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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Seed Starting

Ah, the smell of soil in the morning!

Spring is awhile away but my seed packets are just begging to be opened.

After Christmas I poured over last years garden journal notes and scoured the seed websites to order this years bounty. My orders have arrived and I have organized them with seeds left over from last year’s packets and the seeds I collected from my plants in the fall. I love that so many seeds remain viable for years, taking care they are not likely as prolific as the first year.

Found the perfect way to organize my seeds; in photo boxes with file folder tabs. I just mark the number of weeks I should start planting before the last frost date and “voila!” I simply flip to the appropriate section each week. Give it a try! When I first started growing by seed I bought seed germinating mix and made up my little cups with 4-5 seeds each. I was shocked and thrilled that I got 4-5 seedlings in each cup. As the years progressed and I am using seeds from previous years and 4-5 seeds yield around 1-3 seedlings. This year I’m trying something new (which seems to be my lifelong motto). I’ve decided to mass germinate and toss a minimum of 9-12 seeds in one container and later separate out what germinates. This will help me save on precious soil, it can get expensive, and space, which is always a challenge. I’ve also decided to recycle bit and use paper egg cartons as my starter trays (with a few holes punched in the bottoms for drainage). I’ll let you know how well it works.
One of the plants I am starting today is the Purple Top Verbena. Love this flower! It has special germination directions where I need to start them completely in the dark, covering the pot with black plastic. Last year I planted them in a white plastic cups and too much light got through. My yield was quite low and I was so disappointed. This year I will be going with the classic Sylvia Plath ensemble of black on black thank you very much!

Good luck to all of you seed starters out there! If you are new to the game it’s so easy and so rewarding I encourage you to give it a try. You don’t need to have a fancy fluorescent light system. I simply attached a fluorescent utility light to a 2x4 and set the 2x4 on books and paint cans to elevate it. Just add books to raise the lights as the plants grow taller. Be sure you get one “cool” and one “warm” fluorescent light and a timer to ensure they obtain 16 hours of light each day. The set up costs less than $20 and can be used year after year.

There’s nothing like looking out the window on a snowy February morning, while the flakes blanket my garden and being toasty warm inside starting seeds. Every year it reassures me the spring is indeed on its way.

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