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What’s Sproutin’ – A Planting Update

It’s about time for a planting update.

We usually plant potatoes, and we’ve followed the advice to cut the seed potatoes into many pieces and plant them. We’ve been successful with this method, too.  However, we recently saw a potato farmer on tv proclaiming that the planted cut pieces encourages bacteria and mold growth that contributes to smaller yields as well. He said to plant the entire potato. He also said that ANY potato would do – you don’t need to purchase seed potatoes. Well, we’d already bought our seed potatoes, so we were late on that boat, but we do plan on buying a yummy potato variety and planting it to see what “comes up.”

This news is completely contrary to our local greenhouse that proclaims that a regular potato that has gone to seed just won’t do for planting. We shall see.

We’d love to hear your experiences with potatoes, do you buy seed potatoes or have you tried planting any ol’ potato and had great results? Let us know!

Our whole seed potatoes are growing:

Potato plant growing in the garden.

We lost six tomato plants early this season to a hungry rabbit. Specifically, this rabbit caught in the act in the garden:

A hungry bunny

We have a lot of rabbits in the yard. We give them sanctuary, some great grasses to hop in, some privet and forsythia bushes to rest and hop about in, and we don’t use pesticides/herbicides on our lawn. They are very fond of the clover that grows in the yard.

A particular favorite spot of theirs is the grass that inevitably grows in the cracks of the sidewalk that extends from our front door. Yes, I could spray a toxic cocktail and rid myself of the problem, but a little weed whack does the job, and they do their part as well. The grass/weeds that grows there seems very tender and they love it.

Mr. Bunny photographed above had found a small section of the garden fence that did not have a tent stake in place to hold the bunny wire (some call chicken fence/wire, but we don’t have any of those running around) in place against the larger, picket fencing. I went out to check on the plants and found him, all but patting his little pudgy tummy. The fence is now fixed and the plants are good to go.

Update on the gutter planting:

After planting the gutter garden, we had a number of nights that dipped into frost territory and we simply covered them with a blanket to protect the little seedlings. They’ve pulled through and are doing great.

Here is a larger spinach plant that we started inside in newspaper pots:

Spniach plant grown in newspaper pot

Here is a spinach plant that we started from seed in the gutters:

Spinach grown from seed in gutter.

The mixed lettuce is doing great:

Lettuce grown from seed in gutter

We really like the gutter gardens and plan on extending them around the fence. They are practical and make growing things like spinach and lettuce a snap.

Our little zucchini plants are starting to produce some flowers:

Blooms of zucchini plants

Our strawberry plants are producing a bounty of ripe strawberries, little though they may be. They are super sweet and just perfect for adding to some soy yogurt or topping off a slice of cake. Oddly enough, we usually have to battle the birds for the sweet bites, but this year the birds have left them alone and we are seeing ants devouring them.

A bowl of ripe strawberries

We hope you’ll share your garden photos and tips!

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No Gutter Balls & Food, Inc.

Well, we did get two of our old gutters up this weekend. We are testing them out on the inside of our fence. While it probably wasn’t necessary, we put up a board behind the gutter just to give it a little more stability. These gutters aren’t going anywhere. The top gutter is lettuce, the bottom is spinach.

If I get ambitious I might throw a coat of paint on them, but honestly, I kinda like them just the way they are. I love remaining in a standing position while tending to my little seeds (and future plants). I love that the rabbits can happily continue to cavort through the yard (don’t let the lattice fool you, they aren’t stopped by it or the smell of dogs) without me wrapping everything in another layer of fencing.

A few happily transplanted spinach seedlings.

Happy seedlings in the gutter

One thing left to do is installing a mesh screen at the end of the gutters to keep everything in place. A very simple project and one that I look forward to building upon.

Speaking of edibles…

Food, Inc. on POV

Food, Inc. is playing on PBS tonight (April 21, 2010), as part of the POV series How cool is that?

I’ve yet to see it, so I’m very excited the opportunity to catch it on tv. If you happen to miss it tonight or want to see it again, it will be streaming online from April 22 – April 29.

There are some great activities centered around the movie being featured at PBS, you really should check them out.

Maybe you’d like to host a Food, Inc. potluck? They’ve got a great list of recipes to help get you started (complete with a large vegetarian offering). After you’ve had your great potluck, post your photos in the Flickr POV Food, Inc. Potluck group.  You’ll see some yummy goodness like Barbara Kingsolver’s dilly beans in jenyuie’s photostream. Can beans really be any lovelier?


Potluck hosts, enter to win some pretty great swag when you provide some feedback on the event you so generously provided for your hungry friends.

Find out when Food, Inc. will air in your area.

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Newspaper Pots and Mind in the Gutter

Bachelor buttons grow in newspaper pot

Quick update on how things are going since we planted some seeds in our handmade newspaper pots.

The newspaper pots are holding up to watering and being moved and shifted about. The seeds are sprouting and growing, so all is well. So, our little experiment is a successful one. Now if we could just get started earlier in the season next year. It is very difficult to think about planting anything when you are shivering in the snow.

Unlike most people, I want you to get your mind into the gutter. Recycled gutters that is.

When we moved in to our house we had to replace the leaky gutters. Like the good recyclers we are (or hoarders), we’ve held onto them, keeping them stashed away in the barn for a rainy day project or to eventually haul off to recycling. Ten years later, and I think we have a winner of an idea for those old beautiful gutters.

Gutter gardening! I know, it sounds less than fabulous, but honestly, doesn’t this look amazing to you?

suzanne forsling grows a great gutter garden

Photo  Credit: Suzanne Forsling as printed at the Juneau

Thought you might change your tune. Who knew stuff growing in gutters could be a good thing? Hoping to get our own gutter garden “off the ground” this weekend. Herbs, lettuce, radishes, and maybe some carrots sound perfect for a gutter garden.

For some more inspiration, and the reason why I stumbled across this gem of an idea at all, visit

What inventive methods are you utilizing in your garden space this year? Do share and tell!

What is growing in the newspaper pot photographed?

Blue blachelor button flowers

Blue Bachelor Buttons

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Read It and Plant It

The calendar says spring is here, and you know what that means – cleaning and planting. Or, if you are still waiting on the last frost of the season, preparing to plant.  Let’s combine the two and see what we can come up with.

A lot of people have a big stack of newspapers just piling up in the corner waiting for that “some day use” to occur. If you are like us, you use newspapers for a number of things, including ripping into strips to add to your compost pile. If you don’t have any newspapers, just ask your neighbor, or visit your recycling center. You are bound to find more than you ever wanted.

Newspapers make great starter pots for seeds. Now, you can get a fancy tool that is not only attractive and helpful, or you can use some simple items in your cupboard like a glass, food can, or a pill bottle. Our tool? An old Tylenol pill bottle works the best for us.

Thanks to my vintage (but still viable), 1978 edition of Park’s Success with Seeds, I know that for successful seed germination, my container needs to be the right depth (2.75 – 3.5″) so that the planting medium is 2.5 – 3″ deep. Too little plant medium and your plants won’t have optimum root development and growth. The planting medium will also dry out too quickly. If your pot is too big and you use too little planting medium you risk losing your seeds in the mix. Additionally,  limited air circulation and light will surely will be the final kiss of death to the little seedlings.

So, we marked off the correct measurements on our pill bottle so that our newspaper pots were big enough (3.5″)  to accommodate the appropriate amount of planting medium (2.5 – 3″).  We started rolling the newspaper pot at the top marking, keeping the pot even and properly measured. The videos don’t really discuss this tidbit of planting success, so we hope you’ll find it helpful.

Some of the videos show the newspaper pot makers using tape and glue, but we used neither. The bottoms of our pots are a little bulky, but think this might help keep them intact. We shall see.

Paper pots from newspaper for planting

There are a lot of videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to make a newspaper planting pot. We picked a few that we particularly liked to help guide you on your way to the garden of your dreams. Got one you’d like to share?

Newspaper pots are free and biodegradable. It’s a little messy, but you might just like the opportunity to give yourself permission to get a little dirty. We won’t tell.

Another thing we like about using newspaper is how easy it is to write on the pots to keep track of your plantings. No need for additional plant markers!

What are we planting you ask? A lot! That is another post entirely. We are really excited to get started on the seeds sent to us by thanks to an offer we spotted at Urban Sustainable Living Magazine.

This is our first try with the newspaper pots, so we are excited to see exactly what sprouts up. Share your newspaper pot stories and photos with us, we’d love to hear your experiences.

By the way, you can now find us on Facebook, come ’round and fan us.


To search for more just enter: Newspaper Pots on YouTube – Visit our page

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How My Silk Soymilk Garden Grows

Silk Soymilk containers used to protect plants.

Start saving those Silk Soymilk containers for your very own Silk Soymilk garden fortress. For years we’ve used our Silk cartons (and others we’ve had on hand) as protectors for our herb seedlings that we plant near the house. Our very large and hungry resident bunnies love these sweet little plants and will devour them in no time.

The Silk cartons work great because we can cut off the top (with the pour spout), cut the bottom down the middle, spread out the two resulting flaps and use them to anchor the carton in the dirt surrounding the seedling. Additionally, if you want to start compiling the cartons now, once you perform the above surgery you can fold them flat and store them out of the way until you need them.

The cartons last a long time. We’ve been known to keep them around some plants, like chives, all season long. Our bunnies are very into chives. The cartons never turn into mush, withstand direct watering, rains, sun, high winds, and even a few clumsy foot falls. When we’re done with them we just pack them up for recycling.

Yep, our little soy garden has intrigued many a person over the years and is always a conversation starter. The conversation quickly turns from plants to soy products to veganism. Of course we’re then asked how we use herb x in a vegan meal, and we’re off spreading the vegan recipe love to another willing adventurer.

Silk Soymilk containers used to protect plants.

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A Garden In Your Window

The most impressive hydroponics system I’ve ever laid eyes on was during the Living with the Land boat ride at  Epcot in Walt Disney World. The amount and variety of plants they grow is enough to not only make your mouth water, but your mind wander at the limitless possibilities of this form of agriculture. Check out these impressive photos captured by Fraochsidhe.

I’ve yet to tinker with any hydroponics project, but thanks to the great Window Farms project, I don’t seem to have a reason not to try it. I’m not exactly their target audience. I don’t live in New York, and I’m far from urban, but I do have mad love for fresh veg. 🙂

While I do have a vegetable garden and an outdoor compost heap, the winter months are long, and my home-canned supply of veggies only takes me on so many culinary journeys. I long to pick a beautiful lettuce leaf. Additionally, I think our little vermicomposters can supply some great nutrients for the plants.

I was thinking of starting a challenge next month to encourage everyone to get started on indoor seedlings, but I’d like to challenge you to starting your own Window Farm project. Grow where you are planted and share the wealth!

I’ll keep you posted on the successes or failures. Ironically, we are considering a move, so this may dampen the project a little. I’d like to start with seeds rather than plants, so that may take some tinkering. The great part is, the project is open to anyone who wants to participate.

Check out the YouTube videos from Window Farms

Here is a great introduction to the project and explanation to what exactly it means to have a Window Farm.

Thumbnail photo credit:

Britta and Rebecca with the first window farm, May 2009. Photo by Julia Makarova.

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Vegan Tuna and Spicy Fries

We can’t say enough great things about Delicious TV’s  “Totally Vegetarian” with host Toni Fiore. She makes you see simple ingredients in a whole new way.

One of our favorite recipes is for “mock tuna.” It is so very yummy and easy to whip up. Fair warning: if you have a cat, she will gather at your feet when you make this dish. Ours does at least. She loves garbanzo beans, artichoke hearts, and seaweed, so when she smells all those tasty bits hit the pot she makes certain she close at hand for any offerings we may kindly pass her way.

We haven’t had “real” tuna in over 12 years, and this recipe always shocks me at how close it is to the real thing. It is as close as I ever want to be. Another added benefit? No mercury.

To accompany this great mock tuna recipe, we like to make our Spicy Fries.

Spicy Fries Recipe

Preheat oven: 400°F


4 – 5 Potatoes – good ol’ russet scrubbed clean and cut into 1/4 inch sticks, we leave the skins on, but feel free to peel

2-3 tablespoons of oil (we like grape seed or olive oil)

2 tablespoons garlic powder (we like a lot, but feel free to use less)

1 tablespoon onion powder

1/2 – 1 tablespoon Seasoned Salt (make your own or buy one without MSG)

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

All of the above ingredients can be adjusted as needed for personal preference and taste. Experiment and see what suits you.

Simply combine all the ingredients into a bowl and toss until everything is well mixed and the potatoes are evenly coated.

Turn out the potatoes onto a large cookie sheet, spreading them into a single layer.

Bake for 20 minutes. Flip the potatoes. Bake for another 20 minutes or until crisp on the outside and cooked through.

Serve immediately.

Mock tuna on a home-baked savory onion roll with a side of spicy fries.