Friday, January 8

Seed Catalogs, January, Must be Time to Plant

January Means Catalogs, and That Means TV Planting Time
Seed catalogs arrive in my mailbox with ever-increasing frequency, so I know it must be January. The photos are beautiful, the vegetables luscious, and, well, I want it all. Unfortunately, I'm limited by the size of my gardens and, because the spring season is so short here in NC, there will only be a few cooler-month veggies and more focusing on an early summer garden.

But, planting has already begun! "What?," you say. That's right. Planting has already begun. Long before the seed merchants began using seed tapes and charging so much more for less, I had developed a method of not only planting my garden, but thinning and mulching at the same time. Doing it in the comfort of my living room. Watching TV.

These are my veggy nurseries. You can make as many as you think you'll need, even for successive plantings. The seeds are already in their final growing position and will only need to be thinned to the strongest when they sprout.  Pile them high, dry, and out of the reach of critters and you'll be ready to go.

These are paper towels, but you can also use newspaper, toilet tissue, anything that will dissolve into the soil. The name of the seeds is written in the corner so that you can find them when you want. They can also be torn into strips for more controlled plantings. With a waist-high 6'x24' container garden waiting for the "birthing sheets," this is raising laziness to a profession; yessirree.

Large Container Garden Based on Postage Stamp Gardening
The following photos show how they get 'planted' in the garden. (Pictures were taken from 2007 planting and resultant garden so you can see the results.) My container garden is based on Duane G. Newcomb's 1977 book Postage Stamp Gardening: Grow Tons of Vegetables in Small Places. That book is no longer available, but you can find an updated version at I've been using this method for a long, long, time. But, here's what happens when you finally decide to create your garden.

First of all, each spring, the garden is cleansed of carryover bugs and germs, sterilized by spending ten days under a hot sun covered with a sheet of black plastic held tight against the soil. (You don't want condensation to form under the plastic. You're cooking bugs, here!) Then a quick stir of the top soil and a light application of vegetable fertilizer and it's ready for this year's plantings. Veggies from the hot house will be transplanted, later.

Space is left for transplant vegetables and successive plantings to stretch the growing season.

The March seedlings are beginning to sprout and will be thinned to just one plant per group. 

Plants shade each other, preventing weeds from growing. Soil is so rich that roots grow straight down, allowing plants to grow closer together.

By April, this is one happy garden!

North end of garden in mid-May

South end of garden is where the herbs thrive.

Solar Cooking Garden-Fresh Vegetables Is Heaven on Earth
If you've never eaten a meal prepared with vegetables fresh from the garden, there's really no way for me to tell you what you're missing. Foods bought at the grocery stores are already a few days old and can't compete. A fresh salad has no equal. I built my container garden to be large and very accessible, with minimum work, providing a gracious bounty of salads and fresh vegetables from early May until, well, mid-December, as I showed you in my Pepperoni Spaghetti Sauce blog.

You may only be able to have small patio containers but the layering principle is the same. From the beginning, your garden is comparable to most well-maintained 20-year-old dug gardens. The top five inches of soil are all that needs to be turned and the entire garden can be done in under fifteen minutes. Even the biggest of plants can be removed without a shovel. Just a strong pulling pressure and it comes right out of the soil without bothering its neighbors.

Whatever you serve, garden-fresh vegetables have no equal.  There's just something about walking out to the garden to discover which herbs and vegetables will be ready for dinner. Whatever the garden offers, you know it's going to be good. I can't wait. . .

So, for the next few days, I'm going to be watching a lot of TV and planting this year's crop of delicious meals.


  1. Wow! I love this method of vegetable planting you have with the "birthing sheets".

    Just did get the Burpee catalog in the mail a few weeks ago, I also have some heirloom tomato seeds that could benefit from the sheet method.


  2. Thank you. The sheet method is perfect for smaller containers. I hope you give it a try. Just make sure each 'birthing sheet' has thoroughly dried before you stack it so that mold won't grow. They become quite stiff with the flour glue.

  3. Dear Sharlene,
    I felt like I had entered into my grandmothers garden. It was a wonderful feeling of comfort and confidence with the information you provide. I shall be sure to return for another treate of your wisdom. Thank you for sharing.
    Cheers PT
    You can visit me at

  4. Sharlene, I am with you! I just started growing some seeds for transplant. I have them in cups, in a sunny spot. Solar cooking is such an interesting topic. I will be back to learn more for sure.


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