Organic Emily

Starting Seeds Indoors

Seed StandSeed starting at home can be fun, inexpensive and educational!   There are a few pieces of equipment that are needed to get started.  After the first initial purchase it’s all pennies from there!  There are many ways to start seeds indoors and lots of products to choose from.  But, I like to think I found the most economical way to do it!  A friend of mine introduced me to soil blockers!  Pictures of these soil blockers of all sizes can be found at this website here

Helping to start seeds indoorsIn this picture my daughter is using a soil blocker to stamp the soil into blocks for planting. We use a 2-inch soil blocker.  This makes it easy to plant directly into the ground when the seedlings are ready in 6 weeks!

In addition to the soil blocker, you will need simple black plastic trays without holes in the bottom that come with lids.

Light Structure ChainYou will also need a stand to hang lights and to place trays onto.  I think a simple wire rack is perfect for hanging the light structures without having to buy extra long chains.  The lights that I use are T-8 florescent lights.  Many people will tell you to use full spectrum lights but it isn’t really necessary and not as cost effective.  I can fit 3 light structures with 2 bulbs for each structure onto my stand of four shelves.  The total cost for my set up was around $100.  I love my shelf because I can fit 6 trays with 28+ plants in each.  That’s a lot of plants!

Soil BlocksHere is a closer look at the soil blocks.

To prepare the soil, mix warm water with good potting soil in a large bowl or rectangular tub until it comes to an oatmeal consistency.  Press the soil blocker into the soil until it has compacted into the stamper and then stamp into a black tray.  Place 2-3 seeds inside the hole provided by the soil blocker or if using small pots poke holes into moistened soil.  Cover gently and add a clear plastic cover or plastic wrap so the moisture stays within the container.  You want to create a small green house for the seeds to germinate.

Covered Soil BlocksNotice the tray above has some condensation built up on the walls.  This is a good thing!  You want the moisture to stay within the container so the seeds never dry out, otherwise they won’t germinate!  Place in a warm sunny window or warm room.  Electric heating mats are a great option as well!  I prop mine up over heater vents in rooms that aren’t used as much.  The seeds don’t necessarily need light to germinate, only warmth and water.

Germinated SeedsOnce most of the seeds have germinated get them under lights as soon as possible.  The lights need to be placed 1-inch directly above the lights to ensure strong leaves and stems.  This keeps the plants from getting leggy.

Seedlings Under LightsAs you keep your plants under lights, it is important to keep in mind a few tips:

-Keep lights over seedlings 1-2 inches at all times

-Water the tray for the soil blocks to absorb moisture form the bottom up

-Water the trays only when the tops of the soil blocks have dried out. Over watering can cause fungus and disease growth.

-Keep the lights on the plants for 12-14 hours every day with a minimum of 8 hours of darkness.

-Fertilize plants every 2-3 weeks with a good organic fertilizer product.

-Allow an oscillating fan to blow onto the plants occasionally to strengthen the root systems and prevent fungus growth.  This also helps with the hardening process before transplanting outside.

-Just before transplanting outside it is important to continue the hardening process.  Place your tray of plants outside everyday for an hour building the exposure of time over a week until ready to stay outside.

Seed Starting Dates

Cold Crops

Celery, Broccoli, Leeks, Green Onions, Perennial Herbs, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Kale, Cabbage, Peas and Lettuce can all be started and set under lights within the first 2 weeks in February.  I personally only start Broccoli and Celery and directly seed the others in the ground around the first week of March.

Root crops should be directly seeded into the ground.

Warm Crops

I start Tomatoes, Peppers, Basil, Stevia and Eggplant under lights around the first of March.  This may seem early, however, I transplant all my warm crops under walls o water mid April.  Just remember, you want to start most seeds 6 weeks before you put them outside.  So if you aren’t planning on using walls o water then you would start them the first of April.  All other warm crops are best directly seeded into the ground after the last frost date.  Enjoy starting your seeds this year and let me know how it turns out for you!  Happy Gardening!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily Saddler

Emily is a Master Gardener, wife of a professional landscape contractor, Mom of 4 cute kids, Yoga instructor and very passionate advocate of organic home-grown food! Emily maintains a blog called “The Organic Suburban Farm Girl” where she shares gardening advice, delicious recipes made with fresh, organic ingredients and her escapades as the keeper of both backyard chickens and honeybees!

Comments

  1. Great Post Emily, I’ve been thinking about a soil blocker, maybe it’s time to make the leap!!

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