After back to back “Nor’easters”, I need something to get me out of this “winter funk”. Enter “Seed Starting”. That wonderful time between February and March when I make my tentative growing plans, check out the new seed offerings, place my orders, collect my packets and get my first taste of gardening for the new season. I like starting my sunflowers from seed. This gives me options in color, flower head size and plant height. Seed varieties for vegetables have grown remarkably over the years. Growing from seed you are able to try varieties that you won’t find in your local nurseries. This year to compliment my “blended gardens” designs, I selected new container varieties of baby cucumbers, eggplants, zucchini and snap peas. For added color I found tricolor bush beans. I also found a lettuce variety touted as a great edible in the landscape! I discovered these gems at http://reneesgarden.com
If you are inclined to try your hand at starting your flowers and veggies from seed this season, March is a good time to get started. I like to start small, with something I know I can attend to. Seed starting is not difficult, if you use some common sense ingredients in your approach:
- Growing medium: Use a seed starter potting mix. In general this is lighter, sterile and holds the right amount of moisture. Some folks prefer peat pellets or coir(coconut husks). You wont need to add fertilize as the seeds have the nutrients inside them to start growth.
- Containers: Lots of options out there. But for simplicity and function, I like to use the seed starter cell packs. For about $5.00 I get a 36 cell pack with a clear greenhouse dome to keep the humidity in during early stages and ridged water holding tray. Fits nicely @ my western facing windows.
- How to Plant: I fill the cells with the mix then moisten. Take a pencil and make a planting hole in the mix, add 2 seeds. Add more soil if needed, and re-moisten…but don’t over saturate.
- Light: My home tends not to get enough light for seed starting, so I have added a timed light into my seed starting routine. By giving the plants 16-18 hours of light every day…and a good rest @ night…I get healthier stronger plants.
- Warmth: The first start of seed growing is germination. This is when you really need warmth. As I wait for my plant to sprout, I keep it a few inches above my room heating unit with the dome on. After they sprout, I move it to a 60-70 degree room with my light.
- Watering: The dome cover will keep the humidity in for germination. Once the plants sprout, I remove the dome and water only from the bottom tray. Just enough to wick to the cells, but not leave it soaked
- Daily care: The secret to success is daily checking: removing cover/changing location once sprouted and staying properly moist. If you are keeping plants on a windowsill, be sure to rotate daily so they don’t bend towards the light
- Transplanting: Before you are able to plant outdoors, you will need to transplant your seedlings into larger containers to allow the roots to mature a bit. A 2 inch plastic cell or plant able pot will do. Generally I don’t plant outside before Memorial Day or the last full moon of May.
Need some seed starting inspiration? I had the privilege of visiting the Ball Seed Company a few years back. Actually met Anna Ball. What a Treat! The gardens are a true feast for the senses. This company does unbelievable work creating seed varieties for the industry. Checkout the Ball Horticultural website and their Celebrating the Gardens u-tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPYjZT9-SIM
Soon the snow will be gone and you will be thinking more about your outdoor garden season. So why not give it a jump-start this year with my 2nd Annual Dig into Gardening Day @ Longfellows Conference Center in Saratoga Springs. As always I keep it regional, real, and offer lots of common sense and sustainable practices. This year features sessions on common sense design, rainwater harvesting/rainwater gardens, annuals, habitat friendly designs and healthy eating options with easy to grow veggies and herbs. John Capelli the lively Chef from the Olde Bryan Inn will be entertaining and teaching with his culinary demonstration. Check out my website for more information and registration! http://gardengoddesssenseandsustainability.com/dig-into-gardening-day.html