Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Many Different Ways I'm Starting Seeds This Year

I'm using several different methods to start my seeds this year. I am a seed-starting maniac!

I already posted once this year about the seeds I'm starting right in place in the new beds, with cloches over them. You can read about them here. I bought the cloches on Amazon here. And in the past I've also repurposed the bottoms of berry containers, as well as milk jugs with the bottoms cut off. Look here for a post that shows foxglove seedlings under a berry container cloche. The cloches, which have three small holes in the rim, are held to the ground with earth staples (great big metal staples). Not sure what earth staples are? Amazon sells them here. The cloches are great because they warm the soil just a little, have a couple of holes in the top to let in air and a tiny bit of rain, but also protect the seeds and seedlings from the torrential rain we've been having and keep them from getting washed away all over the yard.

At the moment underneath the cloches I have sown Echinacea purpurea, Eryngium 'Big Blue' and Hungarian blue poppies (an annual) -- all seeds I saved from my own garden.

The poppies have already popped!

Poppy seedlings. The top half has Eryngium seeds, which haven't sprouted yet.

I have a bunch of seed-starting trays with heat mats, and I'm using them too for seed-starting (more about that in a minute). I'm planning to use the plastic see-through lids that came with those heat mats as cloches in a similar fashion, to start more seeds directly in the beds.

Plastic lids waiting to be used as cloches

A second way I'm starting seeds this year is in the greenhouse, on top of heating mats. I'm using this method to start my vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers, that like warm soil and plenty of sunlight. I'm also starting a boatload of Dahlias on the heat mats too.

Many of the Dahlias have sprouted already, which I'm really excited about. Dahlias in my garden have never needed to be dug and stored over the winter, I just leave them in the beds and they have come back reliably every year. This year I'm going to fill my front bed with entire swaths of them. They'll fit right into my tropical theme, after all, they are tropical perennials from central America. (They need really good drainage, though.)

Walla Walla Onions sprouting -- See the tiny white radicle?

Lettuce and Spinach sprouts

With all the plants I'm overwintering in the greenhouse, I don't have room to start all the seeds I want (I'm starting a lot, seeds are such a cheap way to get a lot of plants). In the past, before we got the greenhouse, I've used portable plastic greenhouses to start seeds, and I'm using them again this year (my third seed-starting method).

Full of seeds in 4-inch pots

I use plastic Sterilite or Rubbermaid tubs (they come with lids but I don't use the lids) to hold 24 4-inch pots.

And fourth -- I'm starting seeds in the hoophouse that I've used to cover a portion of my raised veggie beds.

Some Mesa Peach Gaillardia seedlings in the hoophouse

Last year I used heat mats in the hoophouse to start some seeds that liked their soil a bit warm, a method that worked really well, so I'm going to do that again this year too.

Nothing in the bins yet -- I'm waiting on a seed order

I start just about all of my seeds in four-inch pots. I don't bother to clean them. I know a lot of people say to wash and sterilize your seed-starting pots in a bleach solution. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I don't bother with that step, and I've never had a problem. And I re-use potting soil for seed-starting as well, not special seed-starting mix. This year I'm re-using the soil from the big black pots that held my squash plants last year.

Former home of a squash plant
Five little four-inch newly sown pots

I have just enough space cleared on the table in the greenhouse for sowing seeds. Everything gets sown here, and then moved to wherever -- portable greenhouse, hoophouse, etc.

For labels I use cut-up yogurt and cream cheese containers.

I write on them with a paint pen

Seed-starting supplies -- after being sown, every pot gets spritzed with water to make sure the seeds are making good contact with the soil

A bin full of hope

I really am a seed-starting maniac. Not all of them will sprout, but in my experience enough will, and I'll transplant them right into the beds when they're still quite small. The sooner they get into the soil, the better (although to be honest, I have successfully overwintered first-year seedlings that never made it into the garden).

Do you sow seeds?