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Does the fact that Christmas is fast approaching make you think of growing tomatoes?

Of course not.  Our thoughts are focused on making sure our homes are decorated for Christmas, looking for the perfect gift for that special someone and hopefully some holiday baking.

But, I am going to tell you why you should also be thinking about growing tomatoes this time of year.


But, did you know that December is the best time to start growing your tomatoes from seed indoors?

For those of you who have grown tomatoes in the arid desert, know that our tomato growing season occurs in spring and fall.  

Oh, your tomatoes will live through the summer with a little shade – but they will stop producing new tomatoes once temperatures hit the 90’s because their pollen is not viable.

The other limiting factor is that you can’t set out tomato plants into the garden until the danger of frost is past, which is usually around the beginning of March in the Phoenix metro area.

So, to get the most tomatoes, you want to plant the largest (oldest) tomato plant you can in early March.

Many nursery greenhouses are starting their tomato plants from seed right now where they will grow, protected from the elements until March arrives when you will find them on the shelves of your nursery.

You may be wondering why you should start your own tomato plants instead of buying them at nursery?

Well the problem with purchasing your tomato plants from the nursery is that they have a very limited selection of tomato varieties.  And, they may not have the variety you want, or it is sold out.


**Right now, many seed companies are having Christmas sales on their seeds including Burpee and Botanical Interests.

Growing your own tomatoes from seed is very easy and rewarding.

Here is how I have done it…


I like to use Starbucks coffee sleeves or toilet paper rolls, cut in half as my seedling containers.



Grab some seed starting mix from your local nursery or big box store.  Some seed mixes have fertilizer already added.  If not, then I recommend adding a slow-release fertilizer to your potting mix.

Wet the soil before adding to your containers.

Fill your recycled containers with the seed mix and add your seeds.



Place your newly planted seeds in a warm area, such as the top of your refrigerator.  The heat will help them to germinate.

**Use a spray bottle to keep them moist.  Don’t allow the soil to dry out.

Once the seeds begin to sprout, put them in front of a sunny window.


In just a few weeks, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your tomato plants will have grown.

During warm winter days, you can place them outdoors to get a little extra – but be sure to bring them indoors at night until the danger of frost is over. 

As your tomato seedlings grow, you can transfer them to larger containers until you are ready to put them out in the garden.

*For more information on seed starting, click here.

Fall is definitely in the air.  I can stand outside and feel a slight coolness to the breeze, which I love.


This is my favorite time of year.  One of the many reasons is that it is time to get ready to plant my fall vegetable garden.


One of my favorite vegetables to grow is lettuce.  It is so nice to be able to step out into the garden and snip off fresh, delicious lettuce leaves for our dinner salad.

To get a head start on my lettuce, I planted the seeds indoors.  The reason is, is that lettuce seeds need temperatures below 80 degrees in order to germinate.

After a few weeks growing indoors, I will be able to transplant them out into my garden.

Growing lettuce is very easy and you don’t need many supplies to start them indoors.  I used plastic food containers that I had been saving.

Why don’t you join me and grow your own lettuce too?  You don’t have to have a vegetable plot.  Lettuce grows just fine in containers or even in a recyclable grocery bag.


For how to start lettuce seeds indoors, check out my latest Birds & Blooms blog post – “Grow Your Own Lettuce in Recycled Containers”.

I hope you will grow some lettuce with me!

Do you love visiting your local Starbucks for that perfect cup of coffee?  Or maybe you prefer an iced coffee like I do.

 Well, my mother absolutely LOVES coffee and Starbucks is a frequent stop of hers.  The other day, she brought over a bunch of used coffee cups and sleeves.

She had the great idea of using the sleeves for starting seeds in.
Of course when my mother has a good idea, I usually listen 😉
So I got to work….
The kids helped me plant the seeds.
Then I started looking at the cups and I thought that they would make great planters too.
So I cut them in half and then cut out the bottom of the lower  part of the cup using a knife.
Because there are no bottoms to the planters, it is important to place the containers before you fill them with soil.  
I think it turned out pretty good, don’t you?
Tomato, Bachelor’s Button and a Marigold plant.
Once your plants are ready to be transplanted, simply plant the cardboard coffee sleeve in the soil.  The cardboard will break down.
The coffee cup containers won’t break down easily, so place the plant and container in your prepared hole and then simply cut down the side of the container and carefully remove it and finish filling in the hole with soil.
So the next time you stop your local coffee house, don’t throw away your cup – save it and use it for starting seeds.
**To learn more about how to start seeds indoors, you can read my earlier blog post.

Lately, I have been collecting toilet paper rolls.  Now I know that may sound a bit weird to some of you, but I needed them for my garden.

So how on earth can toilet paper rolls help you in the garden?

Well, they are an inexpensive, environmentally friendly tool in which to start seeds indoors.

From upper right – bush beans, marigolds, Kentucky beans, cucumbers, sugar snap peas and spinach.
 
I thought this would be a good project to do with the kids, so we gathered our seeds.
 
 
We cut each toilet paper roll in half (you can use paper towel rolls and cut them into thirds for this too.)
 
 
We used a planting mix that had slow-release fertilizer already included and also had water-holding granules. I advise wetting the soil before adding it to your toilet paper rolls.
 
 
Now that we had everything, we were ready to start. The kids used tablespoons to ‘spoon’ the planting mix into each tube.
 
 
Then we lightly pressed down the planting mix and added more.
 
 
Now it was time to plant.
 
 
Then we used a spray bottle filled with water to thoroughly water each planted seed.
 
Now we had to create a ‘mini-greenhouse’ effect by covering our toilet paper rolls with clear plastic wrap with some holes in the top.  Then we placed them on top of the refrigerator, where it was warm enough to help them germinate.

Every day, we checked the moisture of each toilet paper roll and added more water if necessary.  

 
Once the seedlings germinated, we removed the plastic wrap permanently and placed our seedlings by our bright, sunny kitchen window.
 
We are keeping the soil moist, but not soggy.
 
Soon, we will be able to plant our seedlings (with their toilet paper rolls) in the vegetable garden.  The cardboard from the toilet paper rolls will disintegrate into the soil.
 
Of course, you can always use the ready-made plastic seeding trays, but I must admit that I like this method better 🙂

**Are you new to vegetable gardening in the desert?  We are fortunate that we can grow a large variety of vegetables, as well as fruit.  I invite you to click the ‘Shop’ tab where you’ll find some great information on growing vegetables.

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