Let’s start some seeds!
Starting vegetables from seed is somewhat cheaper (although it can be expensive if you buy a lot of specialized equipment the gardening stores and catalogs want to sell you!), but the biggest reason I start my vegetables from seed is control and selection.
I can select new varieties I want to try, or plants specialized for my region, or ones I’ve read about without being at the whim of the nursery. AND I can start them when I want – I can stagger dates, and have some starts for July or August for fall planting when it’s nearly impossible to find starts in the stores.
It’s not hard, but it always helps to have pictures, I think, so here’s a step-by-step of my technique (such as it is!):
This is what I use – as you can tell, I’m using what I have! I didn’t really mean for my seed starting cells to look this “used,” but when I went out to the garden shed, this is all I had.
Anyway, most stores sell the unit on the left for about $5.99 and they last a number of years (if you store them properly, which I didn’t!). The unit comes with the clear dome and the tray and twelve 6-cell pots. Lately it seems much easier to find units with “Jiffy Pots” in them instead of the 6-cell pots, but I don’t like Jiffy Pots – they dry out faster and they stunted the growth of some of my plants when I planted them directly into the garden as they instruct (the roots weren’t able to “grow through” the membrane well and became sort of root-bound).
The tray on the right I found in the shed along with some various sized pots all reused from plants I bought last year (for flower container plants – I can’t start ALL my plants from seed. Well, I probably could, but I don’t…). I start peppers and tomatoes in bigger pots and they seem to do OK plus it’s one less transplant I have to do, because I like these to be really big before I put them in the garden.
Now, all the books and magazines I’ve read will tell you to wash out old pots with a bleach solution. Confession: I’ve never done that (there goes my credibility…). I don’t like using bleach, and basically I’m lazy – I’m doing good if I just get them washed with a spray of water! So that’s all I do, and I’ve not had any problems with fungus (yet, anyway…) probably because I always use the other item in the picture:
Sterilized seed starting mix. I’ve never skimped here and don’t try to “reuse” or sterilize my own (again, too many steps for me…I need to keep it as easy as possible, or I might not do it :-). It’s not too expensive – the huge bag here was $10.00 and will last all through the season including what I do later for the fall. You, of course, can buy smaller bags. Be aware, though, it’s harder to find after the spring in the smaller bags in regular stores (you probably could find it in nurseries).
OK, after I’ve gotten my things together, the first step is to wet the seed mix. I now use an old container, fill it and mix with water. It takes awhile to get it thoroughly mixed. I used to put it directly in the cells, then try to wet it, but found the centers would still be dry and I’d have to take a chopstick and stir each individual pot! Trust me…you want to wet it first.
It will be somewhat clumpy, and won’t go into the cells nicely for you…
So don’t be afraind to get dirty! Just start pushing it into the cells (and pots – whatever you use) with your hands. Fill them full, because when we water them, the dirt will sink a bit and it’s better not to add more soil at that point.
Fill all the containers this way.
Then pull out the seeds to plant. I’m taking this opportunity to show you my seed-saving system. It’s pretty simple and basic: a portable file box (should be opaque so light doesn’t get through) with a lid and hanging files with the alphabet labels that come with them. I then put the individual seed packets in baggies according to type (ie, all broccoli varieties together in one baggie, etc.). The baggies make it easy to find the packets when I want to plant carrots or whatever, and they are supposed to help keep the packets better for storage (who knows, though?). Then the baggies are filed alphabetically. These hanging files also had a pocket where I put a few individual packets – usually of flowers (the yellow packet in the photo). I have used 5 year old seed from this system and had them sprout.
I get my seeds through the mail to get the best selection, but there’s nothing wrong with buying from the store. I love going through the catalogs, though – it’s the thing I wait for after the holidays! And, there’s a lot if growing information in them. Here are the ones I buy from each year, two are local here in the NW, and the one I buy the bulk of my seeds from, is all the way in Maine, BUT they are the least expensive and I’ve always had good service and product from them:
Alright, let’s get these things planted! I always use plastic labels and a “garden marker” from Pinetree (because the “permanent marker” always faded by August), and put them in the pots first so I can “map” out where I want the seeds and what I have room for.
Now, WHERE do you put these, and HOW do they get light when they’ve germinated?
Well, I just happen to have a couple of pictures…