Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Garden Has Begun!


I did get my very first seeds planted last Saturday, though!

As I mentioned in my post last week, due to our cold spring temperatures (and the necessity that all the plants be organic), I'm having to start a lot of tiny seeds indoors so that the plants are ready to get in the ground outside when the weather finally warms up.

A lot of people seem to start all their seeds at once (no matter the type of vegetable), which has its pros and cons.  While it would be easier at the beginning, since you can plant all the seeds at once and give them the same conditions), different plants germinate and grow at different rates, so this may not give the best results.  Since this is my first garden, I'm doing things by the book.  For all of the different vegetables I want to plant, I have looked up how many weeks in advance they should be started indoors.  I have then planned out when every different type of vegetable needs to get started.  This leads to a lot more work, as one week I may plant only 6 peat pods, but the next week I plant 20!  It also means that I will have plants of various heights on the light shelf, but there's not much I can do about that.

So this is my time-table for starting seeds indoors: (based on a predicted last frost around mid-late May)

  • March 15
    • Broccoli
    • Lavender
  • April 1
    • Tomatoes
    • Parsley
  • April 14
    • Peppers
    • Sage
    • Calendula
    • Nasturtium
    • Basil
    • Yarrow
  • May 1
    • Squash
    • Pumpkin
    • Thyme
    • Marigold
    • Cosmos
  • May 7
    • Cucumbers
Obviously, the seeds I talked about starting last week were broccoli and lavender.  I'm trying 2 types of broccoli, De Cicco and Calabreese.  The lavender is for a flower border around the garden, to attract pollinators and deter herbivorous pests.

As I mentioned before, I'm using Jiffy Peat Pods to start my seeds.  (The one exception is onions, which I'll talk about next week.)  They just seemed like the simplest way to go.

The Jiffy Greenhouse kit.

Knowing I would have about 50 vegetable plants and also wanted to plant several varieties of flowers and herbs, I chose a Jiffy tray that held 72 plants.  They make smaller ones that would be more convenient, but the big ones are more economical.

To use the peat pods, you must first soak them in warm water to get them to puff up.  It takes about 30 minutes for the pods to inflate.

Peat pods inflating in some warm water.

Then you tear open the mesh at the top, and plant your seed(s) at the appropriate depth.  I'm planting 2 seeds per pod, and will thin to the healthiest 1 after they grow for a bit.

Next is preparing the seeds for germination.  Some people swear that you can just cover the pods in the tray with the clear plastic dome that comes with it, and stick it under the lights until it germinates.  From what I've read, the seeds need more heat than light to germinate, so I chose to stick the pods on top of my heater (turned on very low) to give them extra heat.  I put the pods in plastic bags to keep the moisture in, and then stuck them in a thick plastic box on top of the heater.  I had a thermometer inside to make sure that the seeds didn't get baked.

My two varieties of broccoli.  I'm going to be carefully labeling all my plants (from this stage all the way until they are planted in the garden) so that I can determine which variety of each type grows best in our climate.


Surprisingly it only took a few days for the broccoli seeds to germinate.  Once most of the seeds had sprouted, I took the pods out of the bags and placed them in the tray under the grow lights.  One week after planting, 10 of the 12 seeds I started are up!

My grow light set-up.  As the seeds get taller I can raise the lights up higher.

Baby broccoli!

The lavender seeds could take up to 3 weeks to germinate, so they are still on my heater.  They may get moved in a couple weeks when I start the tomatoes, as my box doesn't hold very many pods!

Lavender seeds still waiting to germinate.

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