I integrate a variety of growing methods into my urban potager, and John Jeavons biointensive is one that I find works well for small spaces. I start in January, and I am in the dirt until fall! This year I am growing more plants for people who need help growing. My newspaper pots are the most affordable way to get plants from seed to bed without a lot of fuss or mess! I will be working on some projects locally to help others grow food in our Quad City community.
A seed takes a journey in my growing room to get to its newspaper pot…
It always starts with my own seed or fresh organic seed from a safe seed pledge company each season. I use old medicine bottles or glass bottles that I keep around for my seed saving. I also save a lot of my seed in the fridge/freezer/cool basement since many companies will stop carrying some of my favorites. This year I am collecting my old-fashioned pansy mix since last year there were only 2 seed sources in the USA. I love this old mix, but our zone 5 weather does not ensure it will winter over.
I start all my seed after I have researched how best to germinate the seed. Some seed may need to be kept in the fridge for a month or more, presoaked, nicked, or in the dark until germination begins. This year I have been trying a variety of seed starting mixes as well as making my own.
I usually start them in small growing trays (8 x 8) where they germinate. I then lift them out very delicately. I have tried a variety of tools, but my best tool is an old spoon from my house that is used for ice cream floats! It has a nice long handle and thin base.
There are some plants that do not like to have their roots disturbed, so I germinate them in paper pots/paper pulp pots. Newspaper/Pulp pots are perfect since their roots can perforate the paper later when they are placed outside in the soil.
Here is some Palla Rossa red radicchio, which works wonderfully in the spring, I started them in January.I placed them in a “50 tray” here back in January and later transplanted them to paper pots since our winter does not seem to be letting up and they were getting too large for the tray.
I started them in January + in February I put them in paper pots. They will go in the garden in Mid March after I harden them off outside.
It always amazes me how developed the roots on these seedlings are in the first few weeks of life….a seed contains everything it needs until it gets it first true leaves. It never ceases to amaze me!
I started a lot of native plants this year as well as our cole crops for spring salads. I can hardly wait!!!
Growing from seed has taught me about patience. These Agastache foeniculum were slow to germinate among my natives. They were up to a month later with their germinating and very slow to be large enough for a 50 tray/paper pots. They are a favorite with bees in our urban potager and well worth the long wait.
Here, I am placing them in paper pots next to Swiss chard + Gaillardia + Rudbeckia which was started around the same time. I have learned to give certain seeds a bit more time to germinate, don’t give up on them too fast!
I needed to use a larger bottle to roll these paper pots since some of my natives are getting a bit crowded in their smaller pots. I have found it you go to YouTube and type in “rolling newspaper pots” for starting seeds you will find a variety of choices. You can make them round, square, thicker, more substantial, etc. Try a few types to see which ones work for you in your seed starting.
I have a 3 season rotation system + sometimes a growing area will rest with plants feeding the soil. I have perennials mixed in beds for companion planting, which remains, from season to season.I have adapted the concepts of biointensive to my urban potager. I do set plants closely together, rotate, build soil, but due to my heavy clay soil, I used lasagna gardening to start my beds. As you study your space and look at the various “growing methods”, and integrate you own approach to your area.I like to mix annual or perennial flowers, vegetables + herbs together, so they work together to create their own community!