Seed Starting Part I

My make-shift grow table with three 60-watt CFL full spectrum hydroponic bulbs bought on Amazon for $14 each and clamp light hoods available at any hardware store.

As winter continues to beat us into submission, I have grown restless and started my seeds indoors earlier than usual. Now, more than ever, I am longing for a greenhouse.

In the previous two seasons I have successfully grown most of my vegetables from seed, but this is limited to the seeds that I have sown directly in the raised beds. This includes broccoli, peas, leeks, beans, zucchini, squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, corn, kale, spinach, beets, and carrots.

Last year I started tomato, pepper, and cabbage seeds indoors under grow lights, and the seedlings were doing great until I started the hardening-off process. Though I tried to manage putting them out in short intervals, momentary forgetfulness to move them back indoors proved fatal for the seedlings, whose leaves scorched in the sun. It’s so sad to see all your tender loving care be for naught due to inadvertent negligence. My rescue efforts were in vain and I surrendered to buying starter plants at the nursery.

Similarly, last year I started several annuals indoors in front of the sliding glass door: zinnias, calendula, basil, poppy and nasturtiums. While I had no problem establishing the zinnias and calendula (even with my inexperienced hardening efforts), the basil seedlings were destroyed as well. But my poppy and nasturtiums didn’t even germinate.

So another year brings renewed optimism, and I have successfully germinated one flat of herbs (chives, cilantro, parsley, dill, and basil) and one and a half mix-matched flats of annuals (sunflowers, morning glories, marigolds, and zinnias). I also plan to start flats of calendula, sweet alyssum, and cosmos this week, though I will need to expand my grow-light table to accommodate my expanding indoor greenhouse.

And what is very exciting—I just discovered a couple of poppies popping up out of the darkness! I have already improved my propagation skills, compared to last year, but it will really be an accomplishment if I can bring these seeds to bloom, as poppies are high-maintenance little buggers. The ultra-tiny seeds are sprinkled on the surface of soil and need light to germinate, so I have to spritz with water at least once per day to keep them from drying out, but yet not be soggy. And then, once they develop their roots, they don’t like to be disturbed. If not planted in place in the garden, you must take great care to make the transition seamless, which includes planting in biodegradable peat pots that the roots will eventually grow through.

My nasturtium, started 10 days ago, are still buried, though they can take up to two weeks to germinate. I followed specific seed preparation strategies—nicking their thick seed coat and soaking in water for a day before planting—so hopefully, I will see sprouting soon. Keeping my fingers crossed!

2 thoughts on “Seed Starting Part I

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