starting your seeds
starting your seeds

starting your seeds

It’s that time!  Every winter I pull up this post with the hopes of inspiring some new yard gardeners or suburban farmers.  Always glad to collect any other ideas you may have so comment away! ~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.

seed starts group

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 (2011) 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.

egg crates

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.  I’ve also found that strawberry containers with their holes become nice little greenhouses too.  What worked with those containers–easy to move, self-contained, easy to label, dirt stayed moist, seedlings thrived.  Yep–been saving my containers this year so I have plenty to use.


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 am just trying to be a better steward of our earth and upcycle plastic that already exists.

My other system has included Mason jars.  Great idea for seed starts but not so good for growing seedlings as the soil can become too moist and grow some pretty funky stuff.  You can read more about it here and here.

seed starts acorn squash

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!

seed starts kale

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