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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Seed Starting

Here in NW Florida we are about 6 to 8 weeks away from our last frost. This week I will be starting some seeds to get a jump on the season and they are heirloom seed to ensure I have a continuous supply of fresh vegetables in years to come. Saving seed is very easy and we will explore that subject later but for now we will stick to starting our spring and summer gardens.

There are many methods to starting seed. If you have a successful method stick to it and consider sharing it with the rest of us in the comment section. I for one like the jiffy plugs as shown in the picture. They are available almost anywhere that sell garden supplies. If you do a search on-line you may find them cheaper even paying shipping especially if you need a large quantity.

I soak my plugs with warm water until they swell up about 3 times their height and they are then ready for my seed. I am starting Broccoli, tomatoes, jalapeno pepper, cayenne pepper and eggplants in these little plugs. During the year I save plastic meat trays, butter and margarine containers, plastic deli containers and will round up any food storage containers that I have lost lids to and place my plugs in these. Most of these plugs will have a small pre-drilled hole in them. I can drop the seed in the center and it is up to you if you want to give it a little squeeze to close up the hole but most seed will sprout fine without doing so. Cover your containers with plastic wrap or slip them into a clear plastic bag. This acts as a mini greenhouse, it will help hold in the heat and prevent them from drying out so fast. Place your containers in a warm area that will receive sunlight for most of the day. If you have a florescent shop light that you can hang a few inches above your seed plugs, this works great for a form of artificial light. A timer is real helpful if you are like me and forget to turn it on and off.

Once the first little seedling sprouts, uncover the container even if the other seeds aren't up. Rotate the containers daily or at least every few days, don't let your plugs dry out. It is very easy to add water to the container and let the plugs soak up what they need. If they haven't used it all in an hour or so, you may want to drain off the excess water so your seedlings don't rot. Once my seedlings get a couple of leaves, I start giving them a very week solution of water soluble plant food like Miracle Grow or Peters when they are thirsty. If you have a fresh water aquarium and it's time to clean it, your little plants will love some of this water. If you have a compost pile you can also make compost tea and use this as well. To make the tea, add some compost to a burlap bag and tie it closed and soak it in a bucket of water for at least 5 days. You can also spray the tea on the seedling leaves to feed them or place it in the bottom of the containers. When your weather is frost free, harden off your seedlings by placing them in a protected area outside. Some people will suggest a few hours a day for a week or two but I have found if I place them under a tree for a few days I can then plant them directly in the garden with no problems. It will all depend on your area.

In the past I have also made my own seed starting pots. If you have kids, you can make it into a family project and give them their own container to be responsible for. Get them interested in gardening now. It may be a way of life for us all.

Mamma Bear


jne0493 said...

Mamma Bear,

I used those peat pots last year and had great results starting seedlings with them, just some minor adjustment difficulties when transplanting into the earth, but 80% or so took hold really well. I use to watch a show on PBS called "The Victory Garden", I've always loved raising a garden. Then, me being me, I wondered where the name came from "Victory Garden", and come to find out, it was from WWII, where Americans were encouraged to grow their own food for consumption, so that national food stocks could be sent to the troops fighting overseas... and this would help insure Victory... Perhaps we can start a "Self-Sustainability Gardens" campaign or something.


CherB said...

I love to save seeds and I also have gradually tried starting a few of my own plants here in the house, but start alot by direct sow outside of leafy greens. A raised box, large planter or a cold frame can all work well the keep the early chill off plants just starting.

I saved alot of my own lettuce seed and allowed the best ones to go to seed after side picking leaves from the plant over several weeks. It was great to make so many packets of the lettuce and also leek seed this season. If anyone would like to swap or have a seed train, let me know! Cher Preppers NY.

Marcus said...

Can i just sow the seeds right into the garden without putting them in containers? I live in Tampa so the climate is usually hot all year after january. Also the garden i am starting has direct sun light throughout the whole day. Would it be better to just set them direct and just water consitant? CityFarm Marcus FL.

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