Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Seed-Starting Reflections

Yesterday I moved all of the plants out of the guest bedroom, took down the lights and the table, and removed the plastic cover from the low tunnel outside. There are now about 30-40 little seedlings in the low tunnel bed and all over the sidewalk in my backyard. There are also a couple trays at the community garden, which I'll hopefully be able to plant today. (Actually, I hope it will rain so much that I'll be unable to go to the garden to plant, but I'm not holding my breath for that.) I thought it might be a good time to record some of my reflections on this year's seed-starting enterprise.
  1. The tomatoes are in really, really rough shape. I don't know if they're diseased, but whatever is wrong doesn't seem to spread to eggplant or pepper seedlings, which makes me think (hope?) that it's cultural. Too much water, as the Territorial rep suggested? Too much florescent light, as a random internet discussion suggested? Too much time spent in small pots waiting for transplanting? (I think they grow faster in the guest bedroom than they did in the basement.) Aphids? (I have seen aphids on several plants, but it's difficult to know if they're the cause or effect.) I am beyond frustrated with growing tomato seedlings every year, only to scrap them at the last minute and stick in healthier-looking nursery starts. I'm going to plant at least some of them and see what happens. I may also plant a couple seeds directly out there and see how they do. Next year I'm going to start them later in the season, maybe mid-March.
  2. I need to get some more nursery pots. Now is the time to start scavenging, I think.
  3. I definitely prefer to start everything for the community garden at home in containers. Conditions out there are too dry and windy (at least this year) for seeds.
  4. Herb annoying.
  5. I made my own seed-starting mix this year by mixing compost, bagged potting soil, and vermiculite. (About 2:2:1) Very economical compared to the bagged seed-starting soil, though it probably has less nitrogen in it.
  6. I didn't like the liquid fish emulsion for seed-starting at all. It's very smelly, and can't be kept or mold develops. Since it has to all be used the day it's mixed, I tend not to mix it often enough, and some of the plants this year definitely wanted more fertilizer. I will continue using it until this bottle runs out (that will be a while) but then I'm done with it.
  7. I think the timer may be broken.

Overall this was a good season. It was a little overwhelming doing so many seeds. This post could also have been titled something like, "It Finally Over!" (Though of course I still have a lot of planting to do, most of it in the next couple weeks.) A lot of the things I've started at the end have been one-time things, though - I started a lot of perennial flowers to plant near the back 40. More on that in a couple months!

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