May 15, 2018

Seed Starting: Wins and Losses

Starting a business has been a learning process!
Not that I expected it to be any different.
Not only am I learning business-related things, I still have a lot to learn when it comes to farming.

[p.s. I do have pictures to illustrate, but my Internet connection has been so slow this week that they are not uploading. Will add pics when I can! Everything is better with pictures, right?]

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On the growing end of things, I am discovering that starting things from seed is trickier than it seems! I bought soil blockers from Johnny's Seeds, as an alternative to using plug trays.
I made up my soil mix, using their special soil that I paid to have shipped to me--mostly because I didn't have time or energy to make my own according to their recipe.
Got the soil blocks made. It was all good.

I planted my seeds in the blocks, put them on a heat mat and covered them.
I had read that they should have enough moisture within the soil blocks themselves to not need watering until the seeds have germinated.
Well, that didn't hold up for mine, and believe me, those soil blocks were plenty wet!
(I think even too wet.)

So after a few weeks, I had dry soil biscuits sitting on my heat mat.
There were always big drops of condensation on the cover/lids all along, so while I checked often for seedlings, I didn't think to check the actual soil blocks for awhile.
When I realized what was happening, I started watering them, but I'm pretty sure it's too late.

Two of the trays I just broke up the soil blocks back into the bag. They turned into dust.
One of them I moved to a tray without drainage holes, gave them a good soaking, then put them back on the heat mat. Even if they germinate now, though, it may be too late to get blooms from them this year. I need to look into that. Also, I need to figure out if I have time to direct seed those flowers into the garden. 

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Meanwhile, my snapdragons came up really well, 3 weeks ago.
I planted them into a recycled plastic berry tray.
They have stayed the exact same size all this time under the grow lights--about 1/2" tall.
Just yesterday I noticed that some of them are finally getting a set of true leaves.
They are a cool weather crop, though, and in a couple of weeks we will officially be into summer.
I didn't factor in a month of sitting under the lights when I planned out when to start them!
I guess if they survive, I'll get to find out how they do in the heat.
Or, I may have snapdragons in time for Thanksgiving this year.

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On the positive side, the carrots and cherry tomatoes that my kids planted from seed have been doing awesome! We just potted up the cherry tomatoes a few days ago, into 4-inch pots, and they look strong and healthy. They're about 6 inches tall.
Two of my son's peppers have sprouted, as well, and look like they will be big enough to plant out early June, which is when they should be.

Also, I have had several Bells of Ireland sprout for me, which are finally growing some true leaves under the lights. They are still super tiny though, as well.
I planted some seeds directly into the garden last week--I will be very interested to see which do better.

The milk jug winter sowing project that I thought was a complete loss actually had 2 plants growing in it! (This could go under the "Things to Learn From" category as well! I haven't given up on it yet!)
One bachelor's button and one poppy. So I'll have those to plant out into the garden.

Many of the bachelor's buttons that I direct-sowed into the garden have sprouted now and are growing. Yay! 

Out in the vegetable garden, our peas are 6 inches tall and the carrots are up and growing.
My oldest son's lettuce and radishes are looking good, too.
We just planted some tomatoes, peppers, and watermelon purchased from the high school plant sale.
Always a win to support the local students!

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I need more practice at starting seeds!
Also, until I get really good at starting them indoors, I need to direct seed everything I possibly can.

So far I've got 2 full-length rows in the garden direct seeded.
The first row has orlaya, larkspur, the bachelor's buttons that are coming up, and bells of Ireland.
The second row is almost all cosmos, with a section of Chinese forget-me-nots on the end.
I plan to put in a 3rd row this week. Perhaps I'll plant the zinnias. They don't like the cold weather, but we haven't even been close to freezing for a couple of weeks now. 

For the veggie garden, I plan to start cucumbers seeds and cantaloupe this week.
Possibly pumpkin, as well. 
Still deciding if I should plant them inside or out.
The veggies have done the best so far from seed and I still have a couple of weeks before official last frost date around here. 

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Any advice for me on starting seeds? 

1 comment:

  1. Bummer about your starts turning into biscuits. Im glad you are having some success with the outdoor plants. I don't have much advice. The flowers I started indoors under the grow lights last year didn't get very big, while the veggies did great. When I finally moved them outdoors, their leaves started to burn because of the change in light intensity and heat compared to the grow lights. I think I needed to break them into the natural sun more gradually. In the end, they all grew once in the garden, but the flowers I directly sowed and the flowers I started indoors ended up blooming within a week or two of each other. Also, I didn't use a heat mat and had great success getting them started in some store bought seed starter mix (this was in my house under grow lights). I did keep the soil constantly moist. I'm wondering if a greenhouse is a better option... With lots of natural light exposure mixed with the grow lights? Also, maybe the seedstarter mix I used didn't provide enough nutrients to keep them growing past a certain number of weeks and they needed better soil after a while?