Starting Seeds: The Urban Edition (UPDATED!)

May 12, 2011 at 9:21 pm

UPDATE! Editor’s note: Let’s all congragulate Local Beet urban gardening reporter Ava George Stewart on moving up in her quest to become a Master Gardener. She’s gone from trainee to intern, and no joke, that’s a lot of work–i.e., tests involved. Way to Go Ava!

Pellets of growing media

Pellets of growing media

I’ve been a bit busy recently. In addition to being the best wife, daughter, sister, and lawyer that I can be, I’m a student in the University of Illinois Master Gardener program. This entails real quizzes, assignments, and even a final exam. I’ve been tested on everything from soil to parasitic wasps, with not so minor detours into stormwater runoff and vermiculture.

Here’s the irony… I’m way behind in my vegetable gardening for the year. I suspect I will do like many home gardeners, both urban and rural, and buy plants. Most of my tender and warm-loving crops, like watermelon, cucumbers, okra, and runner beans don’t require transplanting, so as soon as I’m done with this final exam, I’m getting those crops into the Earthboxes – especially given this week’s forecast of warm days and well-above-freezing nights.

One of the things that is of particular interest to me is urban vegetable gardening. But I’m interested in a subset of urban vegetable gardening, specifically those with very little, if any, land. The lack of land is one aspect of urban dwelling that knows no socio-economic boundaries.

For those without land, or a basement, or an attic that can be used for cold frames, green houses, or even grow rooms – yes, you can still start your own vegetables from seed, even if you live in a studio.

Here’s what I did. After doing my homework I went with an inexpensive shoplight (about $10 at a big box hardware store). I got some S clips ( I didn’t even know what they were—I’m not the least bit handy) and rigged the shoplight to a shelf on the ubiquitous Baker’s Rack. Then I added warm water to those little pellets of potting mix that expand into a grow media for heirloom seeds.

I had great starts with 5 types of heirloom tomatoes, 2 types of eggplant, and sweet peppers. Then my dear husband forgot to turn on the lights—for a few days (sigh). Note to self, spend the extra dollars to place the shoplight on a timer!

Shoplight on Baker's Rack

Shoplight on Baker's Rack