Seed Sense #12

Hard to believe it is now 5 weeks past our last frost free date and 6 weeks since my last post. It’s
almost time to start the count of weeks before first frost to plan fall and cold crop planting. Golly. I haven’t even started picking tomatoes yet!
That being said, I already harvested all my Pac Choi, Kohlrabi and I am harvesting loads of Snap, Snow and English Peas, Arugula, Kale and Swiss Chard. One of my zucchini plants has 4” zucchinis on it that I can harvest soon and the broccoli is close to harvest time. Yea!

It’s time for evaluating the seed starting journey. I don’t know about you but I loved the process! The planning, dreaming and nurturing. All of it! Maybe I loved the process a bit tooo much! As you can see by the photos, I overpacked my gardens again! Sigh. I am growing 11 different squash, 4 different cucumbers, 18 different tomatoes , a gazillion peas, and 6 different peppers. Plus, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, beans, greens and herbs. Did I mention that there are only 2 of us and my husband doesn’t even like squash? Can I just say it’s not my fault!. I blame the madness entirely on the seed catalogs. They romance us when it is cold and dreary out and trick us into wanting everything in their catalog. It always sounds soooo good. Tender, sweet, flavorful, juicy, disease resistant, heirloom, staff favorite, newest. And then there are the seeds I got from the seed library! New heirloom varieties, ( to me), that have stories with them. Well, I just had to have a pepper plant from the woman in New Berlin and all the peppers grow on top! At least I think that was the story. I digress. Back to evaluating.

What were the “Ah Ha “moments for your seed starting? For me, it was how easy it is to do at home! Any game changers? I had three . 1. The heat mat. I never believed in them before. I do now! My seeds germinated quickly and consistently. 2. Adding pulleys to my grow light to make moving it up and down easier was a simple, cheap and so worth it addition. Lastly, my cheap 2 light shop light bit the dust and I splurged and got a 4 light fixture. The spread of light under the 4 bulbs allowed for more even distribution of light and more trays could fit on my 6 foot table. I will say though, it was not easy to find a fixture that would take fluorescent bulbs. Everything is LED and those bulbs do not provide the necessary spectrums that the cool and warm bulbs of the fluorescents have.

What else? I will never buy and grow in one of those 72, hex plug type trays. It looks easy enough. It was affordable , maybe $ 4 or $5.00. The pros are that you just need to fill the plugs with some soil and pop a seed in plus you can start many at the same time, The cons are that too many plants that will not germinate at the same rate. Not enough soil to allow the seedlings to stay in the hex plugs very long, they dried out quickly and the biggest one for me – it was a bear to get those seedlings out of the plug hole so that they could be transplanted in a larger container. I also have learned to hate those compressed peat pods that you add water to and they expand to hold a seed. They dry out way to fast and really inhibited the germination of the nasturtiums seeds I used them for. For next year, yes, there will be a next year, I will just use the flat germinating trays, fill them with seeds , a row per variety and leave them in the tray until strong enough to transplant. Done.

I liked my timing for all the seeds. The Peppers were started about a week or 2 later than I wanted but I was at the mercy of a seed company’s shipping delays. They are growing fine now and some peppers are starting to form on the plants. Starting my tomatoes the end of April ( 5-6 weeks BLF date ) made them strong enough to transplant the first week of June without them getting leggy and weak from too long in a small pot. In fact my plants are so healthy and happy I just had to prune a lot of the side growth off them. The squash and cucumbers I started last, mid May. I could have waited and direct sown but the out come was quick with healthy sturdy plants.

All in all it was a fun and yes, I’ll admit it, obsessive journey starting seeds this year. Most importantly, it gave me a positive focus and a hopeful outlook. An attitude that, I , like so many others embraced. It was a year of growing and staying sane while coping with the fear and isolation of a pandemic. Will I do it again? Absolutely! The pandemic? Not so much.

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