Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Starting Seeds

At this time of year I try to keep the little green house full of sprouting seeds. So I will have a steady stream of plantlings ready to go out into the cold cruel world of the Oregon spring. This spring has been unusually cool and I am always anxious to get things going, so I usually start things too early. But the little greenhouse gets warm enough to prompt the seeds and then it protects them from the cold nights.

Because I am lazy and because I don't like to disturb the roots too much when transplanting, but mostly because I am lazy, I have devised a way of starting that cuts out a step that most reputable gardeners use. Whenever I eliminate unnecessary steps in any process I think of it in terms of streamlining and improvement. My husband calls it cutting corners and increasing probability of failure.

Most folks start everything in seed starting tray filled with seed starting mix, which is usually peat moss and vermiculite. The seed start mix is light and doesn't cake over, so the seeds don't have to struggle and spend energy trying break through.

But the seed start trays are small and the seedlings outgrow them quickly. So the tiny seedlings need to be transplanted into bigger pots, but they may not be big and sturdy enough to go outside. So they get put into slightly bigger quarters, usually 4 inch pots until they are ready for the real world.

Also the seed start mix doesn't have the same nutrients that soil or compost does. So the plants need to be moved very soon after they sprout.

So here's what I do. I fill 4 inch pots with very light, fine, compost. I place the seeds on top of this and then cover it with a layer of seed start mix. So the seeds are able to break through the seed start mix pretty easily and they are in compost, a perfect growing medium.

Best of all they don't need to be transplanted immediately. And they get a chance to get a little bigger and stronger without being disturbed.

The seeds I am waiting on right now are basil, cilantro, celery, and shiso. I usually start lots of these to trade with other gardening friends.

Time to go check what might be poking through the soil today.

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