After I pressed two posts on starting seeds, I noticed the trend in lots of posts and pinterest pics focusing on seed starting. Yep, we get excited about planting the seeds, knowing that one day they’ll become vegetables and fruit in our gardens, but what now? They sit in their containers or pots or greenhouses and do their thing while we wait, and wait, and wait. Hmmm, all this waiting then suddenly, you have little seedlings on your hands. What next?
Here are a few tips and tricks for tending to those indoor seeds until they’re outdoor plants:
- Keep ‘em watered–they need to stay moist–little seedlings in shallow dirt can dry out quickly
- When watering, use a watering tool that has small holes. I’ve seen plenty of preschoolers drown their poor seedlings with those dollar aisle plastic watering cans with big ol’ holes.
- Separate seedlings that are growing closely, or they’ll stunt their growth. You’ve got three choices: replant the ones you pull, eat them as microgreens, or let nature takes it course (ie they become compost for the living plants).
- Keep the seedlings in the sun but not in such a hot place that they wilt. Remember, they are in their infancy, and like babies, they have tender skin.
- That goes for setting them outside too. Always good for seedlings to get fresh air, but not in direct sun that’s too warm. Go for filtered or dappled sunlight.
- If your seedlings shoot up quickly and become spindly, don’t worry. I just replant them in little pots making sure they go deeply enough that the first leaves are just above the surface of the dirt.
- As Spring moves on to warmer days and warmer nights, set the seedlings/small plants outside to get them ready for the outdoors. No need to rush this process–bring them in some too so they don’t get overwhelmed by quick changes.
- Once the concern of the last frost has passed (Mother’s Day is a good rule of thumb where I live in the mountains of NC), feel free to transplant.
- Keep watered after they transplant. I typically will soak the hole I dig before placing the plant in it, soak the roots and dirt around the plant, then soak the whole area around the plant once it is in the ground.
Step back and be prepared to start the waiting again. If you get bored, who says you can’t start a few more seeds! I’ve had fresh tomatoes into November by doing some stagger planting. And yeah, they tasted much better than anything you’ll get in the store, and THAT was worth the wait!
The fall seedlings have begun to sprout, and soon it will be time for thinning and replanting. I will admit, it pains me to thin out the extras to make room for better growth, and so I try to save as many as I can by replanting the tiny plants elsewhere in the gardens.
If you’ve never transplanted plant life, it can be a bit of a stress on the plant itself. Whether it is a hearty bush or delicate seedling, the transplant needs much care and water to survive the first several hours of change.
I am always in awe of how resilient plants can be if provided with enough care. They may wilt, they may struggle, but they wait patiently to be tended to by the gardener. Then one day, you look at the plant and it is no longer something stuck in new dirt–it has become life.
Change moves us to new spaces and places on our journey–we struggle, we wilt, and we wonder if we will survive. May we surrender to the great Gardener–the one who nurtures us with love and light and who brings us back to life again.
So back in late January, I got a wild hair to start seeds in all the extra mason jars I have filling up shelves. If you’d like to follow the journey from the beginning, you can read here and here and here. It’s been awhile since I’ve given you an update so I thought I’d check in and give you my overall evaluation of how the mason jars worked this year.
In short, I LOVED THEM!
They were easy to use. They were being upcycled. They did not include plastic that would leach into the soil. They were easy to tote. I could replant sprouts into bigger jars as they grew. Sun could reach all the soil and keep it warm.
And best of all, I could actually watch things grow from seed to sprout, from root to leaf.
As you can see by the photos, all the plants grew well–very hardy. The tomatoes and acorn squash actually required staking bec/ I didn’t want to transplant outside too early.
The two issues I will keep in mind for next year are:
- the soil will grow some green stuff (sorry, I don’t know the technical term for it) if it gets too moist
- when the plants gr0w an extensive root system, it is harder to pull them out of a small mouth jar–will only use wide moth next year
As for the starts, this is actually the most successful year I’ve had. I’ve raised so many of each variety that I’ve given several away. In early April, I actually decided to go ahead and start some 2nd round seeds so that I can have produce later into the summer/early autumn. I’ve also had problems in the past with bugs eating my cucumber or pepper seedlings when I start outside. Now, I have plants that can hopefully take care of themselves in spite of a few insects that get the munchies.
As you can imagine, I am thrilled! There’s nothin’ I love more than finding another reason to use my mason jars. Just remember to save a few–canning season is right around the corner!