With such a short growing season, Memorial Day to Labor day, many of the foods we grow need an early start that nature here does not provide. With heirloom seeds from Siberia, North Dakota, and Canada, many of the crops we grow can simply be started outdoors. Such as peas, beans, lettuce, spinach, carrots, corn, and more, but what of those that require more than 90 days from seed to harvest? We furnish an extension to our growing season by starting seeds indoors.
When starting seeds indoors, you need to consider five things: temperature, water, lighting, soil, and seeds.
Seeds of the Mole Plant, (yes there is such a plant) have very limited germination rates as low as 10%. However, germination in a controlled environment of 70 degrees can increase germination to 90%! Most seeds do far better if the external temperatures can be maintained.
Due to the variety of seeds needs, being able to control the temperatures can mean the difference between having a bumper crop or just making do. Because we heat with
wood, temperatures can vary greatly. Having a heated greenhouse in Montana was not very practical in regards
Tomatoes, Peppers, & Melons), nice an toasty at 70 degrees.
Using an old 20 cu. ft. chest freezer, we added a board to the bottom to adjust for the motor portion.
holes in either end of the board. We attached grow lights with chains through the holes, allowing us to raise and lower lights as needed. Germination times are shorted dramatically!
However, too much and they quickly die. Damping off is a condition where seedlings start to die shortly after germination during the young sprouting stage. This is caused by a fungi in the soil when there is excessive watering during this tender stage.
Don't over water! Until your seedlings are developing their second leaf set, you should mist your soil daily. Don't soak the soil either, you want it moist without being overly wet. You don't want your seeds to dry out during germination!
starting and enable the seeds to germinate in 7-14 days on average. But if you see the moisture, then you don't need to water until the next day. We actually see germination within 4-7 days with our methods.
Providing light for your plants is important, but too much light will cause them to 'get leggy', tall, weak, and stressed.
Using a timer is a great way to regulate the time of lighting. Though the sun is by far the best, starting seeds indoors requires some artificial light.
The lights are maintained at the level of the pots until germination occurs. As the plants grow the lights are raised slowly to prevent 'leggy' plants.
plants have nutritional requirements too!
Ideally, you want good healthy medium (soil, compost, peat moss, etc.) to start your seeds in. Using potting soil from the store may not be the best. They can be overly damp for extended periods, thus allowing fungi that is bad for seedlings. Also, micro-organisms that are found naturally in our environment, may not be available or worse yet, contain items that would be harmful to you and your plants.
It is best to start with the same soil you will use. Naturally adapting your plants to the soil they will have in your garden. Healthier soil means healthier plants and healthier you! Try to find organic mediums locally and mix your own seed starting soil. The mix we have used for years with great success is: 1 gallon garden soil; 1 gallon clean sand; 1 gallon organic compost; 1 gallon peat moss; mix well and stones taken out.
Then add minerals or other organic amendments to aid your seedlings in growth. Depending on the market, you can use variations of minerals'/vitamins'. Green sand, organic cotton meal (if it isn't certified organic it could be GMO - read the label!), bat guano, bone meal, etc. Kelp is the best overall adding natural minerals' and vitamins' to your soil.
Sunberries for an example, have viable seeds for only one year, where seeds such as peas can be viable for years. The germination rate will decrease as the storage time increases.
We discussed the differences between hybrid and heirloom seeds in an earlier blog at http://www.weebly.com/weebly/main.php#. We have found organic heirloom seeds to be the best by far!
Putting it all together:
seeds into a small dish. Seeds of Thyme, chives, and basil can be very small. Scattering a small amount on the soil in the pot is the easiest way to do it. Other seeds can be difficult to plant, we use a pair of tweezers to add seeds to our soil mix. Larger seeds you can push into the soil. Cover the seeds with a small amount of soil. Doing this leaves room in the pot to make it easier to add soil later if any starts become a little leggy, etc.
Don't let your seeds dry out once planted, but over watering can cause 'damping off' and kill young seedlings. It is better to mist the top of your pots, doing this daily will provide the water your plants need without over doing it.
Putting your pots in trays allows the ease of moving plants and later provides a way to water them from below once the seedlings are well developed. Cover the trays with light plastic or plastic covers until the seedlings germinate and grow their first leaves. Place the warm weather seed trays in a controlled environment: a greenhouse, a hot house, or a
small room. Cold weather crops planted indoors to 'get a jump on the growing season' can be placed on shelves
Lighting should be provided, minimum of 10 hours, but far better if 12-16 hours of light. Keep the lights as low as the pots' tops. Raise the lights as the plants grow. This encourages faster germination and the second set of leaves (called feeder leaves) will be healthier.
Once the seedlings have germinated and begun to grow their second set of leaves, you can keep them uncovered. You can also reduce the light times to what daylight hours are normal for your area. Seeds should be started indoors an average of 6-8 weeks prior to your last frost.
If you don't have a green house or hot frame to put your plants in, you will need to 'harden them off' before
transplanting them. A week or two before you transplant
them, start taking them outside for short periods of time, usually in a shady spot. Increase the time they are outdoors, moving them from the shade to sunny spot. Within a
couple of weeks they will have adapted to the outside environment and should do quite well after transplanting. Remember to water them well when you plant them
Other than weeding and watering, enjoy the fruit of your labors!
May your sunsets smile for you alone........