6 Smart Reasons to Start Vegetable Plants from Seeds Indoors

by Ralph Valle 5. February 2014

Save Money Gardening

Although it’s only early February and Maryland temperatures are below freezing, you can do more than dream about your vegetable garden for the 2014 growing season. Why not consider growing your plants from seeds?  NOW is the perfect time for starting seeds indoors.

Six smart reasons to start vegetable plants from seeds indoors:

✓ SAVE TIME: By starting vegetables from seeds indoors, you gain 4 to 6 weeks over plants started by seeds in the ground.

✓ EARLY HARVEST: Maryland has short summers. Heat-loving plants like tomatoes and peppers, which need 65-80 days to bear ripe fruit, will get in the ground sooner and establish a strong root system for the hot summer months. This will allow you to harvest and enjoy them in early July instead of August.

✓ CHOICE: You have many more varieties to choose from since you are not limited to only those available at local stores. Burpee.com is one of several online stores that has a great selection of vegetables and flowers.

✓ SAVE MONEY: Growing your own plants from seeds instead of buying them, especially if you plan to have a full-sized garden, will save you a lot of money. Seeds are inexpensive. A packet of seeds averages less than $2 and some seeds are less than a dollar!

✓ CONTROL: You don't have to wait until the soil outside is warm enough to germinate the seeds. When the soil outside hasn't had time to warm up, the seeds will rot in the cool, damp garden soil.


Supplies and getting started

Getting started can be as easy as collecting some items around your house; several small containers, a few straight sticks, clear bags or plastic wrap, and some potting soil. By early- to mid-February, garden stores, big box stores and e-stores will have a wide selection of seeds to choose from. Read seed packets carefully, pick disease-resistant varieties and follow directions.

Fill containers, plant seeds at recommended depth, place a stick or two in the soil on opposite ends of the containers, water soil until moist, and drape a bag/plastic wrap to form an air tight seal around the total container. Place containers in an area in the house that is 65-75 degrees. Seeds do best in warm soil. Check every few days to make sure the soil does not dry out. Most seedlings will emerge in 10-14 days. Once the plants emerge, place in a southern exposed window as the plants need a lot of light. Remove plastic covers and water regularly.

DIY Seed Kid

For those that want to invest some money into this process, seed starter kits are available that include dome tops for the trays. Lights and even heat mats are available to help ensure a high percentage of your seeds will emerge and grow strong. The picture shows a DIY light kit that I built with some leftover scrap lumber, a seed kit with a dome and a heat pad.

This year I am growing lavender plants and they need constant heat at 70 degrees with light for up to 4 weeks until germination. Did I mention saving money? Small lavender plants will be $5 each in stores this spring, and I need about 12 plants to create a new border for my rose garden. The cost of the plants would be $60, the seeds were $1.99! Use Mariner360 to keep track of your gardening expenses and realize how much money you’re saving!

As the weather warms, set your young plants outside, in shade, a few hours each day to “harden off” the plants. This acclimates the plants to outside temperatures and weather conditions. Plant directly in a well-prepared garden bed after the last day of frost warning. Maryland has several micro climates, so do a web search to check frost dates where you live, and while you’re at it, read some other articles with more detail than this blog on how to grow vegetables from seeds.

 If you never have grown plants from seeds, or even if you have tried and failed, now is the time to consider trying again! It’s rewarding in a variety of ways and it’s a lot of fun!

Ralph G. Valle is a Marketing professor at Towson University and an avid, award-winning gardener of over 35 years.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

Is Growing a Garden "Worth It"?

The Finances of Eating and Living Healthy

Summer Food Savings: Buy Local

Cheap Eats on Super Bowl Sunday

by Renee' Anderson 31. January 2014

Nachos with Chilli

So the Ravens aren’t in the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy a good football game, watch some of the year’s best commercials, eat, drink, and be merry.

Here are some inexpensive food ideas for your Super Bowl gathering. All of these and more can also be found on our Pinterest page. Whether you’re keeping it simple or inviting a crowd, these are sure to please, and won’t dent your wallet.

1) Build Your Own Nacho Bar

This is fun way to feed a crowd and please different taste buds. Pick your own nacho toppings! Buy whatever tortilla chips are on sale this week, and gather some inexpensive toppings - big jar of salsa (or go even cheaper and make your own), canned beans, cheese/cheese sauce, make some guacamole, etc. If you want to have meat for your nacho bar, just throw some pork or beef in a crock pot.

2) Meatballs

Sweet and sour or marina sauce? Either option is easy and cheap! Make the meatballs yourself. It’s a little more time consuming, but it will definitely save you some money, especially if you’re feeding a crowd. If you want nice juicy meatballs, be sure to buy the 85% lean beef; if you’re being health conscious, get 93%.

3) Mini Corn Dog Muffins

These are great for the youngin’s. Grab a $1 box of corn muffin mix and a pack of hot dogs on sale and whip up some mini corn dogs!

4) Cheesy Football

The perfect snack for game day, this looks the part and taste yummy! Take your favorite cheeseball recipe, and simply shape it into a football. Add the “stitches” to the top to make it look like a football (use pimentos or whatever you can come up with).

5) Popcorn Bar

So clearly I’m liking the “Build Your Own” concept this year. Who wouldn’t? It’s easy, it’s fun, and it will please everyone because THEY decide what they will eat. Pop some kernels, grab some fixings (salt, butter, M&M’s®, peanuts, etc.), and let everyone come up with their own creation.

6) Dessert

Keep it simple with cupcakes shaped like a football. Let’s be honest, boxed cake mixes often taste better than homemade recipes. So, buy a box, mix and bake. Throw some butter, powdered sugar and milk in a mixer (KitchenAid® if you have one), and there you have it. Cheap, easy, and delicious! Of course, decorate as desired; throw some colored sprinkles, M&M's®, icing colors, etc. on top to represent your favorite team.

Another tip - stop by the dollar store and grab some paper products on the cheap to jazz up the house!

Don't forget to visit our Pinterest page for more ideas.


10 Affordable Ways to Survive the Polar Vortex

by Erica Starr 29. January 2014

Baltimore Snow

Welcome to Baltimore folks! The home of the blue crab, Old Bay, Berger cookies and the most recent addition to its resume’, the co-host of the 2014 Polar Vortex. According to the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore has racked up the most single digit temperature lows for the month of January since 1982. While that heart-warming statistic may not make you all warm and fuzzy inside, these money saving tips just might do the trick AND teach you a thing or two on how to save money at the same time.

Money Saving Tips to Survive Baltimore's Polar Votex:

1) 86 the Jewelry

As soon as the frigid air hits the metal of your latest and greatest accessories, they start absorbing the temperature. Fast forward a few moments and you now have a pair of ice cubes hanging from your ears instead of the dangly earring you thought you put on in the morning.

2) Bake Cookies

Bake anything for that matter. 375 degrees is pretty darn warm, so after you’ve taken your batch of mouthwatering chocolate chip cookies out of the oven, turn it off (write that down…turn it off) and leave the door open while it cools down. Heck, just using your oven often heats up your kitchen, so why not kill two birds with one stone – food and heat; multitasking at its finest.

3) Reverse, Reverse

While you may typically use your ceiling fans to cool down, running your fan on low in reverse actually pushes any warm air in the room down to your living area. Yes, running the fan in any capacity can increase your electric bill but because you are keeping it on low, the impact to your monthly bill will be minimal, if any.

4) Uncover Vents

This may seem like common sense, but when you are pressed for space in your living area (i.e. a Canton rowhome), a lot of times we forget about the vents that we covered up when we bought that new couch. Just do a quick walk-through of your house and make sure that nothing (furniture, towels, boxes, and pets) is covering up your vents, preventing the hot air from circulating properly. If your vents are covered, your furnace is working double (and charging double) to heat an area that will never be adequately heated.

5) Hot Beverages are Your Friend

Whether it’s coffee, tea, hot chocolate or your grandmother’s famous hot tottie, cozying up with a warm drink can help keep even the coldest of January days more bearable.

6) Dodge the Drafts

Putting Door Draft Dodgers™ against the bottom of your outside doors and windows may prove to be the best Polar Vortex $10.00 you’ll ever spend. These extremely affordable, genius inventions will not only help keep the cold air out, but you’ll also be saving on your monthly energy bills as your heating units won’t have to work as hard.

7) Who Doesn't Love Fuzzy Socks?

And here you thought you’d never get any use out of the fuzzy socks that you got for Christmas all those years. After you call your Mom and thank her, break out a pair or two of your favorite wool or fuzzy socks. Again – two birds with one stone – bonus points with the Mom AND warm feet – the multitasking continues.

8) Change Your Furnice Filters

When is the last time you changed the filters in your furnace? If you can’t remember, chances are it’s time to change them. Even if you can remember, it can’t hurt to check them and make sure they are clean and working effectively. Changing or cleaning your filters regularly will also help you increase the efficiency and life expectancy of your furnace while helping you cut energy costs.

9) Teach Me How to Snuggie

Yep – we said it. Don’t lie, you know you have, or at least want, a Snuggie®. Worst case scenario, put your robe on backwards, it’s really the same thing AND costs you ZERO dollars.

10) Cuddle up with Your 4-Legged Friend

Nothing is more heart-warming than sitting down on the couch and cuddling up with your 4-legged K9 or feline friend after a cold, blustery day. Trust me; if nothing else, it will put a smile on your face.

So there you have it: the official Baltimore Polar Vortex Survival Guide. We fully expect all of you to go home, take off your jewelry, break out the Snuggie® (equipped with fuzzy socks) and cuddle up on the couch with your favorite K9 or feline while eating chocolate chip cookies and enjoying a giant cup of tea. What more affordable way can you think of to stay warm, save money and eat chocolate chip cookies? Again with the multitasking…it’s like you’re a multitasking, money saving Czar or something.

Stay warm out there, Baltimore!

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

The Best Things to Buy in the Winter

Spring Forward with These 5 Energy Saving Tips

How to Stay Cool when Temperatures are Hot

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