Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.


Seedling Starter Kits at 4 Weeks

Midsummer can be a challenging time for my front lawn ornamental edible vegetable garden (see below). It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s buggy. Plants react in different ways to the summer season depending on their issue; some thrive, others have giant bug holes in them, a few go to seed, and my personal Drama Queen favorite – the veggie sprawls on the ground like a dying opera singer. All these issues can be solved by growing replacement seedlings and replacing the old with the new. Grow seedlings at this time also to build your cold weather vegetables for Fall planting. This season I conducted an experiment to see how seed starting kits worked in the heat of midsummer and here are the results.

Shawna Coronado Front Lawn Vegetable Garden

Seedling kit watering

Growing Seedlings Experiment Conditions:

Each system was planted with Botanical Interests Dwarf Blue Curled Heirloom Kale. I used Organic Mechanics Seed Starting Blend as the starting soil for three of the kits. Once planted and watered the first time (above), I never watered any of the growing systems again. I kept the growing systems outside in semi-shade and did receive some rain throughout the testing. Results are after four weeks of growth from seed to plant. You can see the final growing result in the photo at the top of this post.

Seedling Kit SteadyGROWpro

SteadyGROWPro Seed Starting Kit

Eco-friendly SteadyGROWpro grow medium is used to grow seeds hydroponically, it’s a wonderful solution for producing seedlings for the garden without soil. With the SteadyGROWpro kit  (a smaller sample kit is shown above) I did not add additional organic fertilizer, so you can tell the plants stayed a bit smaller. However, it worked great for me. It is the least expensive of the four seed starting kits and by not growing with soil it saved even more money. A good solution for when you are interested in transplanting plants later or if you are keeping the seedlings in a hydroponic system. One kit of 24 seed spots retails for $8.99.

Seedling Peel Away kit

Peel-Away 4” Pot Kit

Need to transplant your plants? It is no problem with this Peel-Away 4” Pot Kit from Gardener’s Supply made from VELCRO® brand fabric (above). Removing plants without disturbing the roots and minimizing transplant shock is the goal with these 3 innovative pots. Building the containers is easy and each tray uses a reservoir and a wicking capillary mat to water the plants as they need it from the roots; it came with simple instructions. I really liked that you can wash pots and store flat for reuse next season. Comes in red or brown. One kit retails for $24.95.

Seedling Peel Away Kit assembled

Peel-Away 2” Pot Kit

Like it’s big brother kit above, this Peel-Away 2” Pot Kit from Gardener’s Supply made from VELCRO® brand fabric is an easy solution to transplant small seedlings without disturbing their roots. For some reason the seedlings grew better in the 4” fabric pots, rather than in these 2” pots (see top photo). There are 12 foldable growing pots that rest on a reservoir with a wicking capillary mat to water the plants as they need it from the bottom (above). Wash pots and store flat for reuse next season. Comes in red or brown. One kit retails for $24.95.

Seedling APS-24 Growing System

Gardener’s Supply APS-24 Growing System

This 24 seedling growing system (above) is an all-in-one unit that ensures a regular supply of water for the little seedlings. There is an insulated growing tray with greenhouse cover in case the temperatures drop. A capillary mat and reservoir lets seedlings drink water as needed. This system is best used for starting plants that will be transplanted while still small and I found it super-easy to use. Comes in white. One kit retails for $19.95.

Seedling Kits planted up

All the seed starting kits were successful (see top photo) and could easily start different types of plants dependent upon your needs. Whether you are growing your Fall cool-season seedlings or replacements for the front lawn vegetable garden, now is the time to get started on the second round of garden growing.

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.

Lady Fern and Halcyon Hosta

When I was young I loved visiting my grandmother’s shady perennial beds in central Indiana. They were filled with every leafy shape the mind could imagine, yet rarely a flower could be found. My grandmother taught me that there are other beautiful options that can bring just as much joy to your gardening heart. Both foliage and decorative glass offer colorful alternatives to the traditional blooming beds and I use them as much as I can in my own garden.


Planning your foliage garden well means your garden can stay beautiful year round without flowers. Mixing leaf structures and plant heights adds interest. At the top you see Fern ‘lady fern’ mixed with Hosta ‘halcyon’ in my side garden at home. I love the blue of the hosta because it contrasts marvelously with the bright green of the soft, feathery-leaved ferns.

A favorite combination is to mix some coleus love into my shade vegetable containers. Lacinto Kale from Bonnie Plants and Coleus from Hort Couture’s ‘Under the Sea’ line make a fabulous color splash together. No flowers can be seen, but the foliage color is astounding and really adds to a shade patio container arrangement (see below).

Lacinto Kale with Coleus

Heuchera and Hosta

Mixing Heuchera and Hosta together can be a brilliant foliage combination. In the garden bed above you see a random bed plan of Heuchera ‘snow angel’ and Heuchera ‘beaujolais’ mixed with Hosta ‘krossa regal’, Hosta ‘gold standard’, and Hosta ‘half and half’.

wine bottle border


Bottle Tree along pathWant to keep your perennials in place while adding color and interest with glass? Bring whimsical glass accessories in to the garden beds. I have endless wine bottle paths (photo above) draped with ground cover and a fantastic bottle tree (photo right) I found at Carolee’s Herb Farm, a favorite stop whenever I am in central Indiana.

Bottle trees are a remarkably cool folk art brought from Africa and the Middle East centuries ago and were originally used to capture bad spirits. Now they capture color and light and bring a bit of joy to my suburban shade garden.

Below are two books I recommend to help you study up on filling your garden with color not found in a flower; Fine Foliage by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz is a delightful full color book which brings wonderful ideas for foliage color combinations, and Bottle trees.. and the Whimsical Art of Garden Glass by Felder Rushing is an outstanding full color celebration of creative glass-in-the-garden creations.

Bottle Trees Book and Fine Foliage Book

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.

irrepressible blooms

I don’t know about you, but my patience has been tested this spring. Just when I thought winter had finally lost its grip, a freak snowstorm hit Iowa last week, leaving several inches of heavy, wet, white stuff in its wake. But we Midwesterners are resilient. And so too, it appears, are many of the blooms that were caught naked in the arctic blast. The fat lavender buds on my Jane magnolia, for example, were just beginning to open when temps plunged from 82 degrees one day to 32 the next. If the cold doesn’t finish them off, I figured, the wind and driving sleet will. Happily, I was proven wrong. My magnolia blooms are still intact and prettier than ever.

This isn’t the first year that early blooms have had their toughness tested. Spring’s mood swings happen so often that cool-season gardening has become, well, cool. We can resist planting tender geraniums and petunias until warm weather is here to stay if garden centers offer up a smorgasbord of irrepressible flowers. Here are several container recipes that I’ve tried that will flourish even if temperatures dip into the nippy range.

These pink pots set the tone for picking plants that show off the season’s hottest hues: soft shades of pink, purple, green, and gray. In the background pot: Helichrysum Icicles, English ivy, Osteospermum Soprano Light Purple, and Diascia Little Charmer. In the foreground pot: Diascia Little Charmer, Intensia Neon Pink phlox, Heucherella Stoplight, Armeria Rubrifolia, Osteospermum Soprano white, Snowstorm Giant Snowflake bacopa, Nemesia Compact Innocence, and Ajuga Catlin’s Giant.

The edible ingredients in this container salad garden are just too pretty to eat…for now, at least. Included in the mix: Pigeon Red kale, Esmeralda lettuce, chives, Ultima Baron Merlot pansy, and Sorbet violas.

This sky-blue planter brightens a gray day with these cheerful, chill-shrugging occupants: Sutera Blue Showers, Snowstorm Giant Snowflake bacopa, Bracteantha Sundaze Golden Beauty, Osteospermum Orange Symphony, Nemesia Compact Innocence, Trinitaria pansy, and Fire and Ice hosta.


plant a flower day

Did you know that March 12 is Plant a Flower Day? I don’t need much of an excuse to plant flowers. I already have several dozen types of annual flowers started in the greenhouse, including the All-America Selections winners for this year (see below), and one from last year.

Salvia coccinea 'Summer Jewel Pink' is a 2012 All-America Selections Bedding Plant Award Winner that I think will look great in my pink border. Photo courtesy of All-America Selections.

Vinca 'Jams 'N Jellies Blackberry' is a 2012 All-America Selections Flower Award Winner. I can't wait for the seedlings that I've started in the greenhouse to start blooming. Photo courtesy of All-America Selections.

'Glamour Red' ornamental kale was a 2011 All-America Selections Cool Season Bedding Plant Award Winner. It looked great in my garden into December, so I'm growing it again this year. Photo courtesy of All-America Selections.

It may be a bit premature to plant perennials here in Des Moines, but I have some on order from High Country Gardens that will expand my collection of Midwest and High Plains native perennials. A few of them are pictured below. They’re scheduled for arrival in mid-April. By then, I’ll be able to plant them directly in the garden.

Which new flowers will you be growing in your yard this year?


Zauschneria garrettii is sometimes known as hardy fuschia as well as hummingbird trumpet. The bright orange tubular blooms draw hummingbirds to the garden.

Penstemon cobaea purpureus is a type of beardtongue with foxglove-like blooms on stalks several feet tall. It is a Midwest native.

Whether you call it redbirds in a tree or New Mexico figwort, Scrophularia macrantha is a cute perennial for dry sites with its panicles of rosy red blooms on compact plants.

late bloomers

While trimming back frosted foliage this past weekend, I noticed quite a few annuals and perennials that had survived the fall freezes. I had to admire their tenacity! Here are a dozen flowers that were still attractive in my yard earlier this week. I’ll soon see whether they bounce back after the 4 inches of snow that covered the garden last night!

'Walker's Low' catmint

'James Galway' rose

Verbena canadensis

Snow Princess sweet alyssumTwinny Peach snapdragon

Scabiosa 'Vivid Violet'

Salvia plumosa

'Pomegranate' yarrow

'Glamour Red' flowering kale

Chrysanthemum 'Cool Igloo'

Viola 'Endurio Sky Blue'


Lamium 'Anne Greenaway'

earth day salad bowls

Lettuce, kale, chives, and pansies make a colorful and edible garden accent.

Why not celebrate Earth Day by jumping on the grow-your-own-veggies bandwagon? Colorful salad bowls are a great way to grow your own produce in a limited amount of space. And they can be far more than strictly utilitarian. Combine salad greens with edible flowers and herbs for a showy and tasty mix.

The folks at PanAmerican Seed and BallHort have made creating your own salad bowl a snap with their new SimplySalad seed pellets. Each pellet contains a mix of several edible greens. Global Gourmet provides Asian flair with lacy red and green mustards paired with lettuces of the same color. The Alfresco blend brings a Mediterranean vibe with arugula, endive, and radicchio combined with red and green lettuces. And for the less adventuresome, the City Garden mix teams mild leaf lettuces in a variety of burgundy and green hues.

This photo shows the Global Gourmet salad mix in a container garden, along with Alfresco mix seed pellets in a vial attached to its store display card.

By planting several salad bowls you can have a steady supply of greens for your dinner table. This bowl is ready to harvest. I’ll simply cut the greens off a couple of inches above the ground. In about 3 weeks, they should be ready to harvest again. I expect to get several cycles of harvest from the bowl before summer’s heat puts an end to the harvest. A bonus with growing the greens in a bowl: I can move the container to the shade when temperatures heat up, extending the harvest season. And I’ll be sure to plant some more pellets in mid-summer for fall harvest. By then, I’ll have lots of tomatoes and peppers from my garden to add to the salads!

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