Posts Tagged ‘seed starting’

Starting Seeds Indoors – The Ladder to Success

Monday, March 30th, 2015
Folding Ladder With Boards for Shelves

Folding Ladder With Boards for Shelves

I like to start my own seeds. I rarely buy started vegetables. Starting your own seed saves lots of money and it gives you access to far more variety than you can find by buying plants started by others. And if you have a larger garden, buying plants quickly becomes cost prohibitive.

My seed starting ritual has evolved to a fairly consistent pattern. I try to start my onions in mid to late January. Tomatoes, eggplants, and most brassicas have a March 15th target (which I rarely achieve) and everything else that needs a head start indoors gets into flats as I get to them in April and early May.

South Facing Sunroom

South Facing Sunroom

I don’t have a greenhouse or high hoop house. Either of those would make seed starting easier, but I do have a southern exposure glass-walled sunroom. We added this room almost immediately after moving into our Wisconsin home and it has been the best thing for my seed starting.

A folding ladder has been my flat shelf for many years. This particular brand is Krause, but there are many out there. It folds into numerous configurations. Set up as in the picture, it makes shelves easily with just the addition of some boards laid across the rungs. I lay some plastic sheeting on the floor to catch any drips from watering.

Judy only just tolerates this set up. She doesn’t love it because we have to rearrange the furniture in the sunroom and move all our house plants. And when I water the plants with fish fertilizer that really tests her limits, but she knows that this is the beginning of our good home grown food supply so she lets me do it year after year.

Flats on the Ladder

Flats on the Ladder

A real advantage to this set up comes when I have to start hardening off the seedlings. I just open up a patio door and move the flats to a picnic table set up just outside. The flats are easy to move in and out of the house.

While I would welcome a green house or even a tall hoop house, this system has served me very well for many years and unlike either of those options, it is at almost no extra cost.

 

 

Starting Seeds – Better Late Than Never

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Seeding Tomatoes

Were I growing vegetables for money, I’d make sure I got my seeds started on a very specific schedule.  But as a casual home gardener, I don’t have to worry much about getting everything exactly right.  I’m just getting most of my seeds started now, and by the rules, some are a little late.  That doesn’t bother me a lot.  I’ve learned that you have a lot of latitude in growing your own food, and most of the “rules” are only guidelines, not commandments.

I should have had my peppers, brassicas. celery, and a lot of other crops started around March 15th.  But I know from past experience that I can still have excellent output starting these crops as late as May 1st, and I probably could even cheat on that date.

I’ve been using 5 ounce Dixie cups as my favorite seed starting container for quite a few years.  I like them because they are large enough to handle most any seed and they are biodegradable.  I just toss them onto the compost pile after I’ve emptied them out.  In the last couple years I’ve also switched from concocting my own potting soils to just using commercially prepared mixes.  It’s so much easier and the results for me have been so much better than what I was getting with my home made formulas.  And by results, I mean healthy and heavy root sets.

Seeds in Cups

Seeds in Cups

The Dixie cups are not very stable so to keep them from tipping over I put them into a flat lined with newspapers.  The picture here shows seeded cups on trays ready to be moved to flats.  From here they will go to the basement for some bottom heat and grow lights.  I talk more about the cups in flats here.

The big advantage of starting your own seeds is cost.  You can purchase a hundred seeds for what one plant would cost from a garden center or farm market.  But variety is a close second to cost.  I’m starting 27 different tomatoes, most of them heirlooms that would not be available to me otherwise.  And while I save a lot of seeds, I buy most of my seed from the small seed companies that are working hard to save the unusual, the historical, and the usually better tasting varieties than what mega-agriculture is trying to force on us.  The little seed companies are really the people that make gardening the most interesting for me.