Friday, April 6, 2012

Starting seeds and transplanting

I received free seeds from the URI cooperative extension.  Every year they give seeds (with financial help from Job Lot) to community and educational gardens.  Since I homeschool, we qualify as an educational garden....and I would say that it has been educational for my children.  They have all been interested and involved at some point in my gardens.

I started my seeds about mid-March.  I don't like to start them much earlier than 8 weeks before they can go out.   I usually start hardening the seedlings off around mid-May and get them in the ground the end of May or 1st week of June.  That might sound late, but I am paranoid that I will lose all of the time and investment in my seedlings by putting them out too soon.  I do direct-plant as soon as the charts say we have had our last frost, but for my seedlings, I wait.

I start my seeds in little "Jiffy" packs that you can buy at Walmart or Job Lot.   I just follow the directions on the box/kit.  I don't buy a kit every year, I just re-use the tray and buy new Jiffy pellets.  You soak the pellets and they expand to 1" netted soil chunks.  I put the seeds in each pellet and put the whole tray under a florescent work light on a shelf in my basement closet.  The light has one blue and one warm bulb.  I may eventually use two lights on different shelves or side by side.  I used pipe-cleaners to secure the light to the bottom of a metal shelf.

Just a florescent work light secured under a metal shelf.

I know they would germinate faster if they were warm.  I am thinking of buying a warming pad to put under them just for germination.  

Once the plants are large enough.  Which for me is about 4 weeks in for tomatoes, they are ready to transplant.   I have a picture of the tomatoes, but they are on another camera with dead batteries, I will add it later.

These are some herbs that I am starting.  I confess I have never had much success with herbs from seeds, but I think it was because the seeds are so small that i was afraid to thin them once they germinated.  I did thin these down to one plant by clipping away others with a pair of scissors.

I transplant my plants into plastic containers.  These are sour cream containers that I save for just this purpose. I washed all the containers with a little bit of bleach water to sterilize them.  I don't like peat pots because they wick-away the moisture from the soil.  I have used them several times and almost lost seedlings because they became too dried out.  The plastic keeps the soil and the plant moist for much longer.

I do put 2 holes in the bottom of each container for proper drainage. Also, write the name of the seedling on the container with a will not remember which is which of tomatoes and peppers, unless you plant all of the same kind (I have 3 kinds going.)

 I plop a seedling that is ready, right now just tomatoes, into each container and then fill around it with potting soil.   You can trim off the lower leaves on a tomato and cover the stem up to the first true leaves in soil.  Roots will come off the stem all the way down, giving your plant a good root system.   You can do this again when you put them in the ground.

Put a seedling in each container.

Fill around each seedling with potting soil. 

I put them in a larger container (I used a plastic salad container) to catch any drainage and to allow for bottom watering later on.   I watered them generously.

Put in drainage container and water generously.

And back under the light they go.

Put back under their light.

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