About this project
Keeping seedlings alive!
New life emerging from a seed is magical. But it can be hard to keep those baby plants alive!
Before I started making terracotta seed-starters in my garage, I killed a lot of seedlings. In the delicate seedling phase, plants need gentle watering every single day, twice a day if it’s hot outside. With long hours and work travel, sometimes it just wasn’t possible for me to keep those baby plants alive.
About a year ago I had an idea for a new way to solve this problem. I invented a terracotta self watering seed-starter with a reservoir for water, and porous walls that keeps seedlings happy for about a week between waterings.
My mother in law sent me this picture of her tomato starts after they’d been left alone for nine days while she was on a trip.
After debuting my invention last September, I started selling out all the production runs I could make in my garage. I found some local artisans here in California to help me meet the growing demand.
Bigger is Better for Baby Plants
Now I’m working on a new, bigger model. The 12-pack allows you to grow bigger seedlings, and more of them. Big is great for the plants, but it's too much for me to handle in the garage. I need your help to make this product a reality.
With your support, I can pay for professional mold-making, and begin manufacturing with my partners in California. THANK YOU for supporting the Self-Watering Kitchen Garden!
I'll be offering the 12-pack to supporters of this project before it's available to the general public. After the Kickstarter is over, you'll be able to choose from 4 glaze colors: White and green will be offered, plus 2 wild-card colors that will be chosen by supporters of the project.
I also have a limited edition Original Sixie seed-starter, postcard, tote bag and organic cotton t-shirt as additional rewards.
All rewards include the cost of shipping.
Thank you for your support of the Orta Self-Watering Kitchen garden!
New Rewards - Seeds!
Many of you have asked, and here they are! I have designed 5 trios of seeds that will work well with all Orta Seed-Starters and are easy to grow in the ground or in containers. You can add these to your pledge, or tell your friends to get them for you!
Easy Heirloom Tomato Trio
Three vigorous varieties of small heirloom tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are much easier to grow than larger varieties. If you haven’t grown tomatoes before I recommend starting with these three. Tomato plants need to be transplanted into garden beds or large containers (5 gallon minimum) and need full sun to produce well.
Salad Greens Trio
The always popular arugula, along with two heirloom heading lettuces. Greens will tolerate some shade, and can be grown in fairly small containers (6 inch pots are ok for one plant), although they are happier and will produce more with more space. This trio is a good choice for apartments.
Summer Stars Patio Trio
The three most popular plants to grow in your summer garden: Heirloom cherry tomatoes (dwarf variety appropriate for containers), Basil Genovese (pesto basil), and heirloom sweet peppers (compact container variety). All of these plants must be started early in seed starters then planted out to a sunny spot in containers. They will also do fine in the ground.
Heirloom Basil Trio
This trio of seeds includes the classic Italian pesto basil, Genovese, along with Thai Basil, and a very flavorful, mottled purple basil called Ararat. Basil plants are happy transplanted either in the ground or in pots (about 10 inches across or larger), but they need lots of sun and warmth to thrive.
Container Tea Herb Trio
Grow your own herbal teas! Herbs require a bit more patience to germinate and start in your seed-starter, but once they get going, they are hardy plants that do well in containers (about 10 inches across and bigger), and will tolerate a bit of shade. This trio includes Chamomile, Spearmint and Lemon Balm. Please note that both Spearmint and Lemon Balm should be grown in containers because they can become quite invasive in an open garden bed. Chamomile can be grown either in a container or out in the ground.
You can find these new rewards over on the right. Pledge levels are as follows:
$9 pledge: One trio of seeds ($3 per seed packet)
$16 pledge: Two trios (save $2!)
$36 pledge: All five trios (pay for 4, get all 5!)
If you're already a backer and would like to add seeds to your pledge, simply increase your pledge by the appropriate amount. At the end of the funding period, when we ask for shipping details, etc, there will be an opportunity to choose your trio(s).
(I'm sorry, this reward is not available to international backers - international shipping of seeds is very restricted.)
July - August: Work with professional mold-makers to develop original "mother mold" that will be used to produce production molds.
Early September: Make and dry production molds. (Plaster molds take up to 10 days to dry before they can be used.)
Early September - October: Cast, fire and glaze 1st run of 12-packs
October - November: Ship 1st run 12-packs
October - December: Cast, fire and glaze 2nd run of 12-packs
January: Ship 2nd run of 12-packs
How you can help
First, I need to raise enough capital to pay for the professional molds and make this project happen. If you'd like a seed-starter, tote, or t-shirt, please back the project.
Second, I need help getting the word out. If you know someone who might like this project, please send it along to them. Or post to Facebook and Twitter!
Thank you very much for your support! Every little bit helps and I really appreciate it.
What people are saying:
"Amazing idea! Where have you been all my life?"
"I work long and crazy hours and I immediately knew that your design and idea would be invaluable to me for some consistent seed starting and healthy growing."
– Rob, Alaska
"I'm so excited - because these might be the only seeds I won't be able to kill!"
– Deena, Washington
We've reached the funding goal and then some! Thank you all for your support!!
Now it's time for some stretch goals. Here they are:
If we reach $35,000: We'll be able to work with an artist to design beautiful custom seed packets. All backers at the $20 level and up will receive a limited edition print of all the seed-packet artwork. And for everyone who pledged to receive seeds, your seed packets will be much better looking!
If we reach $40,000: Everyone* at the $20 level and up will receive a free packet of heirloom tomato seeds!
If we reach $45,000: Everyone* at the $20 level and up will receive a free packet of heirloom basil seeds, in addition to the tomato seeds!
*For international backers in countries that restrict the import of seeds (which is most countries) we will replace the seed packets with postcards of the seed packet artwork. If you're a US backer and prefer postcards to seeds, just tell me, and I can make the substitution for you too.
Thanks again for your support!
Risks and challenges
Building on my success bringing my first seed-starter to market, I am confident that I will be able to fulfill orders for the 12-pack on time. This doesn’t mean it will be easy. The 12-pack is a difficult piece of pottery to make. (In some ways this is great news: because it’s so hard to make, it is extremely difficult for others to copy!) But the 12-pack shares the same basic structure and materials as the smaller models, and my artisan partners and I have already worked hard to overcome the challenges inherent in the manufacture of such a complicated form. From form considerations to mold design, and production timing to clay recipes, we’ve already worked out the kinks in this highly analog process.
The two biggest risks in adapting our successful process to the larger 12-pack are form and timing. In order for the pots to cast reliably in high quantities, I may need to tweak the form of the pot in small ways. The overall size and shape, and size and number of plant pockets will remain the same. I have planned for plenty of time in the schedule to meet estimated delivery times, but sometimes unforeseen things happen. I will keep you updated of progress along the way, and you’ll be the first to know if there are any delays. We’re all in this together! Thank you for your support.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
You could probably grow some small herbs in the seed-starters (thyme, dill, chives, cilantro), but the pots are primarily designed to start your seeds and keep the seedlings alive until you're ready to plant them out to bigger pots, or to the garden. There are probably lots of small ornamental plants you could grow permanently in the seed-starters (like mini succulents), but I'm very focused on veggies and herbs and haven't tried it. My next product is going to be a bigger self-watering pot, designed to hold bigger plants for a long time. I'm aiming to have it ready in about 6 months.
You can use anything you want, but you'll get better results with something specially formulated for starting seeds (usually called a seed-starting mix or a sterile potting mix). There are two reasons for using a dedicated seed-starting mix. First, the mixes are specially designed to hold both water and air, giving a seedling the optimum amount of both, while "regular dirt" can be dense and lock out air, or very sandy, which will keep the seedlings a bit dry. Second, regular dirt from the garden usually has lots of weed seeds in it, which will sprout and compete with the plant you're trying to grow. That said, I've had ok results with the dense clay soil from my yard, and with straight compost.
Will the Original Sixie be available in its normal colors in addition to the limited edition Kickstarter color?
Yes. The default will be the awesome limited edition Kickstarter color, but I'll send out a survey after the funding period ends and ask for your preference. The original shiny white and matte brown will still be available.
I'm blowing air into the mold as the liquid drains out. Otherwise you get the glug-glug-glug of a liquid pouring out of a closed container. The problem with glugging in a mold is that it creates a vacuum inside the mold, and pulls the pot from the walls of the mold, and makes a collapsed pot. In the next iteration of the mold, designed by professional mold-makers, there will be a more elegant way to do this!
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