My spring fever begins as soon as we pack up the Christmas and Hanukkah decorations. I start scouring seed catalogs to find new varieties and I map out my spring, summer, and fall gardens. Our home has two bright south-facing windows in the master bedroom which work great as a "greenhouse" until the weather warms up enough to move the seedlings outside.
I always start about twice as many seedlings as I need so that I can share them with friends, neighbors, and Levites.
Here's a few tips for starting your own seeds on a tight budget:
Save every pot, planter, and tray that you get from nurseries every year so that you won't have to buy expensive trays from the hardware store.
Buy a pack of 6 ounce plastic cups. Cut a "v" shape with a paring knife in the bottom of each cup for drainage and you have a perfect (and affordable) place to start your plants!
Rinse out white milk jugs and cut them into strips for plant markers. (Burpee charges $3.99 for 25 plastic plant markers.)
Save your own seeds for plants that are easy to work with, such as beans, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and marigolds.
If you have never started your own seedlings before, here is all you need to know.
Starting your own seedlings will breathe life into you in the dark days of late winter.
Starting your own seedlings is incredibly easy.
Read the directions on the back of each pack. They will tell you how deep to plant each seed.
Buy a sprayer for watering your plants. It's much gentler on young seedlings.
When you water, soak them thoroughly. Then, don't water again until the soil is completely dry.
Use a card table on a south facing window or buy a grow light (The window is a better option).
Cover your trays and pots with saran wrap so that it works like a "mini greenhouse" to quickly germinate the seeds. Take off the saran wrap as soon as they break through the soil.
Plant two seeds in every pot. Then, take out the extra one as soon as they spring up. This is an insurance policy against poor germination rates.
Pre-mixed seed starting mix is really cheap. It's usually even cheaper than mixing your own. It's already formulated for great root development and fertilization. Name brand seed-starting mix is about $4.00 for 8 quarts of soil, which is plenty for most people.
Common Pitfalls of Seed Starting:
Don't overwater! Overwatering will rot your root systems and bring a fungal disease called "damping off" where the stem itself falls apart.
"Harden off" your seedlings. When your seedlings are ready for planting, introduce them to the outdoors gradually over a week. First bring them out for an hour, then two or three hours, then all day. Last, let them stay outside over night after all danger of frost has passed. It takes a week or so for them to adjust to temperature changes, full sunlight, and wind.
Why I can never go back... I have yet to find a nursery that offers more than ten varieties of tomatoes or more than 20 varieties of herbs. If you start your own seeds, you can choose from thousands of varieties of every kind of plant imaginable. In future blog posts, I will show you what I'm growing this year. Meanwhile, here's some great websites for heirloom seeds.
These seedlings are ready to rock and roll.
I start most of my seedlings in 6 ounce cups. It's cheap and it gives them room to grow.
Don't forget the end result! The FLAVOR is worth all the effort.
Varieties like "lemon cucumbers" usually can't be bought as seedlings as nurseries.
These are the sites that I trust and have bought from for several years: