Terra Viva Organics – Organic Gardening Supplies and Expert Advice



Apartment Composting

to Start in February


Leeks could Kill: Vichyssoise to Die for

Try Apartment Composting

by Max Dalrymple

When I moved to my current apartment I had windows along the south wall
perfect for a winter garden, but no patio or yard in which to put my compost.
The solution? A compost column built from two recycled two liter plastic
bottles, an idea from the University of Wisconsin’s Bottle Biology Resources

Look carefully at the drawing. The two bottles are cut differently. The
first bottle has the bottom pried off and the top cut off. The larger
portion of this bottle becomes the top chamber of the column,

The second bottle has only the bottom cut off. The bottom then becomes
the base of the column and is a dish into which excess water can drip,
keeping your kitchen counter or window dry as you fill the column with
compost. The top of the first bottle can be used as the lid, or you can
use either of the bottoms. You can recyle the parts of the bottle that
you don’t use.

I put the column along the east side of my kitchen window, where it is
handy for me to throw in scraps from my vegetables and fruits which are
cleaned in the sink immediately below. I also throw in an occasional eggshell.
I can also sprinkle water into the top, and the sun provides some additional
heat to keep the compost working.

I’m not allowed a cat or a dog in the apartment, and I would not use
their droppings in this compost pit if I did. I do throw in a little manure
purchased at the local garden store, however.

The results: Last year my tomatoes grew and produced throughout the winter.
With the benefit of a little additional florescent light, they grew all
around my sink. This year I reserved the kitchen window and the florescent
lights for my miniature roses. I moved my tomatoes to a table in the living
area where they have more room. The result has been great until this last
week when one of the tomatoes began to grow a little spindly. I’ve harvested
about eight tomatoes, have eight tomatoes currently on my three plants,
and there are many blooms, suggesting I’ll continue to have a good crop
for some months.

The tomatoes take a lot of water in this heated apartment, but my apartment
compost reduces the amount I have to give each plant. I also am sure to
water my plants twice, with a gap of about twenty minutes between each
watering, so the plants drink as much of the water as possible. Little
water is wasted, and I’m reminded each time I water, of the benefits of
having a good apartment compost column.

Seeds to Start in February

by Susan Ward

As soon as I’ve taken down the Christmas decorations and dragged out the
tree, I dig out my seed trays and start checking my supplies. I know it’s
too early to get any basil or tomatoes going; I know Zinnias and Impatiens
won’t be able to go into the ground until the end of May (if then!); I know
that seeds started too early indoors will turn into pathetic, lanky, weak
plants that won’t do anything outside except embarrass me, but I can’t help
myself; seeding fever has set in.

The trick to successful seeding is planning, starting the right seeds
at the right time in the right conditions. Generally, the right time to
start seeds depends on when the seedlings can be moved outside safely
in your specific area. No matter which zone you garden in, there are plants
that can be started indoors this month and moved outside before the end
of May.

For you other eager seeders, here are lists of vegetables and flowers
that can be started indoors in January and February, and moved outside
in early spring (March – April), if you garden in zones 4 – 8, or late
spring (April – May), if you garden in zones 2 – 3. Each chart (adapted
from Garden and Greenhouse’s “Planting Guide for Spring Bedding Plants”)
lists the approximate indoor starting date, the germination temperature
needed, the seed’s required conditions, and the approximate number of
days until germination.



Species Seeding Date Temperature Days to Germination
Chives Jan 29 70 F 10
Head Lettuce Feb 25 70 F 7
Onion Jan 15 70 F 10


Rouge D'Hiver Romaine lettuce The planting dates
are based on John West’s experience in Denver, Colorado (40 degrees north
latitude with a 5000-foot elevation), so the planting times will be suitable
for most northern climates. John uses an assumed planting date of April
15 for “early spring.” If you live in zone 5 or above, you might want
to seed two to three weeks earlier if you like taking chances. Seed listed
as needing dark for germination will germinate in bright light conditions
(such as in a bright window, greenhouse, or under fluorescent lights positioned
no more than six inches directly over the flats) if they’re covered to
several times their thickness. Seed listed as requiring light needs to
be uncovered and in bright light.

Remember; the seed dates are approximate. If you haven’t seeded
Chives or Onions yet, this doesn’t mean that it’s too late. You’ll
notice from the chart that these three vegetables are ideal seeding
companions, as they all need the same germination temperature.

I actually start my lettuce (including mesclun) a little earlier
than this, as I love the tender young greens. I seed directly into
large shallow clay pots, which I put out on my sheltered balcony
after the greens have gotten big enough, as house temperatures cause
lettuce to wilt. In her 1996 Gardening Calendar, Helen Chestnut has
another great idea for harvesting spring lettuce early; she
recommends starting leaf and butter lettuce now and then
transplanting it into a cold frame or plastic tunnel in early
March… sowing seed radish, spinach, and bok choy directly into the
frame or tunnel when the lettuce is transplanted.


I admit I’m a sucker for a pretty
bloom. This table is organized by germination temperature, rather
than alphabetically, to make it easier to group seeds.

Species Seeding Date Temperature Seed Requires Days to Germination
Aquilegia Jan 1 55 Light 30
Armeria Feb 12 55 Dark 10
Candytuft Feb 25 55 Covered 20
Larkspur Feb 12 55 Dark 21
Myosotis Jan 29 55 Covered 8
Penstemon Feb 12 55 Light 10
Achillea Feb 25 60 Covered 10
Centranthus Feb 25 60 Covered 10
Dianthus (Sweet William) Feb 12 60 Covered 5
Pedilanthus(Jacob’s Ladder) Feb 12 60 Covered 20
Poppy Feb 25 60 Uncovered 15
Scabiosa (Per) Feb 12 60 Covered 15
Alyssum (Per) Jan 29 70 Covered 25
Cheiranthus Feb 25 70 Covered 10
Geum Feb 12 70 Covered 28
Linaria Feb 25 70 Covered 10
Nierembergia Feb 25 70 Covered 15
Nigella Feb 25 70 Covered 8
Pansy Jan 29 70 Covered 10

While there are many other flower seeds that can be started in
February, this list only includes the tough or semi-hardy ones that
can be planted outside in early spring, so you don’t need to worry
about keeping them alive indoors for an extra month or two while
you’re waiting for the temperatures outside to climb. You other
Basil and Zinnia lovers know you’ll have to wait another month or
two to get these tender heatlovers going!

But if you have enough windowsill space or some growlights set
up, you can start your indoor seeding program right away.Happy

Susan Ward is a freelance writer living in Comox, B.C. who
has a passion for gardening. She is the Suite101 Editor for
Gardening in B.C. and writes for magazines such as BackHome.

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If Leeks could Kill: Vichyssoise to Die

by Phil Heiple

Vichyssoise (potato-leek soup)

  • 1 Potato
  • 3 Leeks
  • 1 onion
  • Garlic
  • 1 to 2 cups cream
  • Butter

Chop up and cook potato, garlic, onion, and
leeks in butter in saucepan. Put cream in blender and add 2/3 cooked
vegetables. Blend til smooth.
Return to saucepan and heat. Good
served hot or chilled.
Garnish with sour cream and chopped
herbs. Drop dead easy.

Phil Heiple has been gardening since the mid-seventies.
Recipes for all the stuff he grows: www.rain.org/~philfear/garden.html

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