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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Make It From Scratch: Choosing Seeds

by Tonya

Hi guys, are you ready for the first step in the Make It From Scratch series? Let's shop for seeds!

Today we'll tell you which seeds and plants we'll be growing in our gardens this year. There are some plants that will come back on their own in my garden and I have some seeds left over from last year, which I've kept in the refrigerator to increase their chances of germinating. We also ordered a bunch of new seeds, which are arriving in the mail and making me pretty excited about this year's garden! We hope you'll join us and order seeds for your place, so you can follow along.

The seeds, taking a look at their snowy future garden beds

For the Dye Garden, we ordered the following seeds. I arranged them based on the dye color we anticipate achieving with each plant, though there are no absolute guarantees about what color we'll end up with.


Onion (you might buy onion sets instead of seeds)

Rhubarb (this already grows in my garden; you'll probably buy a root rather than seeds)


Red cabbage


Some plants are listed under more than one color; that's no mistake. Different parts of plants can create different colors. We might use the flowers, leaves, stems, and roots of a plant to create different effects. We can also change the dye color by using different techniques and different mordants (fixatives to make the dye penetrate and stay in the fabric or yarn). We'll get to all that later on.

For the Herb Garden, we'll grow these seeds or plants:

For Eating and Drinking:
Garlic (you'll most likely plant cloves of garlic, not seeds)
Genovese Basil
Greek Oregano
Lavender, Hidcote
Lavender, English
Lime Basil

For Beauty Products, Household Items and Pets:
Lavender, Hidcote
Lavender, English

You should pick and choose which plants you think you'll want to use. If you're just starting out with gardening, maybe just choose a few plants that are the most appealing to you! 

As you're shopping for seeds, make sure they'll grow in your location. If you're in the U.S., you can click here to find out your zone. The zones are based on the usual weather conditions and temperatures in each area. We live in Zone 5, where we have cold winters and hot summers. Catalogs and online stores will usually list the zones where each plant will grow successfully. Your local nursery should only offer plants that will grow where you live.

I love looking through all the seed catalogs that arrive this time of year, folding down the corners of pages and circling way too many plants! Then I might make a more realistic list and see which seeds I can buy from my favorite sources. You can buy seeds from lots of different stores, but I'll tell you about my two favorite sources:

Seed Savers Exchange offers heirloom, open-pollinated, and some organic seeds. This is usually my first stop for buying seeds. They also store a collection of thousands of seeds in a vault in Iowa to preserve plant biodiversity. 

Renee's Garden also provides heirloom, open-pollinated, and some organic seeds, plus hybrids - and no genetically engineered or treated seeds. She chooses delicious varieties that grow well, so this is a great place to start. I've ordered quite a bit from her. 

I bought my indigo and madder seeds on Etsy, from this seller. They arrived quickly, packaged nicely, and have brief growing instructions attached. I haven't planted them yet, but I'll keep you updated on how they grow.      

We'd love to know your favorite places to buy seeds. Please share in the comments!   

Next time we'll be preparing to start our seeds indoors by collecting the right equipment and setting up a sunny place for growing. See you then! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Make It From Scratch Series Is Coming Soon!

Hi guys, 

Stefanie and I are so excited to announce a new series we'll be publishing this year! It's called Make It From Scratch and we will be growing plants to use in all kinds of projects. 

We'll focus on two types of gardens: Natural Dyes and Herbs. We will guide you through choosing seeds, starting them indoors, transplanting to the garden, growing, harvesting, preparing the plants to use, and finally using them in a bunch of fun ways! 

In the Natural Dyes series, we will grow plants to make different colored natural dyes and use them to dye yarn and fabric. We'll use a variety of fun techniques to create different results. 

In the Herb Garden series, we will share our favorite recipes for foods, cosmetics, and household items using the herbs we grow. 

We'll start this month, with choosing and buying seeds. Is your mailbox full of seed catalogs this time of year? Mine is, and it's so fun to daydream about gardening (but not have to do any of the work yet!). We'll talk about which zone you live in, so you can figure out when to start planting indoors and when to move your plants outside.

In February and March, we'll plant many seeds indoors. We'll show you our favorite method and equipment for seed starting.

In April and May, we'll start testing and preparing the soil in the garden, and finally move some plants outside.

The rest of the summer and into the fall, we'll tend our gardens and harvest leaves, flowers, stems, and roots to use in our projects and recipes.

We'll post every month with instructions, tips, and updates from our gardens. We'll tour some local dye and herb gardens. We'll review great gardening books - here are the ones I currently have checked out from the library:

Plus I have my collection of old favorites to share with you. 

Here's what my garden looks like today: 

Note the footprints to my compost bin - all my coffee grounds and fruit and vegetable scraps end up there. They're quietly becoming nutritious food for the garden. 

You might also note that there are still plants sticking up out of the snow. I don't always put my garden to bed like I should, but it always turns out okay anyway. I just have a little more work to do in the springtime. If you're not a "perfect gardener," don't worry - you can still have great results!

It's going to be so much fun to watch that plot of land change from a snow pile to a bountiful garden, and then see all the things we can make from it! We hope you'll share your gardens, progress, questions, advice, and finished projects with us. Please subscribe or follow us so you won't miss anything!