Thursday, February 10, 2011

Seed Starting

Seed-starting season is officially here. The impatiens that I grow for my hanging baskets and flowerpots are supposed to be started an incredible 9-11 weeks before my last frost date, April 18th! I am okay with that as I have found that they do okay if put out while it's still quite chilly, so getting them started early means I have more room under my growing lights for tomatoes and peppers later.

As you can see in the picture, I buy the expensive seed starting potting mix for starting seeds in. The majority of the gardening books I've read recommend doing this, even the ones that are a little disdainful of the usual gardening dogma. I think they're probably right, as I wouldn't want to deal with the disappointment of losing a whole season's seedlings to damping off. If you buy this stuff, don't plan on being able to plant in it out of the bag; it is always extremely dry when you open it. The best thing to do is fill your growing container with soil, tamp down the soil firmly, and set it in a dish of water overnight. (I'm assuming your container has holes in the bottom. It really should.) Weight the container if you must to keep it from floating, and keep an eye on it to see if you need to add more water - I'm always amazed how much water a fine soil can hold. When the top of the soil is clearly moist, as in the picture below, it's ready for planting.

After all the trouble last year with the mosaic virus, which seemed to come from my seedlings, I decided to get rid of my old seedling trays. Cleaning with bleach water is the recommended way to protect this year's plants from last year's problems, but I find it really hard to get all the soil out of the cracks and crevices of those flimsy plastic trays, and I've been trying to think of a new solution. Finally, it occurred to me that the little plastic steamer trays that come in my frozen lunches would make really great seed-starting dishes! There is a removable tray with holes in the sides and bottom, and finger-sized indentations (see pic above) that allow water to be added to the bottom dish without pouring it over the surface of the soil, which can disrupt seeds that haven't sprouted yet. They're also more sturdy than the large commercial trays, so they can be carried up and down my basement stairs with only one hand. And they're smaller, so I won't have so much trouble fitting them under the lights, and I can start different seeds in different containers. Best of all: they're otherwise just food-grade garbage!

I'm also going to start some daylily seeds soon so I won't have to have the lights on for just a few impatiens. More on that later.

1 comment:

  1. Way to re-use, Shaela! Those containers look just about perfect.