Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday: Garden Starting Shortcuts

As a passionate, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants gardener, I love starting seeds each spring. It gives me such a sense of accomplishment to know that I grew many of my garden plants "from scratch."

The thing is, all the gardening books make seed starting sound SO hard. You have to use special seed-starting mix. Then you plant them in trays watch carefully for each seeding to form two leaves. Then you carefully scoop out each seedling and transplant it into a pot. Then you transplant it again into your garden.

Bah, I say. That's way too much work.

Through trial and error, I've discovered a wonderful system that allows you to plant once, and then transplant straight to your garden when the weather is warm enough.

The secret is to save the little plastic six packs (or larger) that already-started plants come in at the nursery. When you plant your annuals this spring, be gentle when you remove them from the plastic pack. Wash those suckers up and save them for next year. The packs are perfect because they are little self-contained cups with built-in drainage holes.

Then go to a local garden shop or a WalMart and get yourself a couple of plastic gardening trays. They are about 10x15 inches and solid plastic. Here, they set you back about 99 cents.

When you're ready to start the seeds, mix up some regular old potting soil (I use Miracle-Gro) with some peat moss. I make my mix about half and half; the peat moss serves to lighten the soil just a bit to make root development easier on the plants.

Then fill all your little cups with soil, and put them in your plastic trays. The plastic trays are essential to this step. Stick your seeds in the soil, and mist with a spray bottle. Then add an inch or so of water to the plastic trays - so that the cups are sitting in the water. The dirt, and eventually the plant roots, will suck up the water through the holes in the bottom of the cups. Makes keeping the soil moist a breeze.

Cover the whole shebang with some clear plastic wrap and place in a sunny window. You can also use a florescent lamp to encourage growth. I use an old florescent desk lamp that we had hanging around the house.

In about three days, you should see sprouts, and as your plants grow, remove the plastic wrap. Keep watering by adding water to the trays, and let them grow away! You may need to thin the plants in the cups, but that is easy to do by just clipping off the weaker seedlings.

When it's time to put your plants in the garden, you have an easy time of it. Just pop the well-rooted seedlings out of the cups and go to town! It's like having a garden center on your back porch, and that works for me.


deanna said...

that is a great idea! last year I forgot to start early and our tomatoes were trying to ripen in September! I am going to give this a if only you could help me find a window to put them in that the toddler won't notice :)


Girl Gone Wild said...

This is my first year using seeds and I, like Deana, had a hard time finding a place to put them that children and dogs wouldn't roam to. But it was a blast!

mopsy said...

Very good ideas! I always look at gardening as hard.

compulsive writer said...

I have tried seed starting before and failed miserably after over watering. I'm going to give your method a go!

Jen Rouse said...

You do make it sound easy! Maybe I'll try it. Not this year. No garden beds yet in our new house. But next spring my husband is going to build me some lovely raised beds in a sunny place, and then I'll go to town.