It is time to gather all your seed starting supplies and inventory your seeds, maybe even order more. I am teaching a seed starting class in a few weeks and was going through my process in preparation for that and because I am chomping at the bit to get started. I
have been starting things from seeds for many years both in a green house and also in a one bedroom apartment so I know it is something anyone can do if they want to. It doesn’t take much space and can you give you the opportunity to grow some really interesting vegetables, herbs and flowers. Supplies you will need are containers of your choice, seeds of your choice, markers of your choice also, heat mat (not necessary, but very helpful), and grow lights with some way to adjust the height as the plants grow. The planting station above has been very helpful in containing my soil and keeping my mess easy to clean up, my antique minnow buckets are great for holding soil, tools and bulk fertilizer.
Here is my list of my favorite seed companies for the more interesting and heirloom varieties of vegetables: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, Seed Savers,
and Everwilde Farms. I also like Cook’s Garden and Territorial Seeds and order from Gurney’s and Parks Seeds on occasion. We have a very local seed company that grows some really fun varieties of veggies that I know will do well here because they came from only about 10 miles away..Redwood Seeds is in Manton, CA just a hop, skip and a jump from where I live so I always include a few things
I have been experimenting with seed starting methods and soils for years and haven’t found a perfect go to method yet. I did use Whitney Farms Seed Starting soil for years and loved it, but since I moved I haven’t found a source for it here. Black Gold has an OMRI rated seed starting mix that is nice though. I have used peat pellets with pretty good success if I remove the mesh netting from the plant at planting time. I loved the little indentation for the seed right in the middle of the plug. This year I am trying Gurneys seed starting tray, I have seen a similar set up in other catalogs, too. The tray is Styrofoam and it floats on the water that is in the bottom tray, this should cause the roots to develop and grow into the water. I am experimenting with it now using some lettuce seeds. The soil that fills the holes comes in preformed spongy plugs that fit right in the hole and they have the dibbled hole in the top to hold the seed. The part that seemed strange to me is that you just drop a seed in and don’t cover it with anything. After 2 days I do have seeds emerging and can see some root growth too. The picture to the right is exactly one week later. I am already seeing the roots coming out the bottom of the seed sponge, so far I am quiet happy with vigor and health of these seedlings. They were all lettuce and kale starts. The best part is that I don’t have to water very often at all, just keep an eye on the reservoir.
I found a recipe on About.com for a seed starting soil and found all of the ingredients at my garden center. I have mixed up a batch and like the way it looks and feels. I planted in it just yesterday so I will have to repost when I have the results. The recipe is really quite simple so I will post it here if you would like to give it a try yourself. The reason for not using a regular potting soil for starting seeds is that it can contain pathogens that are harmful to small seedlings and some may contain a pre-emergent which keeps seeds from sprouting. A good seed starting mix should be light and airy, stay moist not soggy and allow good root growth. This recipe seems like it should be a good one to me, I especially like that it contains coir and greensand. I used a coir block that I soaked for quite a while first and I used Worm Gold for the vermicompost. This takes me back to the gnat invasion of last year when I used straight coir for soil, it will be interesting to see if the addition of the Worm Gold and Green sand and Perlite help in avoiding that fiasco.
Basic Seed Starting Mix
- 3 parts** peat or coir (coir is preferable if you can get it)
- 3 parts vermicompost (your own or purchased from a garden center or other supplier ~ Worm Gold)
- 1 part perlite
- 1/2 part greensand
Let’s get growing!