Many Hats of Me

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Starting Plants from Seed the Quick and Easy Way

Where To Find Seeds For Your Garden

Seeds for your vegetable garden can be purchased inexpensively from your local nursery, grocery, and big box store. This year I purchased hybrid corn, sweet peas, garlic chives, nasturtiums, and four-o'clocks. The bag in the top right corner are seeds that I collected from my vegetable garden last year: green peppers, squash, and green beans. Choose the larger seeds from the packets as they tend to be the healthiest.

Small Seeds

Smaller seeds, such as Catnip and Garlic Chives, are more difficult to germinate out of soil since they are so small. I plan to throw these into the garden directly. 

Garlic Chive Seeds

Pepper Plants From Seed

Last year I did germinate tiny pepper plant seeds that I purchased from the store. It took over two weeks to germinate and the plants produced thin walled and tasteless green peppers. This year I purchased potted pepper plants from Home Depot. 

Germinate Seeds Easily On Top of Your Fridge

When shopping for your seeds, you may be tempted to purchase seed germinating kits, warming mats, and grow light bulbs. You don't need any special tools to germinate seeds beyond what you already have at home.

Seeds require two things to germinate: moisture and warmth. 

Step 1: Wet a square of paper towel with a mixture of 10 parts filtered water and one part hydrogen peroxide. You can use bottled water or reverse osmosis water, or water from your Brita. The hydrogen peroxide will help prevent the growth of fungus. Hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration) can be purchased at any pharmacy or big box store.

Step 2: Fold the paper towel in half and place into an unused large Ziplock bag. 

Step 3: Place the seeds onto the wet paper towel, making sure that they do not touch one another.

Step 4: Zip up the bag and place on top of your refrigerator where it is warm. When you touch the bag in a few hours, you will feel the gentle heat from the refrigerator coming through the bag. You do not need any light. 

Seeds Germinating Using Paper Towel and Ziplock Bag 

Check your seeds every 2 days to see if any has sprouted. Most should have sprouted in 7 days. Some can take up to two weeks like pepper seeds.

I noticed that the corn seeds had a hairy fungus growing on them after 2 days. I used plain filtered water for my first batch of seeds and no hydrogen peroxide.

You can discard these seeds or you can rinse with the water and hydrogen peroxide mixture (10:1) and return to the bag with a new piece of wet paper towel.

The pea seeds were plump, but they hadn't germinated yet. I took a paring knife and punctured a small hole near the "eye" of the seed to speed things up a bit.

One of the  4 o'clock seeds germinated too (the black seed at the top).

Corn seeds germinated in 2.5 days

Pea seed afflicted with hairy white fungus. I threw this pea seed away since the fungal infection had gone too far and the seed was growing much slower than its peers.

Day 4: Peas Germinating

Puncturing the hard skin of the peas paid off as you can see. All the peas have little roots growing out of the seeds.

Even the corn that did not germinate earlier sprouted by day 4. I washed the fungus off using tap water (which contains chlorine) and placed them back into the bag. I'm hoping to have leaf shoots before planting them into soil

Peas and corn seeds germinating Day 4

Day 5: Longer Shoots and Leaves Appear

Roots extend from the pea seeds on Day 5. Leaf shoots appear on the corn seeds.

Plant Germinated Seeds in Small Pots 

You can use 2 to 4 inch wide pots to plant your seedlings. I use the inexpensive cardboard type that can be planted directly into the ground. To support the cardboard pots, I used the black nursery plant trays.  You can acquire these black plastic trays FOR FREE from the Home Depot.

  1. Fill each pot with potting soil. I use Miracle Grow potting soil. 
  2. Pour filtered water* into the pot so that it is wet to the touch, but not muddy.
  3. Make a hole in the center of each pot and carefully place a germinated seedling in it. Make sure that you don't cover any leaves that may have already sprouted. You can cover the seedling if you just have roots.
  4. Use your finger to gently close the hole so that the soil gently rests around the seedling. 

*Filtered water is water that has been filtered by a carbon filter which removes chlorine and chemicals. Plants will thrive in clean chlorine-free water.

Planted seedlings in cardboard pots

Place the tray of seedlings in a waterproof container like a shallow plastic bin and place by a window.  Water the seedling every day or every other day. The soil must always be damp. Do not let them dry out.


Check your seedlings for disease when you water. If you notice patchy discoloration, it could be mildew. Tomato plants and squash plants are susceptible to this disease.

Mildew on tomato leaves from:

Mold Growing On Planted Seedlings

I planted my Day 5 germinated seeds in pots with Miracle Grow soil and reverse osmosis water. Today, I found mold growing on the corn seeds again and it's now spread to the soil too.

I will try to save them by pouring hydrogen peroxide + water into the pots and wait one more day. I don't give this much hope, so I've started another batch of corn seeds today soaked in the hydrogen peroxide solution.

Mold growing on planted seeds

Disease Prevention

Hydrogen Peroxide To Water Your Plants

To prevent mold from growing on your seedlings, water with the hydrogen peroxide + water solution. It will keep the fungus at bay in addition to adding oxygen to your soil. Continue using H2O2 solution until the plants are moved outside.

An easy measurement is to add 1.5 tsp of hydrogen peroxide (3%) to 1 cup filtered water.

Hydrogen Peroxide 3%

Air Movement For Seedlings

To avoid fungal infections, place a fan near the plants and set to low and oscillate so that there is an intermittent gentle breeze on your plants to keep the leaves dry but not dried out. The air movement prevents mildew from starting.

Seedlings and plants purchased from Home Depot

Squash seedlings in reused plastic nursery pots

Keep Your Seedlings Indoors

Avoid wind and vermin damage by keeping your seedlings indoors until they are ready to be moved to your garden. 

In the Midwest, we wait until Memorial Day before we start planting. Check with your local nursery to see when it is the best time to plant in your area. Happy Gardening!

Garden Shopping

Further Reading

Hydrogen Peroxide and Gardening Mixing Charts

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Home Decor and Furs Traders at Kino Gem and Mineral Show 2015

More than rocks...

The Kino Gem and Mineral Show also has vendors that sell home decor, clothing, textiles, and jewelry tools. 

Orange Calcite from Brazil

Mineralia is a large manufacturer of minerals, fossils, jewelry and home decor based in Mexico. At the Kino show, Mineralia brought a large collection of orange calcite lamps and home accessories. 

Orange calcite, native to Mexico, is a beautiful material for lamps. The thinly sliced stone warms and softens the light. The stone's darker bands of color add a visual interest.

Fossils and Large Minerals at Kino Gem and Mineral Show 2015

The Kino Gem and Mineral Show boasts some of the best specimens of fossils and minerals at great prices.

Many vendors had smaller more affordable specimens that were under $20. I asked one vendor if he had anything that I could buy for my children at home. He immediately pulled out two rocks from a nearby table and asked for $12 per specimen. Here is the one I chose:

Blue cavansite crystals on stilbite
Blue cavansite crystals on stilbite

Cheap Beads and Rough Rocks at Kino Gem and Mineral Show 2015

Cheap Beads at Kino Gem and Mineral Show

The Kino Gem and Mineral Show is held every February during the Tucson Gem Show Season. Please read my first post about the show here.

Outside the Pavilion Tent were many vendors that sold inexpensive beads. Although the quality of the beads was medium to low, the price is hard to beat at $2/strand.

bead strands at $2/strand

Kino Gem and Mineral Show 2015 - Pavilion Tent

Kino Gem and Mineral Show Pavilion Tent
Kino Gem and Mineral Show Pavilion Tent

The Kino Gem and Mineral Show is one of the largest shows held during the February Tucson Gem Fair season. It is held at the Kino Sports Complex at the southern end of town, closer to the airport. This show is open to both the public and wholesale buyer. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

DIY Hydroponics Garden (save your summer plants during the winter!)

For the past two summers, I have tried growing a few vegetable plants on the sunny side of my house with poor results. The young plants bought from the nursery never had enough time or warm weather to mature. This year, I decided to try something completely different: hydroponic gardening.

What is Hydroponic Gardening?

Hydroponic gardening is the growing of plants in a soilless environment. There are 6 hydroponics gardening methods:

  1. Ebb and Flow
  2. Nutrient Film Technique
  3. Dutch Basket (Drip System)
  4. Aeroponics
  5. Wick System
  6. Deep Water Culture


Ebb and Flow

Ebb and Flow uses pumps and a large water reservoir to periodically flood the plant roots with nutrients and water. An easy method is using a large plastic tote to contain the nutrient solution with the plants sitting in a deep tray on top of the lid. The nutrient solution is pumped into the tray from the reservoir below, and then is allowed to drain back into the reservoir.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Late Night Bites: World Street Kitchen Restaurant, Minneapolis

World Street Kitchen

Global Cuisine @ World Street Kitchen

World Street Kitchen (or "WSK") is a fast food restaurant with a contemporary ethnic flair. The food is inspired from all corners of the world: Korea, Vietnam, China, Mexico, New Orleans, and the Middle East.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

DIY Kaldnes Media Aquarium Filter - A Step-By-Step Guide

What is Kaldnes Media?

Kaldnes media was designed and developed in Norway by the combined efforts of education, government and private sectors: the Norwegian University of Science (NTNU), the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF), and Kaldnes, a Norwegian industrial company. 

In the early 1980's, NTNU and SINTEF were developing sewage treatment technologies involving moving media. By the end of the 80's, the partnership had successfully developed a new method of treating wastewater called "the moving bed biofilm process". By this time, Kaldnes was getting involved, and plans to produce and market the technology were begun, with a newly formed company Kaldnes Miljøteknologi AS.

This new sewage treatment was intended only for municipal use, but other industries, such as aquaculture, quickly adopted the media and the process, now called the Kaldnes Moving Bed (KMB).

How Does Kaldnes Work?

Kaldnes media are small pellets made of polyethylene that look like wagon wheels. The media come in different sizes, but aquarists primarily use the K1, the smallest size measuring 1cm in diameter. As you can see, the plastic media have a lot of ridges and surface area for nitrifying bacteria to grow.

K1 Kaldness Media

K1 Kaldnes Media

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Exploring Downtown Victoria BC: Empress Hotel and the Soda Shoppe

A Family Trip to Victoria, B.C.

Last summer during my visit to Vancouver, my family took a trip to Victoria, British Columbia by ferry boat. Our ship left Vancouver at 9 AM and we arrived at the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal at 10:30 AM. From there, the drive to Victoria is about 1/2 an hour.  

Parking Options Downtown Victoria

There are two options to park in downtown Victoria: metered parking and indoor parkades. Metered parking allows you to park from 1/2 an hour to 90 minutes during the week. Weekends and statutory holidays are free.

We parked at the Victoria Central Public Library parking lot located next to the library at 735 Broughton Street. The map below is the address of the central library. Parkade parking allows you to park for a longer period of time at a central location.

This particular parking lot is FREE on the weekend too. Just make sure you press the button for a ticket to release the parking gate. When we tried parking on a Sunday, it took 10 minutes to figure out how to open the parking gate without paying with our credit card. More information about Victoria parking is located at the cities' parking website.

View Larger Map

Empress Hotel, Victoria, BC

Downtown Victoria inner harbor with the Empress Hotel in the background
Downtown Victoria inner harbor with the Empress Hotel in the background

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Taking the Ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, BC

BC Ferries runs a passenger ship from Vancouver to Vancouver Island from the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. The ships run hourly starting from 7 AM. Please check the schedule before planning your trip. I suggest you arrive at least 45 minutes before the sailing time to ensure that you don't miss the boat (literally).

View Larger Map

BC Ferry Fares

The fares vary depending on how you will be traveling on the boat. You can take your motorcycle, car, bus, or bike onto the ferry. Of course, you can also walk onto the ferry when you are dropped off by local transit. There are also discounts for groups of 16 or more people, and seniors. Please check the following page, BC Ferry Tsawwassen schedule of fares (current from February 14, 2014). You can also visit the BC Ferry website.

BC Ferry top deck on a sunny day.
Outdoor top deck on a sunny day, BC Ferry

Video of the ferry ride to Victoria

Onboard the BC Ferry

Once we park our car on board the ferry, we try not to dawdle and make our way directly upstairs to stake out a nice seating area for our large group. There is WIFI throughout the ship, but it is weak at best. 

Computer work area, BC Ferries
Computer work area, BC Ferries

Shopping on Ferry

There is a small shop on board the ferry that sells locally inspired giftware, food, and personal items that you may have forgotten to bring on your trip. 

Gift store, BC Ferries
Gift store, BC Ferries

BC Ferries Serves Starbucks Coffee

I was relieved to learn that the ferry serves Starbucks coffee, lattes, and cappuccinos, especially since I was on the road since 6 AM.

Coffee Shop, BC Ferries
Coffee Shop, BC Ferries

Seawest Lounge, BC Ferries

Seawest Lounge is the VIP section on the Ferry. It costs an additional $12.00 per person and includes coffee, tea,  fruit and other light snacks. It decor is more upscale and roomier than the rest of the ship and it's very quiet. The best part of the lounge is the strong WIFI signal. 

Seawest VIP Loung, BC Ferries
Seawest VIP Loung, BC Ferries

Fruit and light snacks at the Seawest Lounge, BC Ferries
Fruit and light snacks at the Seawest Lounge, BC Ferries

Complimentary Cofee at Seawest Lounge, BC Ferry
Coffee and Tea are free in the Seawest Lounge, BC Ferries

Pacific Buffet, BC Ferries

Some of the ferries include an all-inclusive buffet restaurant called the Pacific Buffet. It serves a variety of food, including seafood, salads, Chinese, and desserts. Price for the buffet is $17.40/adult and $9.50/child.

Seafood and pasta is served in the Pacific Buffet, BC Ferries
Seafood and pasta is served in the Pacific Buffet, BC Ferries

Chicken fingers, veggies and rice, Pacific Buffent, BC Ferries
Chicken fingers, veggies and rice, Pacific Buffet, BC Ferries

Salad bar, Pacific Buffet, BC Ferries
Salad bar, Pacific Buffet, BC Ferries

Cheapest Eats on BC Ferries

The self-serve restaurant on board the ferry is the Coastal Cafe. It serves a variety of basic food, such as sandwiches, burgers, and salads, which will cost around $12-$15/person. My brother found the most economical meal onboard the Ferry: the Pirate Pak. It includes a small burger, drink, and a dessert for under $10. 

Pirate Pak meal, BC Ferries
Pirate Pak meal, BC Ferries

Before You Disembark…

Double check to see if you have everything you brought on board the ship, such as phone chargers, cameras, extra bags, hats, and sunglasses. Also, make a visit to the washroom if your destination is Victoria, which is a 1/2-hour drive from the Swartz Bay Terminal.

Have a great ferry trip to Vancouver Island! 

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