|Cure for S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder)|
The last frost date for my location is May 15th (I think it's actually earlier but I'll play it safe.) so I started my tomatoes and peppers this week. It's a little earlier than suggested on the packet but I want to be able to transplant them into larger cow pots (from Gardener's supply) and then keep them in my mini hoop house until the weather is nice and warm for permanent planting. I'll start some of the herbs and flowers over the next couple of weeks.
I invested in all the supplies (plastic trays and grow lamps) about 5 or 6 years ago. This was the first year I switched out the light bulbs in my grow lamps although I probably should have done it sooner. They (I use SunLite brand) are more expansive than your regular fluorescent light bulbs but supposedly have all the necessary wavelengths of light and intensity of light to mimic true sunlight.
Steps for successful seed starting:
|Clean with water/bleach|
|Add just enough water|
- The first rule of seed starting is to use clean planters/trays.I wash my trays out at the end of the season and then before using them again wash them in a water and bleach mixture (9:1 ratio). Don't rinse with water after you wash them in this mixture, any residue will not harm the plants. Just let them air dry in a clean place.
- The second step is to buy a decent germinating mix. One bag (30 qt.) of transplant mix from Gardener's Supply is enough for about 8 trays of seedlings. They also sell a germinating mix but the transplant mix works just fine and you can use it to transplant your seedlings into larger pots if you want to.
- Get a large container and pour in the transplant mix and carefully add the water. Add only a few cups of water at first and mix it into the mix and then let it sit a minute or two. Go back and add more and mix again. You want to keep doing this until you are able to grab a handful of the moistened mix, squeeze it and it will hold together. You don't want to see clumps of wet mix in you container. If you see that and it looks at all soggy, you've added too much water and you need to readjust with more dry mix. The amount of water in the mix is kind of important. Too much and the seeds can rot.
- Once the mix is perfectly wetted, you can fill the trays. Don't pack the mix down. Leave it a little loose. I usually just tap the tray a couple of times on the counter to settle the mix into all the little containers.
- Now you're ready to plant to seeds. Once you've got one or two seeds in each spot, have covered them up (according to the height suggested in the seed packet), identified them with a marker, you are ready to let them germinate. I cover the trays with plastic wrap to keep the moisture in and then remove once the seedlings pop up. You should see a very little bit of condensation (not droplets) on the underside of the plastic wrap. If the mix looks really dry, add water to the bottom of the tray and let the water wick into the mix. After about an hour drain any remaining water in the tray.
|They look like brownies|
After about 5 days or so the seedlings start to emerge. Once they start to show their true leaves, then take a pair of scissors and carefully cut away the extra seedlings to leave only one per hole. They will need the grow light as soon as they sprout. I keep the light on for about 12-14 hrs. a day.
|Tricolor cherry tomatoes are the first to come up.|