Saturday, February 28, 2009

Does growing your own really save you money?

I found this interesting blog today.  A man and his wife tracked all the time and expense that went into growing their own vegetables.  Of course this is only considering monetary gain and doesn't take into consideration the exercise, peace of mind and just plain fun that are the best benefits.

Here’s our year-to-date garden summary:

January4.0 hours$27.30
February2.5 hours
March3.5 hours$130.00
April5.5 hours$28.51
May5.5 hours$110.89
June7.0 hours$0.79$50.83
July11.0 hours$20.94$123.68
August8.0 hours$123.94
September2.0 hours$152.75
October5.0 hours$155.77
November6.0 hours
Totals60.0 hours$318.43$606.97

They said that 2009 will be even cheaper since some of the things they bought in '08 can be reused.  So, it looks like it's worth it, especially if you enjoy doing it. 

New Sprouts!

Both amaranths are coming up, lots of sprouts for both.  And Yellow Pear, Principe Borghese and Taxi tomatoes are coming up ~ atleast one sprout of each.  Man, that soil warming cable works!

I also brought home one 4" pot of Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes that had four plants in it.  I separated them this morning and potted them up.  It was easy to separate them ~ just let most of the soil fall off the rootball, then floated the rest in a pan of water while jiggling one plant at a time out of the bunch.  

Update at 9:15pm: Mortgage Lifter, Early Girl and Beefmaster are starting to come up now, too.

Veggie Gardening in Texas vs. Ohio

A friend asked me today how gardening in our area is different than gardening elsewhere, specifically a cooler climate.  I thought others may benefit from hearing my response, so I'll post it here.

The main differences between gardening here and somewhere cooler like Ohio are the disgusting heat in July and August when everything suffers, and the mild winters that we can grow right through.  

Our last average frost date is March 15 and first average frost date is November 15, so there's a long season between there.  However, the disgusting heat in July and August kind of puts a damper on it.  Heat lovers like okra and cowpeas (Black Eyed Peas, Crowders, and other Southern Peas) will usually sail right through the heat, but other things will seem to go "on hold" or outright crisp up.  Cukes want to give up the ghost, so trellising them helps ~ gets them off the hot soil and gives them some shade since only one side's worth of leaves is facing the sun at a time.  Tomatoes won't set fruit once temps get over 95 every day ~ the heat renders the pollen nonviable, so no fruit is pollinated, therefore no fruit set ~ but you can either start over with new plants for the fall or just baby the ones you have through the heat (maybe with some afternoon shade) and they'll put on again once things cool down.  I heard John Dromgoole today talk about using 30% shade cloth for them ~ might have to try that this year.

This hothothot August makes for two warm growing seasons a year.  The Fall garden (second warm season) is when you can replant squash, beans, etc. for a second crop along with new pepper and tomato plants.  Check the days to maturity for what you want to grow in Fall ~ if they have a DTM of 90 or less, you'll have time for them to reach maturity and still have a month or so of harvest time.  For instance, cucumbers have a DTM of 65 days, so if you plant them August 15th, you'll be picking them by the end of October and will continue to pick until frost kills them.  Just be sure to keep them well watered during the hot months and mulched so they'll survive through the heat.  

The flip side of our warm climate is that we get to actively grow things all year 'round.  We can grow all the cool weather crops all winter ~ broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, radishes, garden peas (English "green" peas, snow peas, etc.), cilantro, parsley, lettuce, chard, onions, garlic, spinach and a few others I'm not remembering.  There are so many things we can grow through winter that our gardens really don't ever have to be empty.  We do have to be ready with floating row cover or some other cover when nights dip really low ~ pea blooms will freeze and abort, lettuce can get nipped ~ but most all the other things will do fine through a freeze without protection once they're established.  I like gardening in winter almost more than in summer since the weeds grow slower, there are less pests (both insects and diseases) and since all plants grow slower I can stay on top of the harvest without having to literally pick every day and freeze all that.

Here's a link to a really good planting guide for our area:
You probably already know that that's all averages and we can have weather patterns that upset even the best laid plans, such as the 90 (Ninety! ACK!) degrees we hit yesterday ~ I could almost hear all the broccoli and lettuce plants bolting and turning bitter.  Mulch helps that a lot ~ it keeps the ground cool in summer and avoids the wild soil-moisture-level swings that make your tomatoes crack and most any plant suffer.  

Here's another good site for information about growing the usual crops in Texas (look at the bottom section for the good tips):  Of course I'm not a fan of their remedies for pests (usually all synthetic chemicals), and if you're the same I'd advise you to either ask a neighbor what that bug or pest is that you see then look up online how to fix it organically or put a sample in a ziploc bag and bring it in to the Natural Gardener.  Neil is the botanist on staff there and he can figure out whatever it is you have and tell you how to fix it.  He's got the neatest microscope that's hooked up to a computer so you can see it on a screen instead of having to squint through the microscope's eye pieces ~ nifty!  

Is there anything in particular you wanted to know about that I haven't covered here?  Let me know ~ I'll be glad to answer what I can.

Monday, February 23, 2009

More seed starting

Started a LOT more seeds today.  Here's the list:
Joe Pye Weed
Amaranthus 'Illumination'
Amaranthus 'Splendens Perfecta', aka Summer Poinsettia
And a LOT of tomatoes:
Heirlooms and open pollinateds
Prudens Purple ~ 72 days
Roma ~ 78 days, determinate
Taxi ~ 64 days
Coustralee ~ 85 days, BIG fruit (up to 3 lbs.)
Brandywine ~ 80 days
Yellow Pear ~ 80 days
Mortgage Lifter ~ 77 days
Principe Borghese ~ 78 days, determinate
Beefmaster ~ 80 days
Better Boy ~ 82 days
Early Girl ~ 60 days
Celebrity ~ 78 days, determinate
Sweet Million ~ 73 days

My plan for all those tomatoes are to sell as many as I can at the Pea Patch Plant Sale and plant the rest somewhere out here.  My goals for this year are to learn about timing the seed starting so I'm better at it next year, make sure I have room to grow on the transplants 'til they're big enough to sell (in four inch pots most likely), sell tomatoes at an honor stand at the front gate, and save seeds from the OPs for replanting next year.  

Along the lines of seed saving, I'll also be buying a few plants ~ Matt's Wild Cherry for one, just in case I can't get any of the Texas Wild to sprout (and even if I can ~ I want to compare the two).  I also want the "original" Brandywine 'Sudduth's Strain' if I can find a plant of it to compare to the Brandywine I have now (eventually, I'd like to trial all of the Brandywines).  I'll be keeping an eye out for other heirlooms at work and will pick up the interesting ones to trial and save seed from.  I'd better get to making those blossom bags if I get many currants and potato leafed vars.

I took Kim Rae one of each of the Bilbergia I have and they caused a little stir.  Joanie wants one, as does Carol, so I've got theirs potted up and sitting in the sink, waiting to be taken with me tomorrow.  I'm so glad to share them ~ it's fun.  Mostly I'm just glad to know, finally, what the hell they are! *giggle~snort*

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rain a-fallin', castor beans a-jumpin', and guineas a-hollerin'

What a wonderful day!  I woke up at 7:30 to a wet porch.  Not much more rain than that, but it was still nice to see.  All day it's been overcast and cold.  I love days like this.  Apparently, so do the guineas ~ I let them and the chickens out this morning and the guineas haven't shut up yet.  This is the third day that they've been let out and each day they've done the same thing ~ yak, yak, yak! I think they want to make sure I know they love it.  

I also potted up the Jerusalem artichokes I got in the mail the other day.  They needed it since they were sprouting leaves already.  But I'm not quite ready to plant them.  I'm thinking I'll grow them in large pots like the potatoes, but don't have enough soil yet (need to get some from work).  

Also, I'm reading on the G-Web about potato bins ~ wooden frames that can be taken apart to harvest the potatoes.  I'm hoping to get a few pointers about growing potatoes in containers.  Need to do research on the organic-ness of tires as well before I use those.

While in the greenhouse, I checked on the cuttings and seeds.  Man!  I LOVE castor beans!  Just look at them!
How cool are they?!  Planting them is almost like instant gratification they sprout so fast.  I really think I'm going to like them.

Other things sprouting ~ Bughatti lettuce, Red Shield hibiscus (I was worried about them, if I'd soaked them too long, and it seems it was warranted ~ only one's sprouted so far :( ), Luna Pink hibiscus and Welsh onions.  And just look at the artichokes, too!  They're in the upper right, just to the left of the green quart pot there (with Welsh Onions in it).  Greengreengreen!

One thing that sucks though ~ ants have moved in to the seed tray I have on the warming table.  Bummer.  Oh, well ~ just have to break out the cayenne pepper.  They'll be gone in a few days.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

More planting and irrigation to boot!

I'm so proud of me.  I got soaker hoses cut to fit the three raised beds in the Peace Sign garden, put hose ends on them, linked them together with made-to-fit sections of regular hose and connected it to the spigot.  They're out there soaking the lettuce seeds I just planted. Too Cool.

The lettuce I planted are, from west to east (top to bottom in pic), Black Seeded Simpson from Botanical Interests, Matina Sweet from Pinetree and Jericho from Pinetree.  I also set the onions out yesterday ~ red (Red Sweet or Sweet Red), white (White Bermuda) and yellow (1015Y) ~ got the sets from Naumann's Feed Store.  

I also got some seed potatoes from Naumann's and was going to plant them in these beds, but something told me not to (probably my inner child who hates to dig potatoes), so I decided to plant them in some large tree pots I have.  That'll make it easier to harvest them ~ just tump over the pot.  I haven't planted them yet, so I may put a few in some tires.  Lord knows I have plenty of those, and it won't take long with the sawsall to cut the centers out.  Those would also be easy to harvest ~ use the tractor to push them over if I can't by myself.  

And Friday I planted the herbs I bought at work Thursday.  I've got parsley in the long bed, in between and front of the purple honeysuckle and bridal wreath spirea.  It's the green stuff in the foreground.  Sorry that it's hard to see, but we've all seen parsley, and this picture was just too cool not to post. ;) 

I put three bloody dock plants along with variegated oregano, catnip and lemon grass (Leslie gave me a chunk of hers that I've been eyeing for a while) in one barrel...

... pineapple mint, bee balm, lemon balm, Mexican mint marigold, and winter savory in another (on the right) and sweet marjoram and Bergarten sage in another (on the left).  I need to get a few more things to fill that one out.  The little pot in the middle front has one of the brugmansias in it that I left out as an experiment to see if it comes back.  So far, one of the others has sprouted some green.  I hope all three will.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I got good news and bad news

Bad news first: While bottom watering a flat of newly planted Pasilla Bajio and Early Jalapeno peppers, I let the water get deeper than the flat was tall.  Yep ~ the seeds just floated right out of the flat.  If any are still in there and they sprout, I won't know which is which.  Bummer.  But if any do sprout, I'll just plant them in my own garden or the market garden.  I may sow some tomato seeds on top of them since it'd be easy to tell toms from peppers.  I'd also planted some old basil seeds in the end leftover after I'd run out of pepper seeds.  Maybe some of those will sprout.

Good news: We got rain!!!  Not much, but atleast it was some.  Hopefully that's a nice precursor to spring gully washing, frog strangling turd floaters.  

I also got some other things sown.  Welsh onions in their own pot, old purple basil seeds (had a question mark on the ziploc they were in, so not sure that's what they are ~ but they look like basil seeds) also in their own pot, and a flat containing serranos and purple cayennes.  

More good news: The Jerusalem Artichokes from the kind trader on the Gardenweb came in today!  Half a dozen healthy tubers that are sprouting roots already.  Cool!  Awful nice of someone to do that for sase. 

Let's plant a vegetable garden on the White House lawn

There is a growing call for President Obama to plant a vegetable garden on the White House Lawn. Eleanor Roosevelt did it. Thomas Jefferson did it. In fact, the majority of our presidents, from the founding of our country to the middle of the 1900s, did it. I think it's time for our current president to join the pack and do it, too. If you agree, please consider signing the petition at I did, and here's the comment I added:

I truly believe that building a vegetable garden on the White House lawn will spur more people to learn about growing their own food and actually do it. It's human nature to "follow the leader", as has already been demonstrated by you, President Obama. Because of your calm, reassuring, compassionate yet strong demeanor throughout your campaign and into the first days of your presidency, I have noticed a change in everyone I meet. We are nice again! For God's sake, I even had a nice chat with the phone worker when I called to pay my phone bill! It's wonderful! 
You are right that a lot of the change we need will be up to us to make. We're willing to do it. We just need you to continue what you've been doing in setting a good example for us to follow. If you build a vegetable garden on the White House lawn, we WILL follow your example. People all across the nation WILL grow their own food. This will have a tremendous impact on our economy and the environment. We'll save money, which we can spend elsewhere spurring the economy on. We'll save fuel from not having to have so much food trucked across the country. And there will be less emissions due to less of those trucks making less of those trips. 
But most of all, people will be healthier from the exercise and nutritious food. That will translate into happier people willing and ABLE to do more to pull ourselves out of this hole we're in. If we have a better outlook and feel better physically, we can do so much more to turn things around. 
Most of our despair is gone, President Obama, because of you. We wanted it to be gone and just needed someone to lead us to a place where we could hope again. You did that. And I am asking you to do it again ~ lead us again in providing for ourselves. Please, replicate what Slow Food Nation did in San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza, building a vegetable garden where one was 60 years ago. Please, put the vegetable garden back where it was for almost 150 years (read about it on this page: ~ on the lawn of the Nation's House. Adams, Jefferson, even Eleanor Roosevelt did it. Please follow their lead so we can follow yours.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Windy, dreary day

*sigh* I had planned on planting peas today, but it's just too damn windy.  The birds aren't even coming to the feeder it's so bad.  I did go out there and try ~ managed to get the end of the bed from the cilantro to the forsythia sage loosened.  I just wish I could have gotten something planted.  It looks so bare out there.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Warming Table's set up!

But first, what a cute little egg!  The little "new" banty pullet from last year's chicks must be laying, now graduated to full-fledged hen status.  She must be so proud.  Every time that happens, I have to just stop and smile at how adorable the little egg is.  I used it and a few of it's brethren to make some giblet gravy, hence the decimated onions and garlic skins around it.

I bought a soil warming cable from Farmtek a couple weeks ago and decided to set it up today.  Initially, I was hesitant to use regular potting soil for fear of it getting too hot when it was dry and possibly having some of the organic matter catching fire.  I asked Neil at NG about it and he pointed out that it won't really get that hot, just hot enough to start seeds.  Doh.  

I put about an inch of nice, sandy potting soil down first, spread evenly across the table.  I cut some hardware cloth to fit, zip-tied the cable to it per directions (easy-peasey ~ just put the thermostat somewhere around halfway between the center and a side of the table), and put another inch of sandy soil on top.  Voila!  

I'm so jazzed!  Can't wait to start pepper seeds and more tomatoes.  

Speaking of tomatoes, here are the Beefsteaks and Fox Cherries I started a couple/few weeks ago.  I'd put two or three seeds of the Fox Cherries in each cell because they were old seed.  Well, in some places all three seeds have sprouted!  Looks like I'll have some separating to do, but I surely don't mind.  That's just more plants for the library plant sale.

Here are the other seeds I planted a while ago.  Left to right ~ Castor Beans, Luna White hibiscus and Green Globe Improved artichokes.  I just love seeing all the little green heads poking up!  Can't wait to get them into bigger pots and some into the garden.  I'll plant just a few of each (two in the case of the hibiscus) and offer the rest at the plant sale.  I hope they sell ~ being "exotic" to most people, they just might.

And most of the cuttings ~ about three hundred and I'm just getting started.

Now that I've got the warming table, I'll be starting a lot more soon.  I haven't tried any of Grandma Wall's pomegranate yet, nor her fig tree or the beautyberry by the creek.  

I figure if I make a dollar a plant, I'll need about a thousand to make enough money for the fence and startup materials for the Learning Garden project.  So I'll start many more than that to have a few to pot up and grow larger for the next sale.  I'm also thinking I'll save seeds from all my heirloom and open pollinated veggiesto package up and offer for a donation to the garden project.  Might make a few more bucks that way, and it'd be fun to get more people interested in growing the old varieties and saving their own seed.  

I don't know if I've mentioned the Learning Garden project here.  Kelly Baty and I have an idea to start a vegetable garden at the library to teach people how to grow their own food.  It's sad how many people have no idea that it takes more than just tilling up the dirt and plopping in some seeds.  In this economic climate, it's scary to think how many people are completely dependent on others for their food.  Kelly and I are aiming to rectify that by teaching anyone who wants to learn how to grow atleast a portion of thier own food in their own backyard.  A fence to keep the deer out is the first step ~ and the estimate for materials is $800.  So, my goal for this year is to raise a fat grand from my propagation attempts.  Bet I can do it. ;)

Friday, February 6, 2009

What are Heirlooms, Open Pollinated varieties, Hybrids and GMOs?

Basic definition of heirloom ~ a variety of vegetable (or flower, etc.) that, for generations and generations, has been grown from seed saved from the previous year's crop. Many people will define it differently though, but that's a generally accepted definition. All heirlooms, when defined this way, are open pollinated ~ that means that if you take measures to ensure no cross pollination with another type takes place, the seeds you save from them will grow true (the same as the fruit/flower you took the seeds from). Think of dogs ~ if you cross a Dalmation with a Dalmation, you get white puppies with black spots, but if you cross a Dalmation with a Lab ("cross pollination"), you'll get all sorts of compilations of the two types.
Hybrid ~ a cross between two different varieties. This can be either an accidental cross in your garden that, when grown out, will produce who knows what OR a purposeful cross between two varieties known to produce a certain distinct variety (almost all plants grown from seeds of that cross will grow the same type). This last one is the one you get when you buy hybrid seeds ~ the seed companies have intensively studied and bred the parent plants to ensure that when they cross them, the offspring will all be the same (if you want to know how/why, let me know ~ it's a bit of a deep subject for just a quickie answer here, simple but takes a while to explain).
Genetically modified seeds (GMOs = genetically modified organisms is the technical term) are ones made by splicing in genes that would never have naturally been able to be put into a plant's genetic code. Like Bt corn ~ the gene giving the caterpillar-killing ability of the Bt bacteria was taken from the bacteria and spliced into the corn's genes in a lab. That would never happen in nature.
Most (I think all actually) seeds available at this time to general consumers are not GMOs. To grow those requires a contract with the company holding the patent on them, so due to the cost of drawing up, signing and enforcing that contract, the seed-producing companies aren't likely to do it for a $3 pack of seeds. GMOs are aimed at farmers who buy large quantities of seeds, large enough to make it worth the contract hassle.
So, the seeds that you and I buy in the little packets are produced by cross breeding, not gene splicing.

Happenings in the greenhouse

I just planted the Red Shield hibiscus and Luna Pink Swirl hibiscus seeds that I had soaking.  They'd already sprouted a few days ago ~ hope leaving them to soak that long even after sprouting doesn't affect them negatively.  I noticed a couple of the roots of the Red Shield either broke off or were mushy. :(  I filled out the flat with some Bughatti lettuce.

I filled the cells of the flat 3/4 of the way with the usual potting soil and put 1/2" or so of the seed starting mix I got at the Natural Gardener on top.  That way, I can conserve the more expensive seed starting mix while still giving the seeds plenty of it to sprout in.

My Greenhouse

Years ago, I designed a greenhouse made of cattle panels.  I'd tried to build one from pvc pipe, but it was just too flimsy.  I saw pictures of someone's greenhouse made of cattle panels they had attached to the tops of t-posts they'd driven in the ground and that gave me an idea.  Why not make one like that, but portable?  Or at least moveable without having to dismantle the entire thing.  

I built a small 9'x20' greenhouse using a box frame on the ground to hold the cattle panels, and plywood on the ends to close it in.  I spent a couple happy years in that g'house, but decided I wanted something a bit taller.

So I designed this one.  It's 7' tall, 10' wide and 20' long, and strong enough to hang two rows of hanging baskets on each side.  

It's simply a box made of 4"x4"s down the sides and 2"x6"s across the ends (stood on edge and nailed to the 4x4s ~ you can see those in the pic above).  I put one end of a 20' long cattle panel inside this "box" and up against one of the 4x4s, nail it using u-shaped fence nails, put the other end of the cattle panel in the other side of the box allowing the panel to bow upwards, and nail the other end to the 4x4.  I do this all down the greenhouse, about 5 cattle panels in all (you may have to cut the last one to make it fit without having to overlap it with another).  I wire the edges of the panels together.

Next, close in the ends with plywood.  This takes some carpentry skills, but it's not hard.  Install a door and window in opposite ends.  The window is hung upside down and backwards so I can open it from the outside ~ that's handy when you have to vent the house but there are too many plants to get all the way to the end.  I hung it upside down so the opening is higher up, thus letting out more heat.

If you don't have the carpentry skills needed to close in the ends or money for the plywood, you can just drap plastic over the ends, leaving one "openable" for a door.  The greenhouse probably won't be strong enough to hang hanging baskets down the sides, but will still work.  If you really wanted to hang things, you might could figure out how to strengthen it maybe with t-posts driven in the ground a foot or so inside the walls and wire the panels to them.  Just be sure to cover the t-post tops to keep them from rubbing holes in your plastic.  But if you think about it, it'd be easier to just make some stand-alone stands to hang your baskets on ~ maybe something like some tall sawhorses with closet rod between, or check out Craigslist or Freecycle for a clothes rack.

After putting the first layer of plastic on it, I wired lengths of pvc pipe insulation down the sides (the dark lines you see along the walls and roof), then put another layer of plastic over them.  This creates an isulating air space like those blowers do, but this one doesn't rely on electricity.  Not only does that save a few bucks in electricity, but it sure is nice to not worry about it if the power goes out.  Just a month or so ago when it was freezing out, I woke up at 1am to the electricity out, but didn't worry a bit about the greenhouse and just went back to bed.  Nice.

I usually cover it with plastic that's long enough to go all the way around it and tuck it under the sides to cover the floor.  Like this:

The whole thing's wrapped up like a burrito that way and the plants sitting on the plastic inside hold it on the house.  This time the plastic I got was too short, but it's staying on just fine with only a couple feet tucked under and plants sitting on it.  I haven't had a strong gust of wind come in yet and will try to avoid that.  When I have the plastic all the way across the floor and all the plants on it, even a strong wind gust can't take it off.  I scared the hell out of myself one March opening the door during wind gusts of 30mph or so ~ it "inflated" the whole thing, but the plastic didn't slip off an inch.

The ends are made in such a way that the plastic can be pulled between the cattle panels and plywood and held tight.  I covered the cattle panel edges with pvc pipe insulation (duct taped it on) to cover the sharp points and cut the plywood to fit inside it snugly.  When applying the plastic, I pull it between the plywood and pipe insulation, make sure it's tight, then push the plywood outwards against the pipe insulation.  Then I screw on pipe hangers to hold it together.

Lastly, I put some "guy wires" inside for extra strength where I thought it was needed, but now I'm wondering if they were really needed at all.  If you build one of these and notice it bowing out in the middle or losing shape at the ends, you may want to add some.  

If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, I'd think this would hold up pretty well, but I don't know for sure since it's rare we get any at all.  The snow may be held on by the ridges made by the pvc pipe insulation and build up enough to collapse it.  You may could rig up a heater to blow hot air between the two layers of plastic to melt it?  Or add more support inside to keep the cattle panels from collapsing.  Or maybe you could just cover the whole thing with a slick tarp pulled extra tight so the snow slides off ~ just using that on nights you get snow.  I really don't know since, again, I haven't ever had to deal with that.  

Overall I LOVE this thing!  The shorter one I made years ago was made using the 16' long cattle panels, so was a bit less than 6' tall inside, making it more cozy and easier to heat since I didn't have to heat all that headspace.  But once my brugmansias start getting really tall, I'll be glad for the extra room the taller one gives me.  

My next experiment will be digging a 4 or 5 foot deep hole for a pit greenhouse, putting in a foot or so of gravel and dragging this over it.  Might get some nice geothermal heating that way since the ground here stays over 60 degrees.  It sure would be nice to have a greenhouse that stays over 50 all the time.  The coolness might even make it so I don't have to vent it as much.  That'd be nice!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Answering gardening questions

I love answering questions on the Gardenweb gardening forums, so thought I'd preserve some of them here.  This one's an answer to a question on the Professional Gardener's forum from someone who wanted to sell seedlings.  
I'm doing this very thing to make a little money for a project I want to do at the library (a veggie garden to teach people to grow their own food), though I'll be having a one-day plant sale in their parking lot instead of placing classifieds. You may want to consider that, if your neighborhood allows that (you may want to approach any "powers that be" with the idea that it's like a garage sale, but plants instead of "junque"). Or maybe you can look into getting a booth at a local farmers' market? Go ask first to see if it's even worth selling plants there. If they tell you no one sells plants, that might mean an untapped market you can exploit, or it could be there's a good reason no one's doing it. Try to find out which beforehand.Milkweed (Asclepias) is a good one from your list ~ very popular and fairly easy from seed. Do you have experience with them yet? If so, maybe that should be your one plant to start with.
I know you said you don't want to do annuals, but if you're good at starting petunias, pansies and violas from seed, you may want to try just a few of those anyway. Even though everyone and their dog sells those, people who come to buy your other plants may pick up some of those as well as it seems genetically programmed into people to grab a couple six packs of those three every time they see them. LOL! Just be sure that your plants are healthy and priced within reason or you won't sell a one.
Basil ~ super easy from seed, but again, it seems like everyone is programmed to buy that when they see it. There are so many different types, and those do sell, but mostly it's the regular old type that sells. And if you don't sell them, you can pot them up into larger pots and have another chance at selling them later in the year, just like the milkweed.
Chives ~ another one easy from seed (but only fresh seed ~ germination rates go WAY down if they're old). And another one that's popular. And they're perennial. You probably already know this, but just be sure to have a BUNCH of plants in the same pot ~ little pots with just two or three chive plants don't sell as people won't get their money's worth.
Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and tomatillos, are also easy from seed, exceedingly popular (well, the tomatoes and peppers are ~ not so much on the other two), and good candidates for potting up larger if you don't sell them at seedling stage. Tomatoes and peppers are another example of "see them = have to buy them" plants, especially the good old types people are familiar with like Patio, Beefsteak, Big Boy, Sweet Million, California Wonder pepper, Banana pepper, jalapeno, etc. And the ornamentals go well if they're already large enough to be flowering/fruiting ~ the ones with brightly colored fruit, purple foliage or variegated in any way. Eggplants and tomatillos not so much, so I wouldn't start very many of those (but if you don't, atleast down here, you'll be sure to get asked if you have any ;). If you give out printed recipes with those two, you're more apt to sell them (you can print multiples to a page and cut out to make it cheaper), but again, not nearly as many of those sell as do tomatoes, so only start a handful.
I'm also starting a few artichokes for my plant sale. Easy-peasey from seed. I'll be printing out detailed care info to give with them and will make sure people know they're a biennial, so won't likely get any harvest 'til next year (don't want anyone surprised later, thus mad at me ;). But I think they'll be a nice novelty that people may try one or two of. They do sell quite a few of them at the nursery where I work ~ I was surprised to see that, so thought I'd try them as well. Worst case scenario ~ I take them home, pot them into larger pots and grow them through the winter, selling them next year for more money since buyers will be getting fruit from them that year.
Have you looked into rooting cuttings from plants you have already? Some easy things are rosemary, honeysuckle, any type of willow, any type of fig (fruiting or ornamental) and most types of the hibiscus family (hardy ones). It wouldn't cost much to try out other things you have ~ just put the soil in a butter tub or something and stick a bunch of cuttings in together. If they don't make it, not much time or effort is lost. If they do make it, they're easily separated, even if WELL rooted, by dunking the rootball in water (you can strain out the rooting medium and reuse it even). One more tip ~ if you don't have any of these plants, ask around in your neighborhood ~ someone may give you cuttings in return for helping them do a little pruning or deadheading in their garden. Or maybe they'll trade you cuttings for some tomato plants later.
(You may have already thought of this, and if so, I apologize.) Have you added up all your costs to make sure you won't actually lose money? I haven't since I know I'll personally lose money (all proceeds are going to the library project), but am doing it more to find local gardeners and get them interested in my project, which I think an advertised plant sale will do, than for a return on my investment (though I do think I'll make a little money, if I don't count my time). If I were looking to make money for myself though, I'd definitely and carefully add everything up beforehand, not forgetting to add in the water bill. Not only will this help you avoid getting deeper into a hole monetarily, but it will help you find places you can cut back to save more. Like using recycled pots ~ I'm using ones I get from my job and a local golf course to cut costs ~ that may be a good thing for you to do as well.
Whatever you do, start out small. I can't stress that enough because if you start small, you'll learn from your mistakes instead of being drowned by them. Good luck! :)
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