Tomatoes need a head start too but I would wait a month – depending on when your last frost date is. Tomatoes only need 6 – 8 weeks to be big enough to go in the ground. Doing it too soon will mean they will be too big and protest about being in pots. Too late and they just won’t be big enough. It is so cool to be growing things again.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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      • Cheers for that Sarah. I have a horticultural underbed heater that Steve bought me a while ago for my birthday so I can hook that up and get my capsicums and chillies on the go. I want to grow chillies this year as I have plans for making my own chipotles, fermented chillies and gochujang so I am going to need a fair few chillies for that lot. Again, thanks for the heads up 🙂

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        • Oh Fran, Now I am jealous of your proper horticultural heater. Lucky you!
          I made a kinda chipotle last summer, because I smoked my jalapenos, then dehydrated them and then ground them to a fine powder. Oh my goodness – it is the most amazing seasoning ever! It just lifts a meal. But I won’t let anyone use too much as a lot of chillies went into it and it has to last until I can do it again. I have no idea what gochujang is….
          Cheers Sarah : o )

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    • Hi there. I would love one day to have all the proper gear. Imagine that – a fully stocked garden shed with everything a gardener could possible need… no more improvising.
      Having said that improvising can be fun!
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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    • Hi Virginia. Pinterest can be a huge distraction for me, but a lot of great ideas have come from the thought “hmmm I wonder if I…..” So I know exactly what you mean.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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    • Thanks Justin. That is an awesome idea. Sometimes thinking outside the box can result in great solutions. Where did you get yours and how hot does it get?
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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      • I bought mine from TradeMe, the temperature can be set, starting from a low of 25dC which is most likely going to be the setting I am going to use, or a bit higher to achieve desired soil temperature.

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  5. Well fiddle-sticks as my mum used to say. Good for you for trying something new. I think the newer tree lights are much cooler. It makes them safer for the tree, but less effective for your purpose.

    As for the extra cat litter, I wonder if you can put some in heavy buckets and then use it to plunge your hand tools into. I’ve heard of doing something similar with sand. It cleans and sharpens as you plunge the tool and it also has the added benefit of storing them till the next time.

    I’ve also tossed extra litter in our side-yard where the cat prefers to take care of her business. It makes it easier to keep clean and less…aromatic to boot.

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