Hello all! Part of my 2016 goals is to become more consistent in my blogging. In order to do this I may expand out my topics past the garden. I have branched out with the recipes page but want to take it further. This blog will really start to include ALL of my “hobbies” from homemade cleaning products, homemade personal care products, sewing projects (once I get good enough), etc. etc. I am excited about all those possibilities, but for this week I will be sticking with the good ol’ seed starting.
Seed starting for onions and leeks is only a week or so away so now is the time to buy all your supplies, but the question is where to start.
When Tim and I started seeds our first year, we had one flat of seeds that didn’t do very well, and I could not figure out why. Below is a picture of our itty bitty set up that first year. It was an old head board that became a plant stand/growing area. We had no heating pads (which later seemed to have dramatically increased our germination rates), and no “greenhouse” type covers (to help keep the seedlings from drying out). To say we have upgraded since then is definitely a fair statement.
In 2014 Tim build me the shelf below, on which I could house many more trays, as starting seeds became a 5-6 tray project!We (aka Tim) put the giant structure in our spare room so we could use the south facing windows for light for part of the day and only supplement with our grow lights.
This is how our setup usually looks now. We have the far left tray that is a heated mat tray (which is why it is slightly bulkier). The heated mat is hooked up to a thermostat to help keep the heat mat from frying the plants or being too cold so they don’t germinate. We try to keep our heat mat between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. This helps most plants germinate…I also find that looking at charts like this helps to tell you the best temperature for germination. Which usually falls between 60-90, if not right in that 70-80 degree range.
The lights we use are full spectrum bulbs that we found ballasts for (pictured above). The full spectrum is something that Tim found after a lot of research would help grow the plants best. We hang our light ballasts from chains with S hooks that attach onto the light and at the top of the wood planks. (you can see the spots where the chains hang from below) You always want your lights about 3-4 inches from the tops of the plants. This way the plants are not trying to REACH for the light and becoming spindly, and the lights are not too close and burning the plants.
All the lights are on a timer so that the plants get approx 16-18 hours of light a day, which means the sun starts off the day and the timers kicked on at sunset and would stay on from 4/5ish pm-12/1ish am.
So these were some of the first things we got when starting our seeds, but we have since graduated to larger lights with full spectrum bulbs, more specific heating pads and we still used the timer and thermostat pictured.
Before all those lights and heat mats become important, you have to actually have trays to put plants in.
There are lots of different tray options. There are you classic 3×3 cell trays (pictured in the bottom right) which we have used the last three years. The hard part with those classic trays is sometimes transplanting, you are never sure how your roots are growing and they have a hard time staying moist all the way through the soil.
Not to say we haven’t had success with the 3×3, obviously we have with the images below
This year we are trying the soil block makers. These soil block makers will make independent blocks that can be transplanted onto each other/potted on without disrupting the roots. I am excited to try these this year and will post how it goes. The trays hold the soil blocks or 3×3 cell trays to give stability, help hold water, and give a place for the plastic “greenhouse” like cover to connect.
To water the young seedlings, as to not flood them,
I use a squirt bottle. Just a simple cheapy from
walmart or something is what I have. –>
The last thing to help with watering are the plastic
tops to the trays. This is kind of a balancing act thought, because if the tops are left on too much and it is too wet, you will get mold/mildew that grows on top of the soil, but if you leave it too dry then your plants will shrivel up and die 😦
These plastic lids helps to maintain the water in, but if it gets too moist do not be afraid to remove them for the day or a few hours.
The very very last thing you need for your seed starting (besides the seeds), is your planting mix. In the past I have just purchased a simple seed starting mixture (right two pictures below) or even used the pellets that expand with water (I DO NOT RECOMMEND THESE AS THEY NEVER WORKED VERY WELL FOR US…these would be your left two pictures below), but this year since I am using the soil block makers, they recommend something that holds together on its own.
I have got my recipes for my soil block mix from The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman:
The mini-block recipe is 16 parts brown peat, 14 parts colloidal phosphate, 14 parts greensand (not necessary), 4 parts compost
The blocking mix recipe is 30 parts brown peat, 1/8 part lime, 20 parts perlite, 3/4 parts base fertilizer, 10 parts soil and 20 parts compost
I am in search of these things to make my soil. I plan on making a post documenting my soil mix, my block making and germination problems or benefits once that gets going in the coming weeks!
Have you ever started seeds indoors? What are the tools you all use?
Would love to hear from you! Comment below 🙂