A Journey to Grow a Little Food Close to Home

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Start those Seeds!!!

You've figured out what will grow in your area. You've calculated when to plant and when to start seeds. Now, how do you actually go about starting them?

I subscribe to several e-mail lists and I get two very timely articles the other day. Both deal with seed starting - let's take a look.

Johnny's Seeds starts out its article by stating that "seeds don't care where they are started, as long as three conditions are provided: appropriate temperature, light or darkness, and moisture." They go on to say that "or most vegetables, the optimum temperature is quite warm, 75-90˚F. This is the temperature of the growing medium, not the air temperature."

So...if you make sure that the temp of the soil is correct, you'll be off to a good start. Next, as the experts at Johnny's Seeds pointed out, it's important to think about light. "As soon as the seeds germinate, they should be exposed to light. If growing them under lights, keep the lights just an inch or two above the seedlings and raise them as the plants grow. Leave the lights turned on 16 hours a day. Seedlings get leggy and if they are grown without enough light."

If you've ever tried to grow a seedling on a window sill in winter, you know what 'leggy' means - the plant gets very tall very quickly but remains very thin. It will fall over under its own weight and no matter how hard you try, it will never stand up straight and will most likely die. Grow lights help combat this. They're not too expensive to run and can really give you a leg up on the season.

Finally, Johnny's talks about moisture. They say that "moisture is essential to all germination. The seed-starting medium must be thoroughly wetted before you plant, and you should cover the germinating flat with a plastic dome or piece of row cover to maintain humidity at the soil surface. However, the germinating medium needs to be well-drained, and the flats should be vented daily to prevent excessive moisture. If mold starts to develop on the soil surface, remove the cover."

Take care of those three things and you should be well on your way to seed starting!

The other article that I received was from Gardener's Supply. This one talks about some other aspects of seed starting. "For some kinds of plants, success in the garden requires a head start indoors. Though beans, carrots, corn, and sunflowers can (and should) be planted as seeds directly into the garden, the seeds of lots of other plants like parsley, tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli are usually sown in pots indoors and the young plants get set out into the garden several weeks later."

Also, pot size was talked about. "Slow-growing seedlings such as onions, peppers, snapdragons and perennial herbs may be happy for many weeks, growing in a small pot. Fast-growing seedlings, such as melons, tomatoes and zinnias, will outgrow a pot much more quickly."

So much to think about when gardening, no?

The thing is, just take it slow and one step at a time. Don't run out and buy a full-blown grow light system. Rather, try starting just one type of plant this year and buy the rest ready to go from your local garden center. As with all things, there is a learning curve here.

Simply making the transition to growing your own food is a huge step.

Like the article said, beans and carrots grow great by just planting some seed in the garden. To that, why not try to add perhaps some herbs started from seed. They are usually pretty forgiving :)

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