Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Seed Starts (You can do this!)

This past weekend the boys and I celebrated our second annual seed starting party. Yes, my friends, we (drum roll please...)...

have started our garden!

For those of you living in warmer climates, you can sow your seeds directly into the earth, but for those of us in cooler areas, starting seeds indoors will allow you a jump start on beginning your summer vegetable or herb garden.

Last year I decided to dive into seed planting at home, so I started to query those I knew who had experience in this area. I read books, articles and scoured the Internet for any information to help guide our way. Veteran gardeners were eager to share their wisdom, and so with a little bit of knowledge under our collective belts, the boys and began our seeding experiment.

Lest you think otherwise, I have two very olive-y, brownish green thumbs. I am not a gardening expert, but starting seeds is easy and FUN.

Here's my recipe for Seed Starts:

Seed Starts

1. Several pages of old newspaper
2. Two or Three tomato paste size cans (or anything with about a 1 1/2 to 2 inch diameter)
3. Seed planting soil, aka as soil-less mix (you can buy at any nursery, home improvement store, heck, I saw it at Target this week)
4. Tape
5. Marker
6. Seeds (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans and zucchini do well--seeds that do NOT grow easily: lavender, eggplant, and anything that is a root vegetable--like carrots, beets, etc should be direct sown in the soil)

To start, we made our planting cups. The boys cut each newspaper whole page in half lengthwise, and then half again. Using one strip at a time, we rolled it up:


Once it was rolled, we bent the one end over the sides of the can (much as if you were trying to “wrap” one end) and taped it on the end and the seam to hold the cup in place.

We removed the can and repeated the steps above until we had approximately 20 cups, which I labeled so we would remember what was in each cup:

Then we prepared the planting mix by pouring lots of water over a compressed block of the mix:


The boys loved watching the soil mysteriously grow and expand as it absorbed the water. One 8x4 x1 inch block produced 8 quarts of planting mix, way, way more than we used for all twenty cups!

Once the soil was fully re-hydrated, we filled each cup approximately 2/3 of the way full with soil. Carefully, we planted 4-6 seeds in each cup and then put a scant amount of planting mix on top of the seeds. Since the planting mix was very wet, it was not necessary to water the cups.

Once our seeds were actually planted, we needed to help encourage their germination and growth. To do this, we covered our seedlings with plastic wrap and placed them in a sunny or warm spot (seeds do not need sunlight to germinate since they are still underground, they just need warmth). This allows for a more humid environment for seed germination, and also increases the temperature of the growing environment.

To water the seeds, we use a water bottle to simply mist the soil each day. The soil only needs a small amount of water, and if you try and pour a scant amount, it ends up being too much.

One note: Be sure to remove the plastic wrap once the seeds are sprouting.

Once the sprouts have grown, the plants need sunlight, often more than a window or partly cloudy day can provide. To help encourage plant growth, traditional florescent lights can be used to supplement sunlight. We happened to have a set of florescent lights in our basement, so we set up a quick contraption to encourage growth. A few hooks in the basement rafters were all we needed, along with some chain and s-hooks to build our grow station.

We do not use the florescent lights except on cloudy days, and even then, only for the daylight, as young vegetable plants do not need round-the-clock sunshine.

I know it sounds like a lot of steps, but it is actually fun and simple.

Now, let the growing season begin!

Life is sweet,
SPC

2 comments:

p lou said...

I can't wait to try this. Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you!