Everything You Need to Know About Hardening Off Seedlings

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Everything You Need to Know About Hardening Off Seedlings

One of the biggest mistakes newbies make when it comes to starting their plants from seeds is to just throw them out into the garden without hardening them off first.  Hardening off plants is basically SLOWLY getting them used to the outdoors.  Plants started indoors have only known the minutely variable climate of the indoors.  They have probably had the luxury of a steady grow light, and have not had to withstand the afternoon sun, wind, or fluctuations in the temperature.  Hardening off is basically introducing them to the outdoor variables slowly, so that when it is finally time to plant, they have toughened up a bit.

How long you harden off your plants really depends on your location.  I usually harden mine off for about seven days, but here in Seattle, the weather is mild.  In areas with significantly cooler morning or nighttime temperatures, you may want to shoot for longer…say, like two weeks.

How to Harden Off Seedlings

To start the hardening off process, scale back on watering, and stop fertilizing all together.  Set the seedlings outside in the shade for a couple of hours and bring them in at night.  Each day, increase how long you leave them outdoors and how much direct sunlight they are exposed to.  After several days {again, depending on how long you plan to stretch out the process}, leave the plants outside all night.  For me, this is around day seven.  Make sure to check nighttime temperatures, just to be safe.  If the nighttime temperatures are still too cold, it will be too early to plant your seedlings anyway.

How to Harden Off Seedlings zinnia

Once your seedlings have spent a couple of lonely nights outdoors, you can go ahead and transplant them into the garden beds.  Make sure to water them in well.  You can also start back up on your fertilizer routine once they are transplanted {if you have a fertilizer routine–also, “fertilizer routine” makes it sound like you should have a musical number and a baton}.

Chinese cabbage seedlings organic garden

It’s the worst to invest time and energy growing seedlings only to have them die after you plant them. Hardening them off is basically like a little insurance policy for your time and effort.


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Do You Have a Favorite Houseplant?

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I am in the market for a houseplant.   Just something green to set in my kitchen window.  On top of a little bit of color in the kitchen, houseplants have tons of air purification qualities.  One little plant can help you breath easier–and unlike humans, they love it when you breath in their face.  Plus, according to a study cited on Huffington Post, plants have a mood boosting effects–I’m pretty sure gardeners everywhere didn’t need a study to confirm this one.

I don’t have many requirements.  I want a plant that looks good, is low maintenance, and that has a reputation for cleaning the air…okay, maybe that is a lot to ask {might as well throw in that I wouldn’t mind if the plant could solve world hunger :) }.

I made a list…because I love lists.  I might one day make a list of all of the lists I need to make.  I digress.  I made a list of some of the plants I am considering.  I am sharing my list, because I’ve done waaaay more research than any one person should do on a houseplant, and now, you don’t have to. No need to thank me.

aloe plant


I like Aloe because it thrives in a sunny location.  It doesn’t need a ton of water–in fact, it prefers a little neglect.  Best of all, when I burn myself in the kitchen, which I do like once a week, I can slice a little piece off and soothe my blisters.  It would be like having a little pal in the kitchen that requires almost nothing of  me, but gives, gives, gives.

english ivy

English Ivy

English Ivy is classic.  It screams classy, which hopefully will fool others into thinking that I am classy.  The only thing I don’t love about this one is that I prefers cooler temperatures–and with all of the baking/cooking I do, the kitchen tends to be quite a bit warmer than the rest of the house.  Still, it would be very Downton Abbey of me, and I may chance it.

spider plant

Spider Plant

Spider plants add a pretty big boost of green to where ever you set them.  They are one of the top air purifiers.  They are virtually impossible to kill and are fast growers.  The only thing I don’t love about them is that they are common.  It’s not that out of the ordinary to see one, so occasionally they fade into the background.

peace lily

Peace Lily

Peace lilies are another common choice for air purification.  I like these because they flower–which adds another element of awesomeness.  They have the same downside as English Ivy for me, though, in that they don’t do as well in higher temperatures…which it’s not like I am cranking out 70 plus degree temperatures on a regular basis, but like I said, I am really looking for low maintenance, and not giving it its preferred environment might mean more work for me.  Also, these ones are a little taller, and I don’t want the plant to block my whole view of the outside, just add a little splash of life.

purple orchidOrchid

Orchids are super popular right now.  They come in a ton of different colors.  Caring for them is pretty easy, once you know how.  The only thing is that they bloom for several months, then you’re done.  You have to start over.  They have HUGE visual appeal, though, and make any space seem graceful and feng shui.

jade plantJade Plant

Jade plants are succulents, and I have never met a succulent I don’t like.  They call to me, visually, what can I say?  I like this option because of the way they look, the fact that they aren’t bothered by normal fluctuations in room temperature, and wait for it…they thrive on a little watering neglect.  They also live forever {okay, maybe not literally}, but they do live for YEARS.  They grow slowly, so it’s one of those plants that you can grow attached to.  They’ll witness graduations, Christmas dinners, births, deaths…and there is something comforting about knowing that they’ll be there with you every step of the way {I might have an unhealthy relationship with plants, but I accept it}.

There are obviously a ton more to choose from, but those are the ones I am tossing around for the space that I have.  Do you have any other suggestions?


This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

March Home Maintenance and Garden Chores

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mavis garden blog

This time of year is soooooo hard for me, because the weather is starting to get nice and I really just want to plant EVERYTHING.  I feel like a caged horse that needs to run–I have to keep my cool, though, and wait it out.  Luckily, there are plenty of things I can start, which usually distracts me from getting over-zealous and planting outside too early.:)

growing herbs under grow lights

Seeds to Start Indoors in March

This month, I plan on continuing to take care of the seeds I started last month.  I started basil before I left on vacation {fingers crossed the HH has kept it watered}.  My freezer is getting low on pesto, so this new batch couldn’t come soon enough.

planting peas

Seeds to Start Outdoors in March

I plan on sowing my lettuce, {more} peas, radish and spinach seeds directly outdoors this month.  I probably could have started some of them last month, but I have found that they grow about the same rate when I plant them in February vs. March {I think it’s because the cold slows down the germination process considerably  in February, but that’s just a theory}.  Plus, I still had some prep work to do in the yard, so it worked out okay. Towards the end of the month, I will also start swiss chard and beets outside.

blueberry bushes raintree nursery

What I plan to Transplant Outside this Month

I don’t really have anything to transplant outside this month.  If you started lettuce indoors {or any of the other above mentioned plants}, you can harden them off and plant them outside if the weather in your area is mild like mine.  It’s also a good time toplant strawberries, blueberries or raspberries.  I planted those last month, but again, my area is super mild weathered.

growing sprouts

Vegetables to Harvest this Month

Again, the only thing I’ll be harvesting this month are sprouts from my Botanical Interests Sprouter.

Houseplants and Indoor Bulbs 

As the days get longer, you may see houseplants start to perk up a bit.  If you didn’t last month, give them a diluted fertilizer this month to ease them awake.  If you forced bulbs, you probably are seeing green shoots by now.  Make sure to continue to water them {but not over water}.

fiskars garden pruners

Basic Yard Maintenance

If you couldn’t get outside last month, prune fruit trees and other bushes this month before they start to bud.  It’s also a good time to spray dormant oil on your fruit trees {as long as you have a 48 hour window of no freezing temps}.  If you are just starting your garden area, this is a good month to dig it out and create your space {assuming you are not dealing with a rock solid frozen tundra still}.  I’ll be busy most of the month getting my gardening beds ready {provided the HOA decides to cooperate}.

Home Maintenance Outside

March is pretty much the last low-maintenance month, so unless you have basic repairs, you can rest easy.  Get pruning shears, etc. sharpened if they need to be so that you can tackle the growing season without grunts the neighbors can hear.

Home Maintenance Inside

Finish up your de-cluttering, if you committed to it this year.  Next month will bring a lot more consistently nice weather and you will want to be able to get out and enjoy it.  It’s a good time to start your spring cleaning too.  Wash bedding, give the ceiling fans a good dusting, vacuum baseboards, etc.

As always, most of my advice is geared around the Northwest, but you can find your garden zone HERE and tweak my suggestions as necessary.


This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Dig For Your Dinner – Growing Heirloom Tomatoes From Seed

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heirloom tomatoes

It’s my favorite time of year.  Yesterday, I planted my heirloom tomato seeds.  I grow tons of stuff for the garden, but somehow, growing tomatoes makes me feel all warm and garden-y inside {garden-y is definitely a word}.  Maybe it’s that they kick off the warm season veggies, or that they produce pounds and pounds of produce, or maybe it’s just that it makes my nerdy little gardening heart happy–whatever.  All I know is that I love all things tomatoes…tomato sauce, salsa, pizza sauce {please read like Bubba from Forrest Gump}.

planting tomato seeds

If you have never grown Heirloom tomatoes, you are seriously in for a treat.  They each have a super unique flavor, and it’s near impossible to get them at the grocery store.

tomato seedlings

How to Grow Heirloom Tomatoes

If you are starting tomato seeds indoors, I really do recommend a grow light–otherwise, they get super leggy {spindly looking} and just don’t turn out as strong.  Plant seeds about 1/8″ deep.  Plant a couple of seeds in each pot to ensure germination.  when they are about 2″ tall, thin them down to one seedling per pot.  Tomatoes like the soil to be pretty darn warm, so make sure to keep them in a warmer spot in the house, and if you are using a window for light, make sure there isn’t a draft.

tomato seedlings under grow lights

If you do have a grow light, keep the light about 3″ inches from the top of the soil and maintain that spacing as the seedlings emerge.  Tomatoes will lose their first set of leaves, and then the true leaves will appear, so don’t be alarmed.  You will need to transplant them into larger pots before they are ready to go outside, then put them under the grow lights for a couple of weeks.  They will be ready to transplant outside in about 8 weeks {provided that the weather is warm enough}.

tomato plants organic gardening

To transplant them outdoors, make sure to harden them off first.  Choose a sunny, well-drained location.  When you  plant them, plant them and their lowest set of leaves in the dirt.  That will encourage better rooting.  I like to trim up the rest of the leaves so that when I water, it doesn’t splash up onto the leaves and cause disease.  Tomaters hate to have their leaves wet.  Put a tomato cage around the plant, being careful not to drive the wire into the roots.  You can also stake the plants, if you have lots of plants or don’t want to buy cages.

If space is an issue, you can grow your tomatoes upside down in hanging baskets or in a Topsy Turvy.


When Are Tomatoes Ready to Harvest?

Tomatoes are ready to harvest when they have developed a deep red, orange, purple {whatever the variety you are growing} color and are firm to the touch.  They may still have a little yellow around the stem.  Just pluck them off of the vine with your fingers.  Tomatoes that are ready to harvest will pull from the vine fairly easily–if you need to put your back into it, you may want to give it another day or two.

purple Cherokee heirloom tomato

My Favorite Tomato Recipes:

Heirloom Tomato Sauce RecipeHeirloom Tomato Sauce

baked-tomatoesBaked Tomatoes with Pine Nut and Basil

recipe-crock-pot-pizza-sauceHomemade Crock Pot Pizza Sauce

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Starting Seedlings Under Grow Lights vs. Natural Light

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tomato seedlings in greenhouse

Starting your garden from seeds is undoubtedly cheaper {and more gratifying} than starting them from plants from the nursery.  Investing in a grow light is one of those, “Should I, shouldn’t I?” sort of dilemmas a lot of people teeter back and forth on.  In the end, only you can decide how much of an investment you want to make, but I will say, unless you have really great natural light {which doesn’t exist here in Seattle during seed starting time}, starting with natural light can be a bit of a gamble.  Still, it is absolutely possible to get healthy plants with this method, so I thought I would give a quick overview before we jump full steam ahead into seed starting season.

leggy plant

Let’s start with natural light.  First, a south facing window is going to be your best bet.  It will get the most light.  The problem with a window sill is that you will only get light from one direction, which may result in some leggy plants.  So, you will want to rotate the seedlings regularly–and make sure that they don’t get too cold next to a window {most plants like the temperature to be about 75 degrees for at least the bulk of the day in order to germinate}.  If you want them to grow tall and straight, they will need to receive their light from above, like the sun provides naturally.

tomatoes in greenhouse

Unless you have a heated greenhouse, that can be tricky.  {If you do have a temperate green house, natural light rocks.}  If you are going with natural light, I recommend less temperamental seedlings–like pumpkins, zucchini, and the like.  Tomatoes and peppers, in my opinion, are the most difficult to start indoors, and really darn hard if you aren’t using a grow light.

grow lights seedlings

Okay, now onto grow lights.  Once you have grown seedlings under a grow light, you can totally see why people push them.  You will have more consistent germination rates and stronger resulting plants.  Plain and simple.  You don’t necessarily have to invest in a grow light set-up {though, I will admit, I don’t regret having done so myself one bit}.  Grow lights typically have the full-spectrum of light, as sunlight would provide, though, not always.  Florescent bulbs that are attached to some sort of system that can be raised or lowered really do work just fine, if you want to keep costs lower.


Either way, you will want to be able to raise and lower your light source, as seedlings seem to do best when the light source is only about 3-4″ above them.  The warmth from the light source will also mimic the fluctuations in daily temperature that plants would experience in nature.  When the light source is on, it will put off a little more heat, making the plants warmer.  When you turn it off at night, the temperature will naturally drop a little bit.  Plants love that crap.

miracle Gro potting mix

No matter what light you choose, make sure to choose an appropriate growing medium.  Seed starting mixes are nice, because they kind of take the guess work out of the equation. I prefer starting my seeds in Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Mix {found at the Home Depot for about $4 a bag}. Ultimately, you want to have light airy soil, so that you don’t drown and/or suffocate tender seedlings and their roots.  Moisture and oxygen is vital to the whole germination process–getting that balance right is a real pain in the butt if you are a first timer.  Don’t worry, though, as time goes on, you’ll learn.  It’s totally a process, so don’t give up on starting seeds yourself.  If you do decide to use lights to start you seeds, keep them on for 12-14 hours per day.

kale swiss chard seedlings

Overall, I think you have to decide what you want from your garden.  If you are looking to grow heirloom variety plants that aren’t usually available at the nurseries, invest in a grow light and go nuts. If you are just looking to save some moolah and plan on planting the basics, test the natural light waters–you can always pick up a few “filler” plants at the nursery if you don’t get a full enough crop out of your seedlings.

For those of you that are seed-starting pros, how do YOU prefer to start your seeds…grow lights or natural light?


This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Winter Gardening – Growing Paperwhites Indoors

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Growing Paperwhites Indoors

I picked up some paperwhites at The Home Depot sale yesterday.  I plan on growing them in my kitchen window so that they will be ready for my holiday table.  They are super easy to grow indoors, and by the time the gray days of winter set in, it’s kind of nice to bring the outdoors in.

They also work as a fantastic last minute birthday or hostess gift if you are in a pinch, because you can simply take them off of your counter and hand them to someone {not that I’ve every done that before or anything}. ;)

planting paperwhites

You’ll Need:

  • A container {only about 3-4″ deep} with no drainage holes
  • Gravel or polished rocks
  • Paperwhites
  • Moss {optional}

planting paperwhites for December blooms


Put about 2″ of gravel or polished rocks in the bottom of your container and spread it out evenly.  Set the bulbs on top of the gravel, pointed end up. I like to pack ‘em in there, because they end up looking better in a big bunch.  Add another layer of gravel on top, but leave the pointed tops uncovered. I always like to add a little bit of moss on top of the gravel/rocks because I think it looks kind of cool {and HELLO, I have oodles of it}.

planting paperwhites

Add water to the container–enough that the water reaches the bottom of the bulb.  Careful not to cover the bulb with water, though, or it will rot. Store the container in a cool dark place until they start to develop roots.  You may need to add water every so often.  When the roots form, move the container to a sunny window sill and let them bloom.  Once they have bloomed, move them away from direct light, and they will last longer–which is perfect, because that’s about when you’ll want to put them on the table.

chicken in grass

Happy planting,

~ Mavis


This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

The Urban Cultivator

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I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get totally discouraged at the whole idea of technology taking over our daily lives–pulling us away from the whole cycle of life happening out of doors, so when I found out about the Urban Cultivator on Treehugger, I kind of felt like technology was redeeming itself a bit.  I mean, if we are going to have appliances, why not have ones that allow us to become a little more independent with our food sources?

The Urban Cultivator is basically an indoor growing system–designed to provide the right amount of light, water, etc. so that you can grown your own greens year round right in your kitchen.  I know, you can do this in little pots near the window, but this totally amps up the process.  I like the idea that it fits under the counter–like a little mini-fridge.  The whole idea is in support of a zero mile diet.  You grow it, you harvest it, you eat it.  The energy used to keep the appliance going is far less than the energy used to truck your herbs and greens to your grocery store.  The one drawback is that they cost a small fortune {about $2500–yikes!}.

Maybe they will be like flat screen t.v.’s used to seem–totally out of reach, and then one day, bam! you can pick it up on a Black Friday deal at Walmart for a steal, and the next thing you know, everyone has one?

What do you think, would you want one of these bad boys in your kitchen?


This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Indoor Gardening – Seeds to Sprouts in 5 Days or Less

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growing sprouts at home

One of the things I’ve been struggling with during this whole remodel process is the fact that I just can’t go outside and garden anytime I feel like it. And it’s starting to wear on my nerves. I’m getting cranky. Really, really, cranky.

For starters, it’s fall, which means the daylight hours for working outside are pretty limited to begin with. Basically, if I can’t get my garden chores done between 8 am and 4 pm they’re not going to get done.

Which wouldn’t be a problem under normal circumstances because I could just put them off to the next day, but I don’t have that luxury right now. When the workers are here I have to keep Lucy upstairs in the office with me {while I work on the blog}, or take her to doggy day care so I can help out with the remodel downstairs, and usually those are during daylight hours.

But even on the days when the workers aren’t here, getting outside to garden is a struggle as well. The whole house is torn up right now and Lucy can’t really roam around or watch me from the windows for more than 5 minutes at a time without getting into some sort of puggle trouble. Plus, there’s no where for her to lounge. We have no couches!! Yet, my list of garden chores keeps growing, and nothing is getting checked off the list.

So this morning I decided to start some sprouts, indoors, on my new kitchen windowsill. Sure the window area not be trimmed out and put together yet, but I felt like if I didn’t do something garden related, I would majorly freak out. {Deep breath.} In doing so, I unknowingly made a few menu plan decisions for this week as well. {High five!}

Indoor Gardening - Seeds to Sprouts

So this week I’m growing mung bean sprouts for our favorite stir fry dish, alfalfa sprouts for an egg salad sandwich, and sprouted garbanzo beans for a broccoli rabb and bacon dish. The cook top should be hooked up tomorrow and if not, I’ll just whip up the recipes in the electric skillet.

botanical interests seed sprouter

If you’ve never sprouted seeds before, it’s ridiculously easy. Simply soak your seeds in water overnight {about 8 to 12 hours} and then place them in your sprouting container. Rinse at least twice daily until sprouts have reached the length you desire {about 5 days for me}. I’ll share my progress each afternoon this week so you can see just how easy this whole sprouting thing is.

Garden therapy, I think we could all use a little right now. ;)

How about YOU? Are you into sprouts?


P.S. Most companies suggest that before you actually start your sprouts, to disinfect the seeds by placing them in a mixture of 2% bleach solution {1 cup water to 1tsp. bleach} for 15 minutes.  From there you simply rinse the seeds thoroughly and you are ready to go.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Mavis Garden Blog – Pruning Rhododendrons, Planting Carrots and Planning My Winter Garden

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Pruning Rhododendrons

I know the rhododendron is the state flower of Washington state, and tons of people love them, but I despise rhodies with a every fiber of my being. And unfortunately the house we bought has like 10 million rhododendrons on the property.
chopping rhododendrons

I don’t know what the plant did to me in a previous life, but I aim to chop down every single one of them on my property by next spring. Sadly though I can only do it one yard waste bin at a time. :( At our other place I could just heave unwanted brush over the back fence… but not here, so it’s going to take some time.

blowing leaves

Another thing that’s a little different with this property are all the pine needles. Monkey Boy blows them into a pile for me to rake up at least once a week but it’s still not enough to keep on top of them.

We had tall pine trees all over our last backyard but they were spread so far a part I guess I never really noticed what nuisance they can be when you are trying to keep a garden path clear all the time.

I may have to rethink my brick and pea gravel walkway I had planned to build this winter and switch to a brick and mulch walkway instead. If I don’t I think I’ll  loose my mind trying to keep all the pine needles out of the pathway during the spring and summer months when I’ll be using it everyday.botanical interests seed tape

On a brighter note… my Botanical Interests Seed order arrived yesterday! :) :) :)

botanical interests seeds

I can’t wait to put all these babies to use in my winter garden. Our remodel should be done in just a few more weeks {and so will all my indoor projects} and then I’ll get to work on this years winter garden. There is SO MUCH TO DO before next spring!!! Holy cats people, starting over is hard work.jiffy pots under lights

Luckily though I was able to get a jump start on things indoors. I planted basil seeds a few days ago under the grow lights and plan on getting a few more things planted this weekend so when I do finally get going on the backyard garden, I’ll have something to put in the ground {the basil will stay indoors though}.

How is your garden doing these days? Are you done for the year, so are you just getting started?

Mavis wants to know.

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Mavis Garden Blog – Planting Cabbage and Lettuce for My Winter Garden

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planting vegetables in a stock tank

Yesterday I was able to sneak outside for a bit and get a jump start on my winter garden. I planted 3 purple cabbage and 2 packets of lettuce seeds in the stock tank turned planter alongside the house. I ordered some Carnival Carrots and Detroit Dark Red Beet seeds from Botanical Interests over the weekend, and as soon as they get here, those will go in the planter as well.

cabbage plant

I also planted a few more cabbage plants and some cauliflower starts in the big pots along the back of the house as well. Normally I would have planted these in early September, but with the move and remodel going on, I’m a little late this year. But I’m optimistic. Unless we have a ridiculously cold winter, I should be harvesting cabbage towards the beginning of next year. It’s a long time to wait for a head of cabbage, but at will at least give me something to look forward to as I map out my garden for next year.

growing basil indoors

And today, I hope to find the grow lights {buried in the garage somewhere} so I can get some basil going indoors. Which I think will look pretty darn fantastic once my kitchen window area gets put back together.

Gardening, there’s always something you can grow!


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