Growing Food: Starting Seeds Indoors Part 3

Growing Food: Starting Seeds Indoors Part 3

Growing Food: Starting Seeds Indoors Part 3

I came. I saw. I planted! Starting seeds indoors for my spring garden? Check. And some of my babies are already peeking out of the soil. Hooray!

Related Posts: Getting Your 2015 Urban Farm Off the Ground

Starting Seeds Indoors Part 1Starting Seeds Indoors Part 2

In earlier posts, I shared what I’ve learned about selecting seeds, making a planting schedule, picking your containers and soil, and setting up a seed-starting environment. After a little more research, I have set those seeds into the soil.

The Planting Process

My seed-starting environment has two trays with 36 cells each. I decided to start seeds for peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, celery, cilantro, eggplant, broccoli, and brussels sprouts, hoping they’ll sprout, thrive, and make it to the backyard when ready. Are you ready to plant? Here’s what to do along with some lessons learned.

1. Fill your containers with seed-starting mix. Put your soil in a big bowl. Mix in a little water to dampen it slightly. Fill your containers about 3/4 full and press the soil down to compact it a little bit. Top off with more soil if needed. My cells are small, so I filled them almost to the top. If you’re using larger containers, shoot for 3/4 full.

2. Decide where you’re going to plant each variety. I skipped this step and learned a lesson: Plan before you plant. I just started planting willy-nilly. I had used my labeler to put letters across the top of the trays and numbers down the left side, and as I planted, I wrote down which seeds went into which cells. I also made note of the seeds’ anticipated germination rates. Fortunately, despite my lack of planning, I had enough cells to accommodate the number of seeds I wanted to plant. That was just dumb luck.

Growing Food: Starting Seeds Indoors Part 3Next time, I’ll group seeds by their varieties and germination rates. I’ll decide how many containers of each I’ll plant and write down which seeds will go into which cells. Seeds that germinate quickly will go into cells on the left side of my trays. Those that take the longest will go into cells on the right. (Read step 5 below to learn why this is important.) I’ll write everything down before I start planting. Lessons learned.

3. Plant your seeds. Look up how deep you’re supposed to plant each variety and use a toothpick to open up a little hole to that depth. I planted two seeds per cell in case one was a dud. Gently cover those little puppies with a little soil. And say a prayer.

4. Water judiciously. My seed starting environment is self-watering, so I added water to the lower tray. If yours isn’t, you’ll need to monitor your soil’s moisture more carefully and water when the soil starts looking dry. Don’t overwater or your seeds may rot. (If your soil starts growing a gray fuzz, you’re probably watering too much.) I’ll keep my water reservoir filled, and I’ve repurposed a plastic squeeze bottle to water my cells from above if needed. It helps me apply just the right amount of water and no more.

5. Watch them grow! Once your seeds are safe in their new homes, move your containers to your seed-starting environment. Cover them with plastic to maintain humidity. And turn on your lights. Check them every day, and as they sprout, note the date in your journal. You’re supposed to remove the plastic cover after your seeds have sprouted, but if you’ve planted seeds without considering their differing germination rates — like I did — this may be challenging. I was able to move my cover so it was over most of the cells that hadn’t germinated. I also cut one of my trays in half so I could move the seedlings around in smaller groups. And I watched some uncovered cells sprout successfully, so maybe the plastic cover is not such an important factor…?

My Next Steps

This journey has taken a lot of effort, and I still have a lot to do. In addition to monitoring moisture and turning my lights on daily, I’m rotating the trays every couple of days to keep the seedlings from leaning. And I’m protecting my environment from my three pups. (Lesson learned from a disasterous experience in which my trays were knocked off the cart a few days after planting. Geez.)

A couple of weeks after planting, I’m going to fertilize my seedlings with a natural fish fertilizer. I’ll thin them to one seedling per cell and start giving them time outside to toughen them up. I’m also going to add a fan to my seed-starting environment — a light breeze will help them get strong. I may move some of my seedlings to larger containers. I’m not sure. And I need to figure out how I will know when they’re ready to go into the ground.

This is where I’ve failed in past years, so I will need to be diligent! Any advice? Stay tuned…

Related Posts: Getting Your 2015 Urban Farm Off the Ground

Starting Seeds Indoors Part 1Starting Seeds Indoors Part 2

Image Credit: Mary Gerush

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