Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Seedlings Start


I'm sorry I'm a few days behind on posting—work unfortunately intruded. But no fear! The plan has continued apace ...

I hear sometimes that people don't like to start from seedlings—and I get it. Seedlings are by far easier to kill than mature plants, and it requires a few materials and space to really do it well. But I'm still a big fan of starting from seeds. First off, you can grow anything you want (especially if you're growing in containers). You're not limited by the selection at the garden center. Second of all, once you get the hang of it, you'll get much better quality transplants. I'm not trying to knock the professionally grown transplants that you buy at garden centers. I'm sure when they leave the greenhouse, they're in great shape. But let's face it, after they've sat at your local garden center for a few days and started to outgrow their containers and set flowers, it's less than ideal (that's another blog post).

Anyway, back to the point: I planted my seedlings on September 11, or about a week ago. This year, I'm using 1.5" Jiffy pots and a mixture of 1/2 potting soil and 1/2 worm castings (worm poop) to start the seedlings. Worm castings are a very mild fertilizer and I find I get great results with it. I'm starting the seeds indoors under compact fluorescent lights. All the tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers will be from seed (hence the labels in the planted pots).

But Jon, you might ask, what if I don't have lights for seeds? Good question.

First, I'd say if you're serious about growing from seed, I'd recommend buying some. You can grow healthy seedlings under regular fluorescent lights, so you don't need a special grow light set-up. You just position the lights about 4" over the pots and it'll work like a charm. Give 'em 18 hours of light and 6 hours of dark and you'll have healthy transplants inside of a month.

If you don't have lights, you can try using a very sunny window. Truthfully, though, this is a less-than-ideal situation. It's rarely sunny enough, and the seedlings will stretch toward the light, resulting in spindly, weak seedlings.

You can also start seeds outside, but this adds a whole new challenge: birds. I don't know about you, but we have very aggressive doves and pigeons and I've lost too many pots of seeds to mess with them. I've even found lizards digging in my pots (although they were after bugs). So you can try outside, but be prepared to fight wildlife and lose a lot of seeds before they even sprout. Also, remember that seedlings are delicate. Rain and windy conditions can drown them, blow over pots, or otherwise kill them. Remember to move your plants inside if it looks like the weather is going to turn bad.

Up Next: Sprouts!

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