Seed Starting and Planting 2014

It’s probably about time for an update on my seed starting activities this year, for those who are interested in such things. I kicked off the season back in early February, starting seeds for parsley, cilantro, arugula, spinach, lettuce and kale. A couple of week later I started some seeds for Asian greens (mizuna, komatsuna and tatsoi), broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi and chard plus a bit more kale. At this point all those things have been transplanted into larger containers and some have even been planted out (spinach and lettuce) in the greenhouse and cold frame beds. The rest are still under lights or hanging out on the greenhouse shelves.

cabbage seedling at 3 weeks

cabbage seedling at 3 weeks

In early March (3/3 to be exact) I started seeds for peppers and eggplant in a 200-cell plug flat, which is my favorite way to start large numbers of seeds. To be sure, I don’t need 200 pepper and eggplant seedlings for my own use but some of these plants will go to the Impact Community Garden plus some will go to friends. Of course not all the seeds will sprout either, though so far a good percentage of them have come up. I set this plug flat on a heating mat kept on 24 hours a day, under fluorescent lights kept on around 16 hours a day.

200 cell plug tray

200 cell plug flat

Pepper and eggplant seeds both like a lot of heat to germinate, and I usually get great results with this setup. The germination times do vary wildly though. The first pepper seeds were up in about 6 days (Anaheim), with the last one showing signs of life at 13 days (Ancho 211). Sometimes pepper seeds will take even longer to break their dormancy. The eggplant seeds all came up in 7-9 days. Without the heating mat, germination times and rates for these heat-lovers is pretty spotty, at least it is in our chilly basement where I have my fluorescent lights set up.

peppers germinating in plug tray

peppers germinating in plug flat

After that, I started seeds for things like petunias, more arugula and lettuce, celery, some leaf amaranth, and finally another 200-cell plug flat of tomato seeds. How do I know all these specific dates I started everything? The answer is easy: I keep records, these days in a spreadsheet. The information is invaluable to me in keeping track of the garden. I use a spreadsheet because I like the tabular format and the ability to view it on my computer, but paper and pencil records work well too. I recently found some notes about my 1981 garden that were stuck in an old book. It was fun to see what I was growing way back when!

tomatoes germinating

tomatoes germinating

I refer to my Seed starting and Planting Schedule to know when to start everything. I’ve developed this schedule based on my own observations and experiences over the years, with some input from the local experts. I am thinking this year I will be running a bit behind last year in getting things planted outside, due to the weather. Right now the ground is too wet to work, and more sleet, freezing rain and snow is coming down. Winter just doesn’t want to quit! But eventually it will moderate, and I plan on having plants ready to go as soon as weather permits.

sleet from yesterday

sleet from yesterday

That’s a look at one of my big projects right about now – seed starting. It keeps me busy, but I do enjoy it. Of course after a couple more months of babysitting lots of seedlings, I’ll be ready for something else! I hope you enjoyed this update, and thanks for stopping by the virtual home of Happy Acres.

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8 Responses to Seed Starting and Planting 2014

  1. Daphne says:

    I find the records I keep invaluable too. Though I put them on paper as I can write down when and how much in the plant nursery which is no where near my computer.

    • Dave says:

      My notes often start out on paper before they eventually wind up on the computer. We write down many of our harvests on paper first, and I often carry a piece of paper with me in the garden or greenhouse to take notes. Which is another reason I like shirts with pockets!

  2. Mike R says:

    Sounds like I should get my peppers started real soon. In the past I’ve bought all my pepper seedlings but this year I bought seed for peppers that will be used to make chili powder, and guestimated a seeding date at the end of March. I put my seeding schedule in an Excel spreadsheet, print out a copy and note any changes made to the schedule. This year most of the schedule was frame-shifted a week later than normal.

    • Dave says:

      I’m still figuring out the best time to start peppers. Last year I was a bit late, so I am trying to get the plants a little bigger when I set them out. Of course, there is no way to know what the weather will be like later this spring, so it’s always a guessing game!

  3. Melissa says:

    I have just started the bulk of my seeds last weekend, though I had a handful of tomatoes started in February. I also start with paper, then move to the computer to track harvests. The middle part does get lost though…I really should keep better notes.

  4. BaconBrown says:

    Your seedlings are looking good. It’s nice that you donate some to a local community garden. I am hoping to have extras this year to give away to friends.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks. I hate to throw away plants, even if they do wind up on the compost pile. It is fun to share with friends, isn’t it!

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