Monday, April 07, 2008

Starting Seeds

It's seed-starting season. Well, it has been for a while! I took these photos in late March.

This is the third season I've started my own plants indoors. Before this, I used to buy seedlings at the hardware store or a landscape/garden center. I don't know why I was ever intimidated by the idea of starting my own seeds, now that I've done it a couple of times.

I start by putting little seed cup things in a tray. Then I fill the cups with seed starter mix (not potting soil). I've learned I have to press the mix down in there, not leave it loose and fluffy. I used to take a spoon and fill each little cup. Now I just dump a bunch of mix on the middle of the tray and cups, and spread it out with my hands. I poke it down firmly with my fingers, dump some more, spread, poke... until all the little seed cups are full.

Some seeds (especially teeny tiny herb seeds) need to lie barely beneath the surface, or even on top of the surface. Other seeds, such as broccoli or peppers, need to be buried about 1/4". I use a high quality ball point pen to make my holes. The high quality ball point pen (this one from a hotel) is a key part of my seed starting equipment.

After I make all my holes, I drop two seeds in each hole. I get my seeds from Seed Savers Exchange and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and they have an unbelievably good germination rate. If my seeds are older, or from the hardware store, I plant three or even four per hole.

After the seeds are in, I press the starting mix over them, or press them into the surface if they're tiny seeds that need to lie on the surface. Then I take out one little six- or nine-pack of the cups and put water into the tray. I don't ever water on top of the cups; I always water from beneath.

I'll let the starting mix dry out quite a bit before watering again, but I try not to let it get so dry the seedlings wilt. The first year I tended to over-water and almost loved my seedlings to a soggy death; now I'm better at ignoring them and they like it that way.

Because I keep my sprouting seeds under clear domes, I can't put little markers in to remind me what I planted where - the markers are too tall. And there's NO WAY I can trust my memory! So I make myself a little map on a spare sheet of paper. I write down what I planted and the date. For this task I use my high-quality ball point pen. Writing down the date helps me to not panic when I think something isn't sprouting quickly enough. I can look at the date and realize it's only been three days since I planted those seeds :)

Now we just wait...

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