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Getting Started Growing Your Own Vegetable and Herb Seedlings

Garden Hacks - Simplify routines

Seedlings are the baby plants you see at the nurseries, ready to be transplanted into your garden. But you might want to grow your own instead. While there are many benefits of starting your own vegetable and herb plants from seeds, there is one BIG reason why you might consider purchasing instead. Here’s the most important considerations for growing seedlings at home. 

Benefits to growing your own:

  1. You know exactly how the seedlings were grown. Ensure your plants are grown organically without any toxic chemicals entering your garden. When purchasing ask whether plants have been treated. 
  2. You ensure your plants immunity is high for a healthy life. Temperatures and conditions are important to baby plants, and stress at a young age can cause transplant shock or a weak plant that doesn’t yield well. Sometimes you bring home a seedling, plant it, and it dies. And you’re not sure if it’s something you did. But it could just be a plant that wasn’t cared for properly.
  3. You have complete control of when you put plants in the ground. When purchasing transplants, you are relying on what’s available at the stores. And what you want is not always there when you need it. Growing your own means you can plan ahead for your most abundant harvest.
  4. You have access to hundreds of varieties of vegetables. There are so many varieties of mustard greens and tomatoes on the planet that nobody could even tell you how many there are. And that’s true of most vegetables. Choose exciting varieties for flavor, yield, what grows well in your climate. 
  5. You save money. Once you get the hang of growing HEALTHY plants and you have all the supplies, you will save money. However, the first few years, planting your own can actually be more expensive than buying transplants. This is the one BIG reason you may want to purchase instead.

Three garden supplies essential to growing your own seedlings

You’ll need 1) growing medium (not soil), 2) containers to put it in, and 3) grow lamps if you’re growing indoors. We’ll focus on containers in this article. But real quick, our favorite growing medium is Fox Farm Ocean Forest, It’s got everything your plants need in one bag, from earthworm castings, bat guano, sea-going fish & crab meal to forest humus and moss. This mix will not disappoint!   Click here to get it on Amazon. And here is a bulk order option

This article is too short to include recipes for making your own mix. A couple key ingredients to include are perlite, vermiculite, peat moss or Canna Coconut Coir and Wiggle Worm – Worm Castings. For small gardens choose the 4.5-pound size. For larger gardens choose the bulk 30-pound option.

This is not a complete list, just some of our favorites to get you started.

Reusable Containers for Starting Vegetable and Herb Seeds


Generally, plastic trays are flimsy and end up in the landfill after just one or two uses. However, one farm is changing all that and helping to redefine our relationship to the Earth. Bootstrap Farmer offers durable trays with a one year warranty against warping and breakage… that’s amazing! Clean trays between use to prevent disease spread.

These are the best, longest lasting trays on the market. And they have different cell sizes available. Get cells for smaller varieties like lettuces here and get larger six cells for your larger transplants like tomatoes and cucumbers here.

Containers You Plant Right in the Ground

Avoiding plastic altogether?, Consider Fertilpots over at Arbico Organics which compost right into your soil. Plant the whole thing in your garden and avoid any transplant shock from handling the plant. Unlike many similar compostable products, they are OMRI listed meaning the ingredients have been tracked as organic. Fertilpots are breathable and help prevent roots from getting root bound, too. However, the downside is that you have to keep buying more.

“Soil Blocking” Eliminates the Need for Containers

Soil blocking is a process where you press your growing medium together into squares that hold together without the need for containers. Once you have the right equipment for this process, you never have to buy containers ever again. However, you do have a higher initial investment to get started.

There are benefits to this method: no cleaning trays, conserving growing medium, and providing optimal root health. The details of how to soil block effectively is the topic of another post. NOTE: You’ll need to mix your own special growing medium (not one that you can buy at a big box store), and a bit of time to get used to the process. 

Soil blockers are for anyone who wants to get away from plastic, has a little extra time and money, wants the healthiest seedlings and plans to garden long term. 

20 Cell Soil Blockers come in a hand held and stand up  versions. The stand up soil blocker is much easier on your wrists, shoulders and back. 4” Soil Blockers are the largest blocker available and are perfect for your larger transplants like tomatoes, gourds, cucumbers, eggplant, etc.

How do you make your garden decisions?

Ultimately, there are many garden choices you will make. Some questions to consider: What do you really have time for? What feels like the best environmental choice for you? And what amount of investment feels good right now? Whatever suits you and your lifestyle is the right choice for you. And that goes for making decisions about seed starting at home, too.  

3 Keys for Successful Indoor Seed Starting

Here are the 3 most important keys to help you grow strong seedlings and transplants. Stick around for the BONUS key at the end… it may be the difference between killing all your seeds and being able to grow your own healthy babies. NOTE: This video is not intended to show you EVERYTHING about seed starting, just to help you avoid some common mistakes growers make.

Cutting Boards for Fresh Food Safety

Food Preservation

Food safety practices are important… especially when you start preserving and storing food. You’ve probably heard about sterilizing jars, and cleaning kitchen utensils properly. These are common practices to keep the bad microbes out of our food. But quite often, the one tool that’s overlooked is your cutting board. 

When chopping fresh produce, it’s vital to have a cutting board that won’t create biofilms and harbor the kind of bacteria you don’t want to ingest. If you’re preserving your food for later – whether blanching, freezing, canning, drying or fermenting – it’s even more important. Having a good quality cutting board is the foundation for keeping you and your loved ones safe.  

Simply put, a good cutting board is the one place you don’t want to skimp on. But what is the safest cutting board?  

Plastic, Glass, or Wood?

Many people think that plastic cutting boards are safer than wood. Even the USDA’s Food News for Consumers has recommended plastic over wood cutting boards. 

However, more recent studies reveal that plastic is not as safe as we think. According to the study, glass is the superior choice, followed by wood. Glass has a smooth surface, so no gaps to harbor bacteria. The problem with glass cutting boards is that the hard surface is hard on knives and might cause food-slippage accidents. Be careful! 

Wood however, does not cause slipping the way glass does and is easier on your knives. Wood also has an antibacterial effect not found in glass or plastic boards that scientists are still trying to understand. What’s more, wood doesn’t require harsh sanitizing the way plastic boards do. Once a plastic surface has been cut into, the grooves can harbor all kinds of bacteria and require sanitizing with harsh chemicals. But as time goes on and more grooves appear, sanitizing your plastic cutting board may become less and less effective. 

Sterilizing your wood cutting boards is easy and doesn’t require harsh chemicals. What’s fascinating about this study is that the scientists researching expected to find plastic cutting boards to be safer. Their intention was to discover how to clean wood to increase its safety. So they were quite surprised to discover that wood – specifically well maintained, close-grained hardwood cutting boards – were less prone to contamination.

PRO TIP: Historically, butchers used salt to keep the ‘bad’ smell away. Perhaps they also knew that using the salt kept people healthy, but there’s no record of that. Regardless, they had the right idea. Rinse your cutting board with warm water, sprinkle your cutting board with salt and rub the salt into the board using a lemon cut in half (flesh side down). Let sit for five minutes, rinse and let air dry in a place with good circulation. 

What kind of wood is best for your Cutting Board?

According to the study, hardwoods are best. When you think of hardwood, you might think oak, mahogany, or maple. It’s true that these woods are harder than pine, chestnut, cherry, and even walnut. But they aren’t the BEST hardwoods for prepping your ferments, preserves  and fresh food. It’s hard to imagine, but these woods are soft in comparison to other hardwoods. One quick look at a Janka chart will reveal just how soft in comparison these woods really are. 

The Janka Scale Reveals the Best Wood Choice for Cutting Boards

Wood is measured by its hardness using a process called the Janka scale. This test measures the amount of force required to embed a 0.444″ steel ball into the wood to half of the diameter of the particular wood. Woods with higher ratings are harder than woods with lower ratings.

So for example, Genuine Mahogany measures 800 and English Brown Oak rates at 1360. The scale goes all the way up to 4380! While you don’t need the hardest wood on the planet to safely cut your vegetables for ferments and preserves, it’s a good idea to find something that has at least a 2500 rating. Even though maple is the industry standard (1,450 on the Janka scale), a harder wood will be more scratch and impact resistant, leaving you with a safer cutting board.

Check out this amazing cutting board, the Stella Falone Reversible Cutting Board made of solid West African Crelicam Ebony Wood. Not only is it made from a hardwood measuring at a whopping 3080 on the Janka Scale, but it’s made by a company that harvests ethically, replants what they harvest, and pays stable living wages to workers. 


If you’re looking for a more affordable option, these mixed wood cutting boards made with Purpleheart Wood (2520 Janka Scale) are also good options.  Here’s a pretty one that could double as a fancy food tray at your next party. It’s a Ziruma Teak and Purpleheart Wood Cheese Board and it’s cured with Organic Beeswax, too.
 

 

 

The Downside of Supremely Hardwood Cutting Boards

Yes it’s true, there’s a downside. The hardwood cutting boards ranked higher on the Janka scale will dull your knives a little faster. But it’s a small price to pay for better protection for your health and well being. Simply choose good quality knives, and sharpen your knives more often.

Ultimately, the cutting board with the least potential for bacterial contamination is glass… but the safest cutting board? Hands down, properly cared for hardwood cutting boards are safer with no slippage plus antibacterial properties. Plus, these beautiful cutting boards can also be a fancy food tray for your parties. Enjoy!

AK, N., CLIVER, D. and KASPAR, C. (1993). Decontamination of Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards for Kitchen Use. [online] Available at: https://meridian.allenpress.com/jfp/article/57/1/23/195718/Decontamination-of-Plastic-and-Wooden-Cutting [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020]. 

Meet Gina the “Make it Happen” Gardener

Building Projects

When you see someone who believes in the nourishment of a garden SO much that she buys a blackberry bush BEFORE she even has a yard, you just have to find out what happens next!

Meet Gina from California.  

Gina is busy! A doctor and a mother of two, she decided she was tired of her dreams of having a garden pass by year after year. She admits she thought it was going to be easy. She decided to just “wing it” and threw some seeds in the ground to see what would happen. But she ran into some challenges along the way, and was frustrated because the learning curve was steep!

Luckily, Gina started asking some really great questions in our Grow Your Own Vegetables community this year. And she found the right tools to make her feel confident in the garden. And her garden is really thriving… because she always finds a way to make it happen.

The Garden Journal That Can Get Wet Without Smudging

Garden Hacks - Simplify routines

Have you ever noticed the big flaw with bringing important garden notes on paper outside as you work? Maybe you are writing down how much you harvested, or your soil fertility plan, or maybe you want to journal and draw your plants…Whatever it is, bringing paper into the garden is always a challenge with all the water and dirt. One minute you’re writing an important note, the next, your ink is smeared and your paper is wet and dirty.

Here at Grow Your Own Vegetables, we know that great record keeping is the key to improving your yields year after year. So Crystal tested out this cool waterproof journal for all of us.

We thought it would be a great gift idea for gardeners (and anyone else who journals outside, too)! But does it really work? Find out in this video review…

Grab your Stone Paper Notebook and don’t forget the Erasable Gel Pen that makes your journal not only waterproof but re-usable too!

And don’t forget to check out all the fun cool items in our Holiday Gift Guide!

4 Types of Garden Hacks, PLUS Never Lose Your Garden Tools Again

Garden Hacks - Simplify routines

Maybe you can relate… My home has three garden trowels and typically, NONE of them can be found. They get lost and we waste precious time hunting for our garden tools instead of gardening. Who’s great idea was it to make garden tools the same color as the Earth and the plants, anyway? They blend in so well, making them difficult to find!

I was fed up… a solution was long overdue. So, I shared four HACKS with my housemates and guess what? No more lost tools!

So a “HACK” is a new way of doing something that  makes it easier, simpler, or faster and reduces frustration.  Who knew we would need a hack to find our tools, but we did 😉

There are four types and you can use these strategies to solve just about any problem in your garden.

Plus… join us for the Garden Hack Summit! It airs July 25-28. Here’s the link to claim your spot: https://GardenHackSummit.com