Moomah the Magazine
Starting From Seed

Starting From Seed

There is nothing more exciting then catching a glimpse of the first green of the season. After staring at those sad leafless trees and the dull grass patches overridden with soil for so many months, that small amount of color is the source of instant joy. If you want to get a head start on the growing season, teach your children the beauty of natural growth, and experience greenery in your own home, try planting from seed.

A great do-it-together activity, planting from seed will allow you and your family to learn the growing process from scratch. From choosing the plant or vegetable seed and the perfect container for growing, to labelling each pot, figuring out the correct temperatures and providing continuous love, care and water. This project will have you and your children revelling in the beauty of the outdoors, indoors!


 

Growing plants from seed can be a very rewarding hobby that is also extremely economical. A tray of plants at the nursery would cost about $3 - $8, where as a pack of seeds that will yield several trays, is only around $1 - $3. Not to mention the lowered cost of growing your own fruits and vegetables and the enjoyment received from eating your own home grown produce and using them to cook your favorite recipes.

NOTE: When choosing your seedlings, be sure to check the package for the correct month for seeding indoors. Because these plants will be transported outside eventually, time and months are important factors to consider, as some plants are okay to begin growing in the cooler parts of the season, while others need the heat.

Our friend Wendy Weiner of The Front Yard Farmer helped us to get started with our own plants and vegetables. We chose to plant; parsley, tomato, butter lettuce, basil, arugula, Sweet Pea and a Black-eyed Susan Vine. (By the time these plants are fully sprouted, they will go together in the most perfect and delicious gluten-free recipe. Click here to see an example!)

Join us in the first stage of getting our hands dirty as we enter the early stages of the growing season and begin to learn exactly how to plant from seed.

PREPARATION - CHOOSING SEEDS AND CONTAINERS.

To make this as simple and clean as possible, we decided to use Seed Pellets for our planting medium - little self contained discs of soil that expand with water. This is a super simple way to plant indoors. Just pop your seeds into the disks and when they're ready to transplant, you can put the entire thing into your soil.

When purchasing your seeds, be sure to buy from a reputable dealer. Seeds that are sold in packages should show species, variety, germination percentage and any chemical seed treatments. Be sure to keep the packages dry and cool to ensure the best result when planting.

Choosing to start your seeds in trays or flats, before moving into individual cells or packs, will help you to save space. However, if you choose to save time over space, seeds can be planted directly into individual pots. Almost any container can be used for planting, as long as it holds enough space for the growing medium, and has drainage holes. If reusing containers, be sure to thoroughly sterilize and dry them before adding the medium.

 

GETTING STARTED - PLANTING YOUR SEEDS.

If you choose to use a tray, flat or individual pots, fill them with a growing medium and then plant the seeds. Your growing medium should be loose, well drained and fine-textured, and should not contain significant amounts of fertilizer. Plant your seeds either in rows if using a flat, or individually if using the pots or cells. Pre-moisten the soil before filling, this way the cells won’t overflow when watering.  

One growing medium that we are pushing to avoid is peat moss. It breaks down too fast and makes the soil decompress by lightening it. Peat moss is a limited natural resource that is being over exploited. Read more about the damage peat moss does to our environment here!

Wendy just gave us a recipe to make your own seed start mix:
3 parts Coir (coconut fiber)
3 parts compost - like worm castings
2 parts perlite
1 part green sand

Make sure the area you choose to start your seeds is warm and free of drafts. You can even use a heating pad under the tray if need be. Put a piece of plastic over the flat to retain moisture until the first seedlings pop up. When the seedling comes through, it is time to remove the plastic.


  
 

CARING FOR YOUR SEEDS - LIGHT, WATER AND FOOD.

Only once your seedlings make an appearance will you need direct light. Place the seed tray directly under a fluorescent bulb, only about 2-3” from the plants. As they grow, raise the light so there is always a few inches between the plant and the light. If you don’t have lights and just have a sunny window, make sure the plants are warm and be sure to rotate the tray around at least once a day. You will notice that the little plants will reach for the sun and get “leggy”- this is when their stalk gets very long and they can’t hold themselves up so they flop over. To prevent leggy plants, a good tip is to run a fan near by, to allow them to be continuously moving.

When the seeds have not yet emerged and the seedlings are very young, watering can be tricky. In the beginning, they are very delicate and can drown or slump over. It is best to use a sprayer bottle to water, to ensure you do not drown the seeds. Always check for moisture prior to watering. Once they get a little bigger they can handle a sprayer from the sink, or a very light sprinkle from a watering can. Use your best judgement.

Over the weeks that the seedlings are growing, you may find that you will need to transplant again (this again depends on what size pot you started with).  If so, use something like a pencil to lift the seedling out, so as to not disturb its roots.

Feed the seedlings once a week a dilution of fish emulsion - concentrated fish guts, a byproduct of the seafood industry. Be sure that it doesn't accidentally break open and spill in your car or home, it will smell like a sardine canning factory for a long time to come!
 

MOVING ON OUT - Setting Out Your Seedlings.

Check back with your seed packets or familiarize yourself with the safe date to plant your baby plants out into the garden beds. A week or so prior to planting them, they will need to be acclimatized. This means that everyday in the week prior to planting you will set the tray of plants outside, out of direct sunlight and protected from strong winds, to spend the day. Before night falls, bring them inside. Repeat this throughout the week, moving them into areas of more direct sun for short periods of time. Be very careful not to let the seedlings dry out, as being out in the elements will speed up the drying out of individual pots.

Now you are ready to plant out your seedlings. Again, check the seed packages for proper spacing for the plants and dig in!

WATCH AND LEARN!

The plants are our best teachers, observe them in all stages with a close eye. Seedlings grow rapidly and look very different from week to week and are vastly different from one species to the next. Over the season, take note of the changes; when do the plants set their flowers, what is their shape and color? Plants like lettuce and certain greens prefer cool weather and start to fade and bolt when the weather gets warm. You need a full season to observe all stages..... just wait and see!

Remember your first year in the garden is a time to learn and discover. Each season brings changes, delights and frustration. Take pictures and notes, embrace your “failures” as lessons to be learned. If you see something failing, yank it! Put it out of its (and your) misery and try again.

Most of all, delight in your creation and the creation that happens around you.

Posted in: In the Garden   

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Recent Comments

Linda Hollander said…

Nothing says spring like watching the first tiny leaves unfold! I love those images of the plants, do they come with the seeds? Another thing I’m happy about is the info on pellet moss. I truly didn’t know that and will stay far far away from it ever after.

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