Kitchen Table Seedlings: Watering from the Bottom-Up

Wow.  It is a cold cold cold spring here in Seattle.  Record cold and dark.  Nearly 200 days of sub-70 degrees in a row.  Only five days since January 1 without rain. Today is finally sunny, but there was a light frostiness on the ground this morning.  All of us have been getting crabby, and drinking too much coffee, and despairing over our stunted little gardens.  Everyone is  also confused about our indoor seed starts–with overnight lows of 40-ish, we’re hesitant to plant out the little ones growing on the kitchen table.  Here at The Tangled Nest, we’ve started the hardening off process, but until last night have still been bringing them in every evening. Which makes me very glad about the simplified seed-start watering system we tried this year–instead of lots of reused containers of varying shapes and sizes, covered with bits of plastic (power to that process–very DIY, and of course we support it in theory!), we decided to go more uniform.  We took an awl and poked about five holes in dozens of little dixie cups (the plain, unwaxed paper kind), planted those with seeds, then placed them all in seed trays  without drain holes, or rimmed baking sheets.  Here they are, over a month ago:

To water, we just use a pitcher to fill the trays with  about 1/2 an inch at a time, and the little dixie cup seed pots suck the water up.  In the past, I misted seeds until I got tendinitis; this is SO much easier, and such a time saver.  Since it’s still so cold out, we are continuing to start plants indoors that we would normally put straight in the ground, and I’ll keep using this method.

Meanwhile, the extra-cold spring garden is what it is.  At least, talking to all the other Seattle gardeners, I know we’re not alone.  The peas, which are supposed to cover up the bicycle trellis I only sort of like, are a full six inches shorter than they were this date last year.

The broccoli, which is supposed to be done about now, so I can plant the tomatoes in its place, looks like this:

Even the spinach is sort of sitting there:

Still, signs of spring abound, and enliven us:

Bleeding hearts--one of my favorites.
The columnar apples are a little late in blooming, but look lovely.

How are you all coping with the cold spring?


  1. Lyanda,
    Cold and wet here in Bloomington, IN. My latest adventure is chickens. They are four weeks old and I am still turning on the heat lamp for them and housing them in my mud room. We’ve even had to turn on our heat in the house. Have our garden plowed, but has been too wet to plant. xo, Cheryl

    1. lyanda

      Well, at least we’re not the only ones! Yes, this year’s chicks are old enough to go outside, but it’s been just too cold most days. Yesterday we put them out for the first time, but brought them in at night. Spring WILL come! Enjoy your chicks.

  2. Odd year. I am 3 hours north of Toronto in Canada. It has been warm here and now almost too dry! We are behind a few weeks in spring compared to last few years but if you check historical weather we are above normal. Water levels very high. Soil and weather good to plant almost anything now. We are upside down?

  3. Dana

    I’m just up in Marysville, and I’ve been pushing my little veggies along in spite of the weather. My lettuce looks a little like your spinach and my kale and brussel sprouts are about the size of your broccoli. My peas are about 8 or 10 inches tall now and starting to make faster progress. The slugs ruined all my baby cucumber sprouts last night, so I’m planting more seeds tonight. The most ambitious of all my pushiness is my tomatoes. I put about 6 plants out a month ago and they did not like it, but are surviving and putting out new leaves above the yellowed failures. Tonight I put out 5 more tomatoes because they are starting to flower and we have a great weekend in store! Of course they are protected under plastic, but I know I’m risking complete disaster, especially with all the basil starts I planted around the tomatoes! Am I crazy? Yes. But if it all fails, I’ve only wasted a few seed packets and a LOT of hope – all easily replaced with starts from my nursery down the street!

  4. I’m here in France feeling smug – we’ve had a beautiful warm spring, but very dry. My pumpkins, potatoes, peas and peanuts have got off to a great start, but none of my fruit stones have germinated yet, very disappointing. About to get our polytunnel up and hope to catch you up with seedlings!

  5. Carol Y.

    Hey Lyanda – just dropping by to say hey and rah-rah! your blog is beautiful as always. it’s been so rugged but it felt like it finally turned to spring these last few days, at least up here in b’ham. i actually had to take off my sweatshirt momentarily! c

  6. Lyanda, what a nice idea for seed starting/watering. But I’ve had to keep my seedlings inside so long they’ve grown way beyond dixie cup size. They’re even looking sad in the slightly bigger pots, and in need of more room for the roots.
    Did you replant yours into bigger pots?
    Also, your photos are beautiful. Bleeding heart is one of my favorites, too!

    1. lyanda

      We did replant to bigger Dixie cups! And of course some in nursery containers, etc. But we have now planted outdoors, even the cucumbers, which may be a mistake. I just couldn’t bear to keep the in the house any longer–it’s almost June! I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes. Of course, Tom always takes the lovely photos.

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