Seed starting – getting into the dirt


Was it just two weeks ago that I set out packets of pepper seeds and wondered if I wasn’t jumping the gun? I mean, there were 5 inches of fresh snow on the driveway, and the cows were happy in their thick fur. Those grass-fed beef cattle are hardy animals!

The truth is, you have to start your seeds many weeks in advance of the last frost so that they’ll be strong and stocky in time for those longer, warmer days of late May and June.

If you take a look at my posting from 3/12, you’ll get a step-by-step description of how I start seeds for my organic garden. I’m sure there are lots of good ways to do this, and if you’ve got some pointers to share, I’d love to hear them. Please send them along!

I started four varieties of hot peppers in vermiculite two weeks ago, and today I transferred the seedlings to soil. This is always a challenging step because it means selecting only the strongest plants for the soil flat, and consigning the rest of the tiny seedlings to the compost barrel. I just hate discarding the inch-and-a-half high plants, but I want to keep and nurture only those most likely to grow and thrive.

These seedlings now stay under lights – 18 hours a day – until they’re nearly ready to go into the garden. Why 18 hours? Because it encourages the plants to remain short and stocky. (Seedlings get leggy and spindly because they’re searching for light.)

By the way, I use inexpensive florescent fixtures outfitted with regular bulbs. This set up will work perfectly as long as you keep the bulbs just one inch – yes,1 inch – above the leaves. An inexpensive timer completes the job.

You’ve still got time to start your vegetable seedlings. It’s not to late! In fact, I planted my tomato seeds into vermiculite just this evening. I know it’ll be months before I lift one off the vine, but I can almost smell the sun-warmed juiciness now.

And talk about local!

I’m hoping my little pepper plants do well over the next several weeks. Dave and I walked the fenced-in garden and orchard area just as the sun was setting. It must have reached 75-80 degrees today, and the evening was warm and blustery.

We examined the apple trees he’d trimmed earlier in the week, and we talked about the work we’ll have to do to prepare several new garden beds. The garlic beds remain blanketed in deep mulch, but the tulip beds are exposed to light. And what did we see, a single tulip – or was it a daffodil – peaking its head above the soil. Yippee!

Hope this really short slideshow helps get you moving. Send photos of your new seedlings!