I admit, the “false spring” we typically get in February has me jonesing for a trip to the local nursery for all the wonderful things I plan on putting into the ground. It’s a bit early for that, but it’s the perfect time to start planting seeds. I love gardening, but honestly, if there is an easier way to guarantee my harvest, I’m going to search the internet until I find it. My work paid off, and after a ton of time searching and reading review after review, I went all in and bought the amazing BIODOME!
This year, instead of heading to Home Depot or Lowes for my plants, I decided to go full-on “off the grid survivor” and I ordered heirloom seeds from Baker Creek. I tried to choose vegetables that I wouldn’t normally be able to find, hoping that my backyard raised bed can compete with the best of the best at the Farmers Market. Click here to see the unique seeds I found. I’ll still shop the Farmers Market, of course. My limited space won’t hold all the wonders Mother Nature can produce and I like to shop local when possible.
Here is the easy-peasy Cheat that I love
I searched all over the internet to find the easiest grow kit possible. Because of Covid-19, many of the websites I looked into were back-ordered. But enough determination will get you anything, and I lucked out finding the BIO DOME SYSTEM from ParkSeed.com.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS SYSTEM
The system is self-contained, climate-controlled, bottom watering, and comes with Bio Sponges for your seeds. No messy dirt, just soak the sponge, place it in the block, add your seeds, cover, and let the magic happen. They state you only need one seed per sponge, but being a newbie to their product and a bit of a skeptic, I added two just to be sure. I’ll eat crow if both seeds in every plug germinate. But for me, better safe than sorry.
So not only does the sponge design help to grow strong roots, the ease of transplanting will guarantee the plant will stay in one piece until it can adapt to its new home. Sponge refills are also available, so the BioDome can be used over and over and over again. I chose the 40 jumbo dome, which isn’t very big and won’t take up too much space in the house. The base of the system is only 14 7/8″ long x 9 1/2″ wide. Just perfect for a heating pad to sit underneath.
I don’t know how anything can be easier than a 5 step system? Not to mention there is NO mess. NONE. NADA.
This is everything I did:
- Soaked the sponges in water for 15 minutes, while I labeled the tags for my veggies
- Placed the wet sponges in the block.
- added the seeds to the sponges (the hole is already there)
- Watered the tray with the fertilizer provided
- Found a sunny spot in the house and put on the lid with the vents closed to help the seeds germinate
Here is my work in progress. I labeled the plant markers while the sponges were soaking in a bucket of water. Do I know what the sponges are made of? Nope. Parkseed says they are enriched with oilseed extract, giving your seedlings an extra boost of nutrition. I happen to believe they are made with magical fairy dust. Whatever is going to make the seeds grow, I’m just going to roll with it.
I added the seeds to the water-soaked mystery dirt sponge things. Their website says one seed per sponge, but I added two, just in case. Not that I don’t trust the process, but since this is my first time, I’m erring on the side of caution.
Sidebar about fear…There was a terrifying moment when I discovered a Black Widow spider living on the side of the bucket I used to soak the sponges. My husband was on a conference call, so I knew I had to save myself. I handled the bucket oh so gingerly, and then threw it with the force of the gods towards the garbage can area. I don’t know what happened after that. – I may have lost time. I know the spider was just doing its spider thing, hanging out, catching flies and all. But my fear was real. Heart-racing terror. But I lived. And the garden will move forward because I’m a survivor and won’t let potential death deter me from my vegetable goals!
Ok. so All the seeds are in and labeled, ready to go! I’m feeling pretty good about my handiwork. And really, it was only about an hour to do everything.
Because the sponges come pre-cut with a small hole in the center, the seed goes right in and you move to the next. Once all the sponges are in, adding water (& the accompanying fertilizer mix) to the bottom of the tray will keep the seeds watered from the bottom up. So there is no disrupting their growth by dumping water on their heads. Ingenious system!
I found the perfect sunny window and added a heating pad underneath. This is honestly just a regular “I hurt my back” heating pad. But since it has an auto-off after an hour, I headed to Amazon and ordered a Vivosun waterproof seedling mat. I don’t know why I resisted originally. It was only 13.99 and will be here in a few days.
For some reason, there were 3 extra Bio Sponges in the bag, so I grabbed a pot that I had sitting around, added some dirt, and planted some basil seeds. I may transplant these, or if they do well in the pot, I’ll just keep them on the window sill.
I love having herbs near my kitchen for easy access and to help me look like I really know what I’m doing in the kitchen. You’d be surprised what a fresh sprig of any herb can do for your culinary reputation.
Within a few days, some of the seeds had begun to sprout.. Within a few weeks, they were ready to transplant to larger 4″ containers.
All but one of the seed plugs germinated! I’m pretty stoked to get 39 out of 40 plants. Seriously, those are great numbers. My husband laughed when he saw me coaching those little guys each day, but I swear it helped. The mini greenhouse I planted them in may have contributed, but I know sending positive vibes and love definitely helped!
“You can do it little seedlings!”
To prep the transplants, I mixed bags of dirt together in a wheelbarrow and transplanted the seedlings to each 4″ cowpot (per the website: CowPots are post-methane manure planters (& no odor!) that break down completely into the soil, enriching it with nitrogen and enabling plant roots to spread freely as they grow ) With the biodegradable pots, I don’t add to the plastic overloaded landfills, plus I get the added bonus of not shocking the roots. It’s an easy transition for happy plants.
Reaching into the bottom of the tray, using my finger for leverage, the sponges pop right out. With the sponges intact, there is no disruption to the plant roots. Then when I plant the cowpots into the garden, there’s no transplant shock to the roots at that time either. The entire pot goes right into the ground and will biodegrade in 3 months, feeding the soil with nitrogen. It really is a perfect system for a small home garden.
I bought a small bag of Miracle Grow seed starting potting mix and mixed it with the standard Miracle Grow garden soil, figuring the extra nutrients in the seedling mix would help in their growth. Using the garden soil alone would have been fine, as I added fertilizer to the water.
You can over-fertilize, so I went light on both.
Because I started my seeds early (February in Zone 9) I transplanted them 3 weeks after the first seedlings showed signs of growth. Their new home will be 4″ pots for about 4-6 weeks until they can move to their forever home in the outside raised garden bed. I plan on starting more seeds using the BiodDome system in April and those can go directly from the biosponge into the garden without the need for the extra transplanting step in the middle. By mid-April (here in Northern Ca) the weather is warm enough to get those small seedlings outside.
Not sure which zone you live in? Click below for a guide from Urban Farmer
With the initial work done on my part, I’m super excited about this year’s vegetable garden! Once the little pots of goodness go in the ground, the rest is up to Mother Nature to commit to her side of the bargain.
This year, I chose more rare and heirloom varieties to mix things up and surprise some dinner guests with exciting colors and flavors. Until then, I’ll leave you with last year’s bounty and a hope-filled 2021!
the great harvest of 2020
This post may contain affiliate links. Danelia Design is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. For more information, please read my disclaimer here.