Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Seed Starting!

It's that time of year in Northern Virginia. All winter long Greg and I plot and plan what we're going to start from seed at the tail end of winter. (Although with a potential for 2-4" of snow in the forecase tonight it hardly seems the tail end...) Nontheless, last Saturday we finally got organized and started our seeds! We do make sure to read the seed packets to count back from the frost date to ensure we're not starting too early.

I relinqiush control over a small area in our basement each year and Greg set up new shelving for our precious baby seedlings. We used wire shelves from Office Depot, but you can make your own or buy them from most any source. These are by no means the most attractive shelves...

If you have space so they're out of the way-SORRY HONEY! I'd definatley "hide" them so to speak. These are NOT in our main living area, they're in the basement. They're actually right next to our wine fridge-lol. I think part of it was "Oh, good, an empty wall." And part of it was "Hmm, that backs up to the furnace room and will keep the seeds warm." As much as I am a landscape designer, I am a designer...This is not accecptable next to the living room sofa. All you design minded people I'm sure understand!

So once you've got your shelves up, we hooked up the lights, they are fluorscent grow lights that we leave on 14 hours a day to get the seeds to germinate. The next step was to prepare the planting media. You can use a lightweight potting media such as perlite, vermiculite and peat moss or purchase one pre-done by a major company such as Burpee or Schultz. We started some seeds in pre-designed pellets that you then moisten and they puff up, we also started some seeds in the seed media.

Once you have the media about 2/3 full in your containers, you can add in your seeds! You want to put them on the top of the soil and tap them in lightly. We use about three seeds per container (factoring in one won't germinate and one will be the runt of the litter...) Check your seed packet to make sure it's okay to add a thin covering of soil over top. Not all seeds like this (lettuce in particular).

Sprinkle the seeds with water, using a mister is best so you don't overflow your containers (been there, done that, learn from us!)

You then want to label your plants so you know who's who, then cover them. If you bought a seed tray it should have come with a cover, if not, you can make your own with saran wrap or a plastic bag.

Most seeds need a temperature of 60-70 to germinate, so you can use a heated mat below them, or like us, we're next to the furnace room and wine fridge which puts off heat from the fan, so that'll keep them warm.
When you start to see signs of growth the first two leaves are the cotyledon's and will fade out as the first real leaves emerge after that remove the covering to give them room to grow up nice and straight and you can add fertilizer at this stage if you want. We are organic gardeners, so we use compost tea (I'll do a post on that as the weather warms). So stay tuned.
As the seedlings grow you can thin them out (taking them carefully out of their container and moving them into a larger size.) By the time our outdoor temperatures have warmed up you can begin introducing the seeds to a shady spot in the garden to adjust them to "the real world." Start out with a few hours a day increasing time and sunlight exposure until they're ready to be planted in their final spot.
I'll keep you updated on the seed growth and final destinations, usually good looking containers with colorful flowers that help with pollination (and of course dinner parties!)

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