Thursday, April 8, 2010

How I Start Seeds

For any of you who ever asked (and everyone who hasn't), here is how I start seeds. First, I fill a tray with potting soil, and pat it down nice a tight so the soil wicks up water really well. Then I poke holes to the appropriate depth for the seeds I want to plant, and put one or two seeds in each hole, depending on how good I think the seed is - older seeds I usually plant two. Finally, I cover the seeds in their little holes with very fine seed starting mix that I buy in bags. If there's a seed that is supposed to be planted on the soil surface I usually spread a thin layer of the seed starting mix over the top of the regular potting soil before laying the seeds down.

I leave the flat on my counter until most or all of the seeds have sprouted, as it is a little warmer in my kitchen than my basement. Once they're up I snip off any extras at the base of the stem, then they go in the basement under ordinary shop lights. I keep a timer on my lights to automatically turn them off at 1am and back on at 5am. Some plants would be fine with the lights on all the time, but some need a resting period in order to grow.

Once they have their first set of "true" leaves (the ones that look different from the first set) I loosen the soil around them with a small kitchen knife and gently pull them out, pulling on the leaves rather than the stem. Then I really bury them almost down to their leaves when I put them in their own pots. (I think this is supposed to be bad for some plants, but I haven't had any trouble with it so far.) This year I made newspaper pots, but I haven't made up my mind if I like them better or not. Usually I just re-use plastic nursery pots, or in a pinch I poke holes in old margarine containers.
Before they get transplanted they really need to get accustomed to the outdoors. I try to set them in a spot where they won't get too much wind or sun, on a nice mild day. They should go out for just a couple hours the first day, then longer on subsequent days. After about a week of this I go ahead and transplant. Of course, I am not always very good about following my own rules, but I do my best and they don't seem to mind.

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