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Learning Something New - Starting Seeds

Submitted by Kris Boyles
Newhall, Iowa

adding plastic to the greenhouseWe have a long way to go in learning acreage living. We are city transplants from about five years ago. But we did have a success of sorts that I'd like to share. This year we tried to plant more of our garden from seed instead of buying plants. (Seeds are cheaper than plants.) We converted the shed workbench to a temporary greenhouse by making a homemade warming "mat" out of mostly salvaged construction materials. (My husband works construction and keeps a close eye on the dumpster.) We also made greenhouse lights from second hand shop lights, mounted on a salvaged wood frame. We enclosed it with plastic to keep the plants warm. We were able to get it as high as 90 degrees in the greenhouse. We started planting indoors in early March and planted most of our seedlings outdoors by mid-/late-June. Next year I'd like to start some indoor plants even earlier.

inside the greenhouseThis year we probably spent what we usually do in garden start-up costs, but most of the costs went to the reusable mat and lights instead of toward plants. So next year we expect to see a big savings in our garden start-up costs since we will have seed as our primary purchase. (Or we may invest our usual garden spending to grow or improve another area of the acreage, like trees.)

This year, we are done with peas, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, carrots, onions and beans. We are currently harvesting lots of squash, cucumbers, kale and parsley. Potatoes, rosemary, basil, pumpkin and cauliflower are still coming along. Peppers, cantaloupe and eggplant didn't do very well once we transplanted them. I won't do a winter garden until next year because we have some soil issues we want to address this fall. We TREASURE our 80+ tomatoes which are just beginning to mature. We turn most of them into sauce which we use for spaghetti, lasagna, and homemade pizza. We also can some whole or diced and sometimes make salsa or juice. We are a family of six, so we eat most of what we grow.

With the garden, the approximately 50 chickens we keep, and with the cattlemen relatives we have, my dream someday would be to only go to the store for dairy in the summertime. I don't know if it is realistic, but I can dream.

Have a funny story or a quick lesson from a project on your acreage? Drop us a line! We'd love to feature stories from our readers!