Sunday, January 10, 2010

John and Rachel's funky seed starting process

We have experimented with many methods, and various soilless mixes and seed starting mixes, in our adventures with seed starting. Now we are using what are called "Park Starts" from Park Seed Company. They are little plugs of sponge-like material. They are designed to go in a tray holding 60 of these starts. That assumes you'd like a rather large quantity of something, or several somethings, like lettuce or other greens, to set outdoors. But we've found that Park Starts work very well for starting almost any seed, and John has engineered a method for starting small quantities of seed using these plugs and the plastic containers which are used for Chinese takeout. He punches 4 holes in the plastic lid, and the plugs rest in these holes.  They are very easy to transplant into a 4 inch or larger pot later on. A plastic cup can sit on top as a humidity dome and is removed when seeds germinate.

On January 7 I started several sets of seeds using Park Starts. I put 2-3 seeds per Park Start into the little hole in the center of each plug. The only exception was the peas; with such large seeds, I only put one seed per plug.We give each plug one teaspoon of water to start with, and check daily. You want the plugs barely moist, but not too wet.

Already the peas are starting to unfold as seedlings - amazing. The others seeds: peppers, rosemary, cilantro, lavender, dwarf okra, will take varying amounts of time to germinate. I have started all of these seeds indoors before, using a bit more traditional methods, with the exception of rosemary, which I believe can take quite a long time to germinate. We'll see.

John started basil seeds on January 3, and the little seedlings have already got their seed leaves. In a few days he will choose the strongest seedling and carefully snip the stems of any other seedlings sharing the same plug.
Basil has turned out to be an amazing indoor plant; John harvests it regularly from his tabletop growlight system at work.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The last rose of winter, and the seeds of spring

Winter came hard and fast, with 21 inches of snow in the DC area right before Christmas. It had been fairly mild up until then, and this rose had managed to unfold. Then, kaboom.

My potted blueberry plant ended up with quite a load of snow!

Indoors, there are still many pots and plant trays that need to be washed, and we've only managed to transplant a couple of peppers and eggplants into bigger pots. But the holidays are past; no more excuses. Time to get busy.

We need to get some seeds going, as we're planning to have a booth at the DC Home and Garden Show in March. We'll want to have plants in various stages of growth in order to display how our system works. If I were starting these for outdoor transplanting, I'd wait a bit. For most plants, especially warm weather crops like tomatoes and peppers, starting from seed this early would mean enormously overgrown plants by the time the weather is warm. But for indoor growing, anytime is a good time to plant seeds. So I'm starting okra, peas, lavender, peppers, rosemary. With the next post, I'll show exactly how we do it.