Saturday, March 5, 2011

First Saturday in March: Starting seeds

If you're a gardener, a newbie or a gardening diva like the ladies at Garden Rant or Margaret at A Way to Garden, don't deny yourself the pleasure and reduced costs of seed starting.  Once you start, it becomes highly addictive and extremely annoying to your family, friends, and co-workers.  They will view you, a formerly sane, friendly and interesting person, much like my adorable 9 year old friend Rory with her first musical instrument.  Just as she can't stop proudly demonstrating how to "play" her recorder, I can't stop talking about choosing the seeds, planting the seeds, and sharing how the germination process is going to anyone who doesn't care.

The thing about starting seeds is that it's so amazingly easy that anyone in any space can start seeds successfully.  All you need is:

  • sterile potting mix (try one from your local independent nursery--you'll get all kinds of local appropriate advice and meet nice people),
  • water
  • plastic kitchen  film
  • great seeds (see my next post)
  • styrofoam cups
Gasp.  What am I thinking?  STYROFOAM?  Among the world's least sustainable products?  The new cup de jour of the Republican majority in Congress that is also intent on gutting the EPA?

To be honest, my goal is re-use:  I will use these seed cups for at least a decade, and consider them an investment.  I also am trying to watch costs since I got laid off from my well-paid, benefits-filled job as an HR Director.  My new gig is part-time, no benefits, half my old salary--and I love it.  Life is good.

Back to the job at hand. In March, you can start geminating tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and the "cool weather" vegetables like cabbage, spinach, peas, chard, and lettuce., a fabulous resource for germinating hardy seedlings, has great information on what to start when.  The process I'm going to show you is adapted from this website.

Get your ingredients together (note how blogging is fueled by freshly ground French Roast) :

Make a drainage hole in the suspect cup:

Add enough water to the seed starting mixture so that it's very moist:

Plant your seeds:

Cover with film, secure with rubber band, and label with seed type and date:

Admire handsome assistants:
(Tiny Tim is in the foreground and Mr. Boo sits behind him)

Place your "cup o' seeds" in a warm, well-lighted room.  You'll notice that the film is beading up with moisture-a good sign that your cup is now a greenhouse.

I find that seeds actually germinate earlier, using this method, so do check the cups often.  After they germinate, pull off the film and water gently but thoroughly, adding a tiny bit of diluted compost tea or liquid plant fertilizer to add nutrients.

It's just that easy, and you will savor the pleasure as the tiny seedlings pop up.   By the way, you can start annual and perennial flowers this way.  Imagine not investing huge amounts in flowers for your borders, pots and hanging baskets, and getting exactly the colors and species you want.

Happy planting:  next time, another way to start seeds and why ordering seeds can be worth the carbon footprint.

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