Upward and Onward!

It’s early February, and that means it’s time for 2013 seed starting activities to begin. I’m off to a modest start so far, sowing seeds for parsley, cilantro, lettuce, arugula and Swiss chard. The first arugula to emerge was up in less than 72 hours, with the lettuce not far behind it. No doubt the parsley will be the last to show signs of life, since it can take two or three weeks to germinate.

young arugula seedling (click on any image to enlarge)

young arugula seedling (click on any image to enlarge)

My favorite seed starting medium is Pro-Mix BX, which is a blend of sphagnum peat, vermiculite and perlite. I’m also experimenting this year with using coco coir. This won’t be a controlled experiment by any means, but I am going to use it for germinating some selected seeds and then as a transplant mix for growing on the seedlings. Coco coir is made from the fibrous outer husks of coconuts, and is considered to be an earth-friendly alternative to sphagnum peat moss. I got this particular mix from Gardener’s Supply Company, and it is made from finely ground coir that is compressed into bricks. Each of these bricks expands to make 10 quarts of planting mix when rehydrated.

handful of coco coir mix

handful of coco coir mix

The coco coir can be used as-is for seed starting, or mixed with other ingredients like perlite and vermiculite. Like peat moss, the coco coir doesn’t have any nutrients itself, but does offer a lightweight, porous and disease resistant medium that holds moisture and allows air to penetrate to plant roots. Both can be mixed with compost, humus, worm castings or other organic materials to make a soil mix suitable for transplanting and general potting use.

lettuce seedling emerging from coco coir mix

lettuce seedling emerging from coco coir mix

For this first round of seed starting, I used a 200 cell plug flat, and filled some of the cells with coco coir and some with Pro-Mix BX. I used moistened coco coir with no amendments this time, but I will also experiment with mixing it with other ingredients in the future.

200 cell plug tray

200 cell plug flat

Next in line for vegetable seed starting will be the early cole crops like broccoli, cabbage and kohlrabi, plus some Asian greens and green onions. I have ordered plants for regular onions, instead of growing them from seed myself. And it’s also time to get some petunia seeds going, since they take a fairly long time from sowing to blooming. It looks like I will be busy with seed activities in the next week or so.

March will also see a lot of seed starting going on, because that’s when it’s time to start tomatoes, eggplants and peppers here, along with a few other things. You can see my general seed starting and planting schedule at any time from the main menu, or by clicking here. Even though it’s still winter time, spring is right around the corner and it won’t be long before gardening activities are going full-blast around here!


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9 Responses to Upward and Onward!

  1. Jenny says:

    So nice to see new growth starting! I also started my trays with salads and greens but they’re still dormant. Of course with the foot of snow in the garden we’re not in a hurry.

  2. Robin says:

    I spent the entire day yesterday cleaning the basement and setting up my tables. Then we had company….so, no seeds started yet. But, everything is ready to go! I’m planning to start the celery, lettuce and greens this week!

  3. Daphne says:

    I always love seed starting season. I can’t wait to be able to plant more than just onions.

  4. How do you like the 200 plug trays, Dave? Do you have trouble keeping the soil moist through germination? I often tend to use the lower count trays, just as they have a little soil in them, making them more forgiving of a neglected warm afternoon, but I know the 200 count would be much more efficient use of my greenhouse space!

    • Dave says:

      I use the 200 count plug tray the most. I do most of my germinating inside though, which makes it easier to keep the medium moist. It does dry out fast though when it’s on a heating mat.

  5. Norma Chang says:

    Your post just brightened my morning, seeing those seedlings emerging, I know spring is around the corner. I haven’t started any yet but should as soon as I can make a path to get into the shed for my supplies.

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