Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Seed Starting 101

Spring is officially here and I'm ready to plant something! Anything really. BUT. We're still having pretty cold nighttime temperatures. I could probably plant my cool weather veggie seeds right into the garden. They'll do better if I wait a few more weeks and let the soil warm up a bit more.

That leaves starting my seedlings inside. I have a south facing window in my kitchen that gets pretty good sunlight most of the day. That's where I will place my growing set-up. Starting seedlings are easy if you have the right conditions. Heat, light, the correct soil and moisture.

As I mentioned before about my south facing window. It provides good light and warmth. The light is kind of at an angle though, so I will have to rotate my flat every other day to even out the plant growth. Ideally, I should probably have a grow light mounted under my kitchen cabinets to get a more even light on that area of my countertop. Some day. It's a factor to take into consideration for your own indoor seedling starting though. Make sure the light is streaming through your window most of the day. Otherwise, consider getting a grow light.

The heat from the sunlight coming in my kitchen window seems to be sufficient for my seedlings. If it wasn't, I would consider purchasing a heat mat. They make a huge difference in the germination and growth of your seedlings. Another factor to consider since soil temperature is VERY important to plant growth.

Well, that should give you the basics of WHERE to place your growing set-up. Let's get PLANTING!

Start with a SEEDLING MIX! The brand doesn't matter. Well, some brands MAY be better than others. I'm not really convinced of this. The important thing is SEEDLING MIX. It's generally lighter and finer than standard potting soil and the important part is it's been "sterilized". Oh sure, you can mix your own soil mixture and bake it in the oven to kill off the damping off fungus. That's up to you. I'm ready to plant, so, I'm starting with a ready-made mix.

Round up your growing necessities. For me, that consists of:

A seedling flat.

A clear seedling flat cover. The one I like is about 7" high and has vents that can be opened as needed.

A variety of seeds to plant.

And containers to put the soil/seeds into. There are lots of containers out there to purchase. Plastic containers. Peat or coconut containers. Little peat pellets that swell up when soaked in water. BUT. You can also use rinsed out yogurt cups......toilet paper tubes......egg cartons....
Even these neat little diy soil blocks using no container at all. I save all the little six-pack containers (and any size container really) that my purchased plants come in. I soak them in a little bleach water solution to get rid of any weird fungus' that might be hanging onto them. Fill your container will your seedling mix and pack it firmly into that container.

Place the seed you're using on top of the firmed soil. It's hard to see in this picture, but there are Swiss chard seeds on top of the soil. Then just lightly sprinkle a little more soil over the seeds. If you're using larger seeds (like squash or cucumbers), you can just lightly push the seed into the soil to cover. Moisten the soil with water. Label the containers so you know what you're growing.

Set into your growing tray. Put the clear lid on and place into your windowsill.

Keep the soil moist and in about 7 to 14 days you should start to see your seedlings emerge. As they grow, if you notice them leaning toward the window (S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G for the sun), turn the planting tray so that those plants are getting better light. You may need to do this every day to even out the light distribution.

I'm also experimenting with starting some of my seedlings in this make-shift cold frame that I made from an old greenhouse window elevated over a row of cinder blocks.....

I'll let you know about my progress.....

Happy Gardening!


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