Last year, we waited too long to start our seeds, and while I would definitely call our first season a success, it was disappointing (and more expensive) to have to buy starts from the nursery. While I am sure we will still end up supplementing with a few starts, I hope to have a better crop of “from scratch” veggies this year too.
Ray and his dad built and installed a seed-starting station with hanging grow lights (pictured below), and I have created a rolling schedule (a portion pictured below) of what seeds to start and when to start them.
|Seed (see planting guide)||Date Started||Germ.||Maturity||Companion*|
|Cabbage||2/25||7||65||Brassica Support Group|
|Italian Roasting Peppers||2/25||21||80||Tomato Support Group|
|Sweet Orange and Red||2/25||21||76||Tomato Support Group|
|Ancho Poblano||2/25||12||88||Tomato Support Group|
|Hungarian Hot Wax||2/25||12||84||Tomato Support Group|
|Green Bell Pepper||2/25||21||75||Tomato Support Group|
|King of the North Pepper||2/25||12||68||Tomato Support Group|
|Sweet Chocolate Pepper||2/25||12||78||Tomato Support Group|
|Early Jalapeno||2/25||12||85||Tomato Support Group|
Before I actually start the seeds, I like to organize my packs by date. I group them and put them in ziplocs so I can simply grab the baggie and get going. As you can see…I really went overboard this year.
I like to start my seeds in egg cartons, or produce boxes, yogurt containers…anything I can repurpose. Egg cartons are easy to water and and make transplanting a lot easier.
If they are the cardboard ones, I simply detach the lid and place it under the carton before planting in it. I normally also place the whole thing in a shallow container, or cover the bottom with plastic wrap so water doesn’t get everywhere. A bonus of using these is that you can transplant them directly into the garden as the cardboard is biodegradable and provides a mulch of sorts.
If it is a plastic or styrofoam one, I usually poke holes in the bottom of the carton for drainage, and set the whole thing in the top of the egg carton, which I fill with water to uniformly moisten each egg well.
I let the water soak up through the the bottom until the soil is moist but not soggy. Then I drop 3-4 seeds per well and gently cover them or poke them down into the soil. As a final step, I cover them with plastic wrap to increase humidity and keep the moisture in the soil.
This week, we started with cabbage and peppers. Joe was my little helper…if you consider making a fantastic mess with the seed starter mix helping.
For the peppers, I followed instructions from davesgarden.com. As I mentioned above, I had poor luck with my peppers and tomatoes last year and I’m determined to get a better yield this year. I had not heard the recommendation to soak the seeds prior to starting them so I gave that a try this year.
For the cabbage, I pretty much did exactly what I did last year for starting them. I had great success up until I transplanted them outside. I also plan to start a fall/winter crop of cabbage mid-summer.
Last year was an experiment in what didn’t/did do well in our, rather nutrient-depleted, soil. We’ve determined that it was a lack of soil nutrients that the cabbage, and other plants, need that did them in. This year we will do better with fertilizing by plant needs, taking a few pointers from organicgardening.com.
After all this, I labeled each carton and set them on the plant heating pads for germination. I got the grow light bulb as close to the seeds as I could, being careful that the bulbs did not rest against the cartons.
The cabbage loves cool weather so we will not need to use the heat mats for it, but the peppers need the extra warmth to germinate. They will eventually germinate on their own, but it takes longer and they are kind of spindly when they do.
We did not have these heat mats last year so it will be interesting to see if my hypothesis on why the tomatoes and peppers so dismally failed is correct.
And voila! Seed babies are all ready to grow.
Stay tuned for cabbage and pepper reports as the germination phase progresses.