New seedlings and photography tips.

The weather has been so mild for spring this year that we've been focusing all of our attention outdoors. This has left much of our indoor prep work lacking falling behind. With most of our outdoor prep done now, it's time to shift gears and get back to the business of making new plants!

For us, it starts with seedling trays. We re-use these cells until they literally crumble; most of these are left over from plants we bought years ago.

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We use regular bagged potting soil as the 'base' of our seedling mix, then add enough of our compost to roughly double the volume. As we get more things built around here, eventually we'll make our starter soil entirely from our own materials.

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As you can see from the tags, we get a LOT of different things started indoors! This takes a lot of extra time and space, but saves an insane amount of money, especially since we started collecting our own seeds. If we bought all of our plants as plants, instead of starting our own seedlings, we would spend well over $1000 a year to grow the same amount of vegetables. By starting our own seeds, we get that cost well under $200 a year.

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Not all of the seedlings are ones that we intended! Every year, we get some 'volunteers' that pop up in unexpected places, like the tomatos you see below which have alread begun to flower.

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We also have some plants that come inside so we can have winter herbs, like the basil and chives in the picture below. Some have to come in because they are not hardy enough for our zone 5 winters, like the little lemon and avocado trees.

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Have you noticed how awful the pictures look? Well, thanks for not saying anything 😏. The wonderful new lights that I installed last year are great for the plants, not so good for photos. Everything gets washed in pink, and my phone camera has a hard time focusing. I had been turning the grow lights off to take pictures, which is a little better, as you can see below.

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Just yesterday, I noticed that my yellow-tinted safety glasses made it a lot easier on the eyes when staring at the seedling stands, so I decided to try a little experiment. By holding my safety glasses in front of the camera, it filters the light enough to get some decent looking pics without messing with my lights. It didn't help much for this post, but should improve things in the future.

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The picture below provides a pretty clear picture of the difference those yellow lenses make. Now that I know where to start, I have some other glasses to try out that will hopefully work even better as lens filters.

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We filled the stands upstairs quickly, so I've also been working on getting the downstairs seedling stands in better shape. I'll be adding my old cobbled lights from upstairs to the downstairs stands, which I'm hoping will increase the growth of our downstairs plants. Besides the light problems, downstairs seedlings also have to deal with cooler temperatures and extra pests.

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Below is a little preview of the new downstairs arrangement. I've wanted to do a separate post for these basement seedling shelves, but didn't take any pictures during the original build. Someday... I've also wanted to do a post about my cobbled lights, but I've been putting it off becuase you can now buy decent grow lights for about the same money I spent making these. Not all of the plants like the pink grow lights, though, especially the shade loving plants like thyme. As we figure out what likes to be where, I'll put together a post that talks more about which plants prefer which lights.

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We've never had this big of a head start on the growing season before, and we're getting really excited about our gardens this year. I'll be here, blogging about it as it happens, I hope to see you back as well! If you have any questions, advice, praise, or insults, let yourself be heard in the comments below!

Thanks for looking!

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