The cost of minions and request for suggestions

I’ve been re-reading Eliot Coleman lately, thinking about the garden, starting seeds under lights. It’s about time to take the dark cover off of the hoop house and turn it into a greenhouse.

Usually, when I am planting up my window boxes, I am pulling out last year’s growth and roots, topping them up with compost. But last fall, I said to one of the minions, take out the plants and throw them off the balcony and haul the boxes to the basement. Instead of pulling the old plants and roots out, he dumped everything off the balcony, soil, rocks for drainage, and all. Multiply that times 70, and he cost me probably $300 in materials and countless hours in labor.

Empty window boxes So now, I have 70 completely empty window boxes and much less time. The pigs are due any week now, and our veggie plans are hugely ambitious. But my decks would look so sad without the happy flower boxes. We relax out there so much in the evenings during the warm months. They make me so happy.

I want to come up with a low maintenance and easy starting from seed plan. I want colorful annuals, suitable for a window box, perhaps with some trailing vines and taller grasses. They must be easy to start from seed and need minimal dead heading.

I always cheated and bought plugs from the Jolly Farmers. I don’t have the money to do that this year. What we do have is committed to more needs, not wants.

Help! What flowers meet those requirements?

I’m thinking marigolds, for one. Some pansies. Are zinnias easy to start from seed? Ideally, I’d like to plant directly into the window boxes.

What grass should I try? Maybe blue fescue of some variety?

Things like that totally unexpected $300 lost happened a lot with minions. Equipment left outside to get ruined, tools broken, lost. Lots of good things happened to as well. On balance, I think it was a win. Eliot Coleman suggested taking on interns in six month blocks. The first three months, you provide room and board, but they pay you $100 a week to learn. Then the next three months, you pay them back $100 a week. In all, they get a no-cost internship and you hedge your bets. It makes sense to me. Now to craft some sort of idea of what we are looking for, and what we have to offer.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted March 11, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    I bought some marigold and pansy seeds, need to get them started actually. I’ve been looking all over the place for impatients and petunia seeds but cannot find them anywhere.

    I understand I love the hanging pots on my front porch over flowing with begonias, petunias, dusty miller and more, and now that we can sit out there again (it’s been repaired) it’d be nice to see some beautiful flowers as well but who has the money these days???

  2. Posted March 11, 2009 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Have you tried http://www.wwoofusa.org/ Wwoofers? I have a few friends who have either wwoofed or have had wwoofers, and all the experiences have been good. I don’t think they’d be in for a 6-month block, but our au pair experiences with travellers have been great, and I’m willing to bet that the same kind of enthusiastic, energetic and interesting people are doing wwoofing.

  3. Posted March 15, 2009 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Naturtiums.
    They thrive in nitrogen poor soils.
    There are too many varieties to choose from. I generall pick up Jewel mix and tall trailing mix as my fail-safes.
    Many of them trail and hang out of flower boxes nicely.
    I never deadhead.
    They often drop seed an self-sow under the right conditions. (We are zone 4)
    The flowers and leaves are edible.
    Easy to start from seed preferring to germinate in the dark.
    I wouldn’t go through a growing season without them.

  4. Kate
    Posted March 16, 2009 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Lisa/Frank

    I just thought of something. Maybe I can help you – what is the closest veterinary school (University) to you?

    email me – I might be able to send out an email to a large number of professionals through my line of work as a Veterinary Faculty recruiter.

    warmly

    Kate

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