Since I posted about this last year, I have improved my methods and wanted to share!
- Peat pots (Jiffy size 3)
- Potting soil
- Bucket (the size you’d use for mopping)
- Labels (I use bendy straws)
- Permanent marker
- Storage containers with lids
- Heat lamp (super cheap from Home Depot)
- Grow lights (I use two shop lights)
- Fertilizer (optional)
To begin with, I always refer back to my garden plan to determine how many plants I need to start. This year I wanted 4 broccoli, 2 cabbage, and 2 parsley plants. To be safe, I decided to start 6 broccoli, 3 cabbage, and 3 parsley. IF all the seeds germinate and IF all the plants survive hardening and THEN survive a few days after transplanting, only THEN do I give my extra plants to a friend! I need 16 peppers and 8 tomatoes so I just did one extra plant for each variety I am growing.
I count out the pots, then fill my bucket with potting soil. I bought the type of soil that is supposed to feed the plants for up to 3 months. I put it in the sink, and turn on the water. I mix it with my hands until I have a good layer of damp (not sopping wet) soil.
Then I use my hands–they are already filthy–to fill each pot. I write on each label, and put it in the soil.
I open one seed packet at a time, poke holes with my pencil, place 2-3 seeds in each hole, then cover. Then it’s on to the next packet!
Once all my seeds are planted I place the pots into a storage tupperware and water them well. Again–not sopping wet or the seeds will rot.
With the lid on and placed in a warm spot (I put mine under a heat lamp), the seeds germinate really quickly. The lid keeps everything moist and warm–perfect conditions for those little seeds.
After the seeds germinate I take the lid off and place them under the grow lights. After a couple of weeks I thin down to just one plant. A little hint on this–I often leave the smallest plant, especially if the big ones are leggy. It’s painful to snip away at those baby plants, but I remember that I have several extras as backup, and I’m okay.
I keep the grow lights really close to the plants so they don’t get too tall and “leggy.” My broccoli and cabbage responded so well–I had nice bushy plants. My tomatoes seem to be a little tall, but I don’t mind since I can plant them “sideways”. After a month or so I fertilize, and again every 2-3 weeks.
When it comes time to harden off the plants, I just carry the containers outside and set them in the shade. I hardened off my broccoli for a week, but I’ve been taking my tomatoes and peppers outside already, even though I won’t transplant them for at least 3 more weeks. The plants do better with wind and sunshine!
So the main changes I made were PEAT POTS and STORAGE CONTAINERS. Here is why–the peat pots made it easy to tell when the plants needed watering. Also, I felt like those plants watered more evenly than the plastic pots (I had to do some plastic pots because I couldn’t find enough peat pots when it was time to plant). Also, the peat pots fit much better into the storage containers. I could fit 12 peat pots in the space that held only 4 plastic pots. They are small enough to fit, but large enough to accommodate the plant from start to transplanting in the garden. No need to “upsize.”
The storage containers made it easy to water from the bottom and kept things really clean (relative to a shallow tray). The best part was how easy it was to move them around–I am able to take them outside during the day and move them back in at night without difficult or a mess!Happy gardening!