I just received my seeds for Spring and Summer 2014! Hooray, what an evening of celebration! I’ll be starting the seeds here in the next couple of weekends for some early vegetables. I post this one every year as the beginning of a series on starting seeds so stay tuned–there’s more to come! ~Cameron
Oh, where to begin?! It’s the time of year when I move the tall metal shelves in front of the French doors in the den and get ready to start the seeds. My daughter rolls her eyes as apparently, it is not the type of decor that will impress her friends. The wheelbarrow is set up outside the back door so I can mix the compost and dirt. I get a little hyper about watering the seeds as many rounds have been lost by not keeping the soil damp enough. The cats compete with the shelf for the “sweet spot” of sunshine. Starting seeds represents the beginning of our growing season, and for me, also symbolizes the joy of new life.
So–what have I learned about starting seeds certainly wouldn’t fill a book, but as I look through my journals, there are few lessons I’d like to share.
I will say that in my effort to upcycle, I have tried a variety of containers for raising seeds. In this quest, I will sadly tell you that egg cartons just didn’t work for me. I can’t tell you how excited I was last year as I found the dozen x dozen egg crates at a local restaurant’s recycling/upcycling pile. PERFECT! I grabbed as many as I could and came home feeling a little smug with my great find. Well, in spite of covering them to create a greenhouse effect, what I found was that the carton would soak up too much of the water and the dirt on top would stay too dry. Even trying to spray them with a fine mist didn’t seem to work as well either. Then the egg crates started falling apart. Ugh. Not pretty.
In an effort to reduce plastic waste, I had been saving all the rectangular containers that my organic spinach and mixed greens come in from the store. What worked with those containers–easy to move, self-contained, easy to label, dirt stayed moist, seedlings thrived.
I have used the kits you can buy at the local hardware store–a tray, 6-pk containers, a lid. They worked for me too, not a problem. I just tried to be a better steward of our earth and upcycle plastic that already exists.
And then I grew concerned about BPA and other chemicals leeching into my food.
So Winter 2013, I started using Mason jars, and yep, they’re my go-to seed starting containers. You can read more about them in the rest of the series. (read about them here)
So what else have I learned?
- soil is key–I use organic soil with organic mushroom compost, organic sphangum, and my own compost
- I like to wet my soil before shoveling it into the containers/seed pots
- a fine spray mister is helpful for keeping the top of the soil and the delicate seedling moist without drowning them
- I turn my seedlings around regularly so the ones in the back get moved toward the front too
- while I used to think it was time consuming, I have found a difference in taking sandpaper to larger, harder seeds
soaking seeds can be helpful as well
Most importantly, remember your seeds are like young children–the more time, care, and energy you put into them when they’re young, the better they’ll be when they begin to grow and produce. Starting them with the most healthy soil mix and plenty of water and sun will help them be stronger as they mature.
And my most favorite thing about starting seeds–that incredible rush I feel when the first green shoots pop through the dirt. Best feeling, bar none!