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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Seed Starting Time

It was 85 today - time to get started on planting all my flower seeds and vegetable seeds.    I start a lot of seeds and have an annual plant sale where I sell started flower and vegetable plants to the neighbors.   I missed last year and had people stopping by to see if I was selling plants, so I figured I can't skip another year.
I have been doing this for some time.   I used to buy peat pots and start the seeds in them.   That gets rather expensive because the peat pots are 20-30 cents a piece and to fill it full of soil - is another dime.   Some of the seeds wouldn't sprout and you CANNOT reuse soil to start seeds so I would have to throw the empty ones in my garden.    There is a better way - and its how commercial growers do it.  When you see the six packs - at your home improvement store, you wonder how they got all six seeds to sprout and there weren't ever any empty cells.    Most plants are started in plug trays.   They are a tray with small pots for starting seedling,  The come in 72 cells, 128, 218, or 512 plugs for really small plants and seeds.
Here are some pics of my plug trays.  These are 128 cells which i am preparing for tomato seeds.

Next - get some seed starting mix.   Jiffy makes a very good brand of starting mix, but Ferry Morse also makes a seed starting mix also.    DO NOT use soil from your garden - it will usually contain a fungus that will cause damping off which will cause your seedlings to topple over after they sprouted and die.    I make the soil very wet - and fill the cells with the wet soil.  Press the soil into each sell and fill completely.  Air pockets will damage the roots and stunt the plant.      Here are my trays filled with soil.  

Now place one or two seeds in every cell.  If you expect the seeds to have good germination - plant one per cell.   You won't be wasting that much soil if it doesn't grow in that cell.    If two do come up - thin one out after your sure the other one is big enough to survive.     After you have placed seeds in every cell,  cover with more seed starting mix as thick as recommended per variety.    Here's a picture of a tray with tomato seeds place in each cell before I cover them up.   I place a plastic greenhouse type lid to keep the soil moist.

I use grow lights with heated mats under the trays which warms the soil and will speed up germination.   You don't need grow lights or heat mats, if you have a window in a warm part of the house in a sunny window.   If your in a colder climate, the more sun you can provide the better.   Here in wonderful sunny southern California, as soon as a majority of the seeds are sprouting, I place my trays outside in the sun so they get used to the outside sun right away.   If you started yours in a house, you cannot place them in the full sun right away.  They will burn and die.  You have to give them a hour at first and increase outside exposure over a couple weeks to get them used to full sun.     
Once they are bigger, then you pop the plug out -and plant in a larger pot or six pack that we are all familiar with from nurseries or home improvement stores.  You could plant them directly in your garden , but they are still small and a family of snails could wipe out all your baby plants in one night, so I prefer to grow mine out in a large pot before placing in the cruel cold world.  
Here's a picture of plug that is ready to plant in a larger pot.  I will take pictures of mine as they grow.