Friday, May 11, 2012

Seed Starting 2012

I read on a wise homesteading blog that it takes 5 years to get the hang of starting your own seeds.  I'm on year 4 and I think 5 might be about right.  I'm making great improvements each year, but I've never had anything that really resembles the plant size or strength of the farmer's market flat.  

Year One: I tried starting a few seeds in my apartment in college (sunflowers, beans, tomatoes).  I grew them in odd and end containers.  They germinated but without drainage and enough light they became spindly and weak.  

Year Two: I started seeds in my new apartment.  I used a starting kit I bought from Home Depot that came with pucks which expanded into a starting medium when warm water was added.  I had more light and some drainage.  But I also had a vacation planning in April and two cats who loved salads.  Nothing was really salvageable.

Year Three: I am generally pretty frugal and this year I tried starting seeds in natural egg cartons that I had saved and collected from friends.  I had significant light from a southern facing window and made sure to have some drainage in the bottom of the containers.  I also protected my stuff from the cats.  But in the end, there was not enough light and not enough room for roots to really develop.  I ended up with a few plants in the garden but depended mostly on starts from the farmer's market.

Year Four: Sammit gave me an actual grow light system for christmas so I have a significant amount of light (though I'm thinking I'll get one more for better coverage).  I used potting soil but I'm experimenting with a coconut coir and vermaculture blend.  I'm using yogurt and grapefruit cup containers from our regular grocery list with several holes drilled into the bottom.  The cups are stored in disposable aluminum baking pans to catch runoff water.  All of the containers are clearly labeled and stored in a spare bedroom away from cats.  I do not have a seed mat because they upstairs stays pretty warm.  I do have a fan that I turn on from time to time to help the stems strengthen in the artificial wind.

Year 4 - Week 2

Year 4 - Week 2
Year 4 - Week 8
Year 4 - Week 8
Year 4 - the whole system

I also updated my seed storage.  I used to hold my seeds in their original packets, the corners taped, and stuffed into this very adorable and very big box.  The packets would slide all over the place, making any attempt at organization pointless.

My new system is held in three stackable boxes (made in the UK).  I transferred the seeds to small envelopes with resealable flaps.  The envelope itself shows a lot of information about the seed inside.  The front shows the variety, whether or not it is organic, and the company from which I ordered the seeds. The back shows the year the seed was saved, its planting depth, and any information about the variety or planting tips.  They are organized in alphabetical order with a section labeled "flowers" for the handful of bachelor's button, sunflower, and marigold seeds I have.  Now I can find seed varieties easily and store them in properly in the off season.

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