Some Seeding Done
n the gardening game it does not pay to hurry. The sun streaming in the window makes me want to hurry but I do know better. My gardening season runs about three weeks behind Portland and the Willamette Valley. No, we don’t have snow or frozen ground but we run just a few degrees cooler, and in the temperature game that is huge. It was sunny yesterday, and I seeded to the chorus of the frogs trying out their voices, but if I stepped out of the warmth of the greenhouse, I needed to put my sweatshirt back on.
Even with the season-extending greenhouse, I still won’t transplant my tomatoes and peppers until May. I have also discovered the hard way that seeding too early just leaves me with plants that have been stunted by a check in their growth. I don’t necessarily want big plants, I want plants that are just ready to go into the ground.
I thought this would be a good time to share some of my greenhouse seed starting tips because I don’t follow all the “rules.” Imagine that :O
I like starting my plants when I have enough natural light in the greenhouse to do so. I’ve done the light thing before in the house and it just doesn’t work for me. While I am using bottom heat provided with a heat mat (love those things), lights just get me into trouble. Namely, plants that grow too fast for the real life conditions they will be subjected to. Starting seeds in the unheated greenhouse keeps me humble. We are still harvesting from the gardens now, so it makes little sense to me to panic and get started too early. Planning for a year round harvest takes the urgency out of my food planning. We always have something to eat that is fresh, and heaven knows we have lots of preserved items too.
♥ Always make sure to make a firm seed bed in your cells, potting soil is very fluffy. Depending on cell size, gloved fingers work well or a dibble that fits the cell works great. I’m using the term dibble here loosely, we have a 2″ x scrap block of wood from the batter boards from the actual greenhouse construction that works great. The pointy end is a real dibble and the flat end makes a good pusher-downer for the potting soil.
♥ We always use a heat mat for quick germination until about June. After that the ambient temperature is high enough for good germination.
♥ We always group seeds together in flats by germination times. For instance, don’t seed Bok Choy, which takes about 4 days to come up in the same flat with celeriac that may take 3 weeks even with bottom heat. In other words provide the conditions that the seeds need for the time the seeds need them. Seed packets aren’t always a lot of help in this regard, memorize the culture boxes in your seed catalogs.
♥ Always seed two seeds per cell to ensure that you really utilize that seed starting space. Seeds are cheap compared to the electricity, time and labor you use to get your seeds to transplant stage. If your seeds are old, seed more than two per cell. This helps you achieve 100% germination.
♥ Always label, while it’s nice to be a carefree gardener, you need the information. Our labels contain variety name and if appropriate the company name also. I also write down the date seeded on the seed packet for future reference. Some seeds last for years, and I buy large quantities so that date information is at my fingertips when I’m seeding, and I don’t have to go digging around in my garden notes or a spreadsheet somewhere to figure it out. I went through some old seed packets yesterday, and could tell at a glance that I had last used those seeds on 3/14/12. Only one day difference from last year to this year.
♥ We water from the top. With a heat mat the edges of the flats tend to dry out first and the middle tends to sag a bit and hold more water, so we monitor this carefully.
♥ We fashion a makeshift greenhouse with a scrap of greenhouse plastic over the plants to keep the temperature high enough for germination. On sunny days, that gets removed, on cloudy days we leave it. If we are leaving the farm, and there is any chance of sun, we remove the makeshift cover, the plants will recover from being a little cold, but they will not recover from being cooked.
While maybe this seems a little labor-intensive, I actually think that is a good thing. We are after all, growing our food, it doesn’t magically appear like it does at the store, so I need to be paying attention to it. If I’m not home, my DH or Ruthless keep a weather eye, they are invested too. It’s a long way from that handful of celeriac seed to the eating.
As of yesterday this is what is seeded, some are for our own use and others are custom seeded, so we will get to try any extras of different varieties, which is a great way to experiment with seeds I may not purchase.
Costoluto Genovese – Cook’s Garden, Seeds of Change, Salt Springs Seeds
Japanese Black Trifele
Numex Joe E. Parker
Red Ruffled Pimiento
Bandit and Blau Gruener Leeks
Dakota Tears, Stuttgarter, Red Long, Walla Walla onions
That’s a good start anyway, on to greens today!