Monday, March 18, 2013
Starting seeds and watching them turn into beautiful, early plants is one of my major hobbies. I begin getting spring fever around January usually and have to restrain myself not to begin too early. This year, due to several odd circumstances I found myself with time, energy and sunshine pretty early. This allowed me to start lots and lots of seeds. I had some really great help getting them started.
I wanted to line out my philosophy and the steps I take to ensure that my seeds thrive all of the time.
1) This is a temporary holding pen, not your garden. This is just a place to get seeds up and going. You are not building soil or doing long term things, just getting a head start on the season. I like to use trays and 9 packs that I get from Orchard Supply. They are pretty inexpensive and can be used several times. This gives me a consistent size of thing to move around. It helps.
2) I usually buy potting soil. I know that I could probably make some, but it is pretty inexpensive. Remember, it is just a holding pen. This year I gathered some moss, cooked it in water on my wood stove, then left it to dry out. Then I crumbled it up and mixed it - about 1 part moss to 2 to 3 parts soil. I did this both to extend my potting soil and for moisture control. It worked pretty well.
3) I use commercial fertilizer almost every time I water. Usually I spend about 15-20 dollars on a bottle of organic fertilizer and that will last me through this season. This tends to make the plants stocky and strong. There is just no good way for your soil in those little cells to last and produce great plants unless they are fed regularly. You could probably make some, but I don't.
4) Only heirloom, GMO free seeds. These are the only ones you should even consider using. This has been covered before in this blog, so I won't hit it this time. While I was doing all of this seed starting, I was staying about 10 minutes from Baker Creek's Seed Bank. I may have overspent there.
5) LABEL EVERYTHING! Spend a little money on labels that will last. These are white plastic ones and I mark them with a sharpie marker. You WON'T be sorry!
6) I put the trays out all day, every day right from the beginning, whenever practical and possible. I bring them every night until the weather is steady. This is not something we like to forget. The reason I do this is to harden off the plants right from the get go. Otherwise what tends to happen is a great spring day comes along and you finally haul the trays of green plants out. A few hours later you go check on them and they are FRIED! I have done this many, many times. Either harden them off a little at a time or begin by taking them out before they even sprout.
7) Overplanting early, then separating the plants into individual cells works really well for me. This allows me to have less trays to haul around early in the season. A lot of the time once I begin separating them, it is warm enough to leave them outside at night.
8) Once it begins to be warm and you are separating everything, you might need to water twice a day. A good watering can is invaluable.
Follow these steps and you will have some beautiful plants, ready to go into the ground as soon as it is practical. Where we are, NOT before Mother's Day for the tomato, pepper and cuke seeds.