Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Starting seeds: The Good, the Bad and the Dirty

How's your Spring Fever?  Yeah, mine, too. 

Depending on where you live, it's time to start seeds!  You have all your supplies, right? (If not, check out the post Spring Fever:  Preparing to Start Seeds.) Okay, let's begin!

I'm going to give the instructions to start seeds in the pellets because that's what I prefer to use.  It's less messy than dealing with starter mix, it's faster and I like the results I get.  However, you can use the starter mix and pots if you prefer.)

First, you'll need to figure out which seeds will go where.  I've decided that my squash, zucchini and red peppers will be started in the pellets, and in the plastic containers I've gotten from my grocery store.  The tomatoes will go in the pellets that you can barely see at the top right.

If you're using the pellets, you'll need to rehydrate them before you can use them.  To do this, place them in the container and add water. You'll probably need to add quite a bit of water.  Don't worry about adding too much--whatever isn't absorbed, you can pour off.  (And I did just that.)  These are what the pellets look like before water is added to them.

It will take a few minutes (around five or so) for the pellets to absorb the water and rehydrate.  As they are doing this, they will grow plump and taller. These grew to about two inches or so. (You may notice that I've used two different types of pellets. These are just the ones that were available at different stores when I purchased them.) 

Once they've stopped rehydrating, give them a good squeeze to loosen up any compacted insides.

You'll notice that there's a slight indentation at the top of each of the pellets.  Next, place one seed per pellet into the slight indentation.

Yes, it's a tiny seed.  Yes, you'll really only need one seed per pellet.  Really.

See the itty-bitty seeds on the top?  It's the tiny yellow dot.  (These are tomato seeds.)

Use a toothpick to gently press the seeds down into the pellets.  You don't need to go very deep--maybe just a smidgen.  After the seed is pressed down, use the toothpick to gently cover the seed.

Once all the seeds are pushed in and gently covered, you'll need to put the lids on your containers and place in a warm spot.  To start the seeds, you'll need warmth, but not light. You won't place the seedlings under lights until they've actually started to emerge.

Warm is really a relative term--I placed mine in the basement, next to an oil filled electric radiator space heater set on low.  The thermostat next to it read a consistent 62 degrees. 

Almost immediately you may notice the condensation starting on the lid of the container.  That's a good thing.  If you're planting more than one different seed type, you should label what you've started.  You can see I got all fancy-schmancy and used a Sharpee marker on Duct tape.

Now, comes the most difficult part.  Waiting.

Check your seeds every day and make sure that the container is moist.  There shouldn't be water pooling in the bottom of the container, but your pellets should be damp and condensation should be on the cover. 

In about a week, your seeds should start to sprout.  Here are mine after seven days.

Tomatoes from the seeds I harvested from last year's crop of Purple Cherokee and Pineapple Heirloom tomatoes.

Squash seeds

Once they've sprouted, it's time to get them under lights, which I'll cover in the next post.

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