Aztext Press

Life Off-the-Grid

Welcome to Our Nursery (Plant Nursery, that is)

By Michelle Mather

Baby Basil Plants

I think one of the reasons that people are enjoying Cam’s new book “The All You Can Eat Gardening Handbook” is because Cam doesn’t pretend to be some sort of expert when it comes to organic vegetable gardening. He doesn’t have a Ph.D. in plant biology…. he’s just a guy who has been growing vegetables organically for over 30 years and has learned a few things a long the way and is eager to share what he has learned with others. He shares not only his successes but he admits to having had some failures over the years in his garden, and readers will learn how to avoid the mistakes that he has made!

Have you ever picked up a gardening book and been disappointed when you realized that the author has an expensive greenhouse, a staff of helpers or the latest and greatest garden tools and gadgets? No wonder the photos of the gardens in the book look amazing but if you’re like me you put down the book, discouraged that without a greenhouse, a staff and an unlimited budget for tools and gadgets that I would never be able to accomplish the same results!

Cam and I don’t have a greenhouse (although we’d love to have one and have been collecting discarded glass doors and windows with the hope that we will acquire enough to cobble some sort of greenhouse-like structure together at some point!), we don’t have a staff (and since our daughters both moved away from home we don’t even have kids to help with weeding, etc.) and we sure don’t have the funds to purchase the latest and the greatest garden tools.

So we garden the way that most people garden…. making do with what we have.

At this time of year I like to start a few things inside, ready to plant in the garden when the weather is finally cooperative. After our crazy warm temperatures and days and days of brilliant sunshine that we had earlier this spring, we’ve just experienced a spell of cold and wet weather and in fact we’ve had frost most nights this past week. Luckily we weren’t fooled by Mother Nature and we resisted the urge to rush the planting season. Instead I’ve been satisfying my gardening urges by nurturing a few flats of plants inside.

I’ve planted some herbs, some flowers and some vegetables. The grow light that Cam built this year using lumber scraps and a light fixture from Canadian Tire has worked wonderfully but unfortunately it is only big enough to hold 2 flats and I’ve got about 12 on the go!

Under the grow light

I’ve set up an old table in the dining room to hold the flats overnight and then in the morning I move everything out on to our glassed in back porch where we have two temporary tables (essentially sheets of plywood sitting on saw horses) set up. On sunny days the back porch warms up so my seedlings are treated to not only sunshine but warmth to help them to germinate and grow. Cam glassed in our back porch using discarded windows and it isn’t insulated or airtight and so once the sun goes down the temperature out there drops too. That is why I then move all of the plants back in to the dining room.

Of course on really nice days I move everything out on to the back lawn. I have to be careful though this time of year – one day recently we experienced a sudden hail storm and I had to run out in the hail and quickly bring my flats of seedlings back inside!

Here’s a picture of the table in the dining room, covered in flats of various little seedlings;

Lots of babies!

None of the containers that you see in these photos were purchased new for this purpose. Every year we buy plants from local nurseries and we keep all of the trays and cellpacks etc to be re-used. Even the tags are ones that came with plants…. I just turn them over and write on the blank side! We did purchase the potting soil and some of the seeds were purchased, but many of the seeds are ones that we collected last year.

Re-Used Tags

If you are wondering how I managed to end up with just one basil plant per cell in the photo at the start of this post, I actually threw a bunch of seeds in to each cell and once they were large enough I separated them out in to individual cells.  As you can see from the photo below, I’ve had to replant a few things (pumpkins and cucumber plants in this case) into even larger containers to give them room to spread their roots;

Outgrowing their pots

Below is a flat of marigold plants. They aren’t flowering yet but they sure are growing fast and I know that once I get them into the soil outside, they’ll grow like weeds and begin flowering in no time. If you are wondering why we grow so many marigolds…. I guess you’ll just have to read Cam’s book!*

Little Marigold plants

*Don’t forget – we are offering our blog subscribers a FREE copy of our gardening DVD “Grow Your Own Vegetables” with your purchase of our gardening book. The FREE DVD is a $19.95 value.


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