It’s time for an update on my recent seed starting activities. On 1/31 I started seeds for parsley, fennel, chives and catnip. All those went into 3.5″ plastic pots, one for each variety. Those seeds have now germinated, and are growing under my fluorescent light setup in our basement. This week I started seeds for several varieties and colors of Wave petunias (2/12), as well as seeds for mizspoona, arugula, pac choi and lettuce (2/14). The petunia seed went into 3.5″ pots, covered with plastic film like I did for the parsley, while the rest went into a 128 cell plug flat. The greens will stay in there until planting time, and I will take the flat out to the garden and prick out the plants using my widger. Some of these plants are likely destined for the greenhouse though.
I’ve been using the plug flats for quite a few years now, and I always seem to get a few questions about them. They come with different cell sizes but overall are about the size of a standard 1020 nursery tray. I use either the 128 cell or 72 cell flat for salad greens, herbs, and brassicas. The 72 cell flat gives the plants a bit more room for the roots, and I generally use it for my cabbage, broccoli and kale seedlings. I tend to let them get bigger before planting, which helps them from the bird attacks. My theory is that the larger plants are either less attractive or less vulnerable to the birds. In the below photo, clockwise from upper left, you can see the 128, 72 and 50 cell plug flats side by side for comparison (with a U.S. quarter). The 50 cell flats are suitable for larger transplants like tomatoes and cucurbits. I got my plug flats from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, where they are sold in lots of 5 of one size. The Greenhouse Megastore also has them and you can buy them individually, though I have not ordered any from there yet.
Since I started parsley seeds in 3.5 inch pots, I will need to prick them out and pot them up into individual containers once they start showing their true leaves. Parsley has a reputation for not liking to be transplanted, but I find if I am careful and don’t disturb the roots too much they don’t seem to mind. I also try and get them in the ground before they get too big and root bound in the containers. I see at least one true leaf forming in the below photo, so it won’t be long before these get potted up. I will put one parsley plant in its own 3.5″ pot, where they will stay until planting time.
Next up in my seed starting activities will be the spring planted brassicas, followed by another planting of the spring greens like lettuce and choi. I’ll start warm season crops like peppers, tomatoes and eggplant beginning in early March. You can find my general timeline in my Seed Starting and Planting Schedule. I hope you have enjoyed this update, and I’ll be back soon with more happenings!
I’m learning how to take better advantage of the mild climate here and am experimenting with more direct sowing in the garden. The gallon water bottle cloches that I’ve been using have been a big help. They protect the seedlings from birds, sowbugs, and weather. I have a light setup that I haven’t used for a couple of years now because I put potted seedlings outside soon after they germinate, at least during the day. More direct sowing has saved time and the expense of potting soil. I’m always learning something new in the garden!
Direct sowing is just so unreliable here much of the year. We’ve had a mild winter, but it alternates between ‘normal’ cold and the warmer temps, making it tough to judge. Once I get the seeds germinated they can go out to the greenhouse, but even then they sometimes have to come inside if it turns colder than usual.
Our growing season is so short that few things would reach maturity were it not for indoor seeding, pain in the butt that it sometimes is. I generally use the cell packs that come in groups of 4 or 6 but they are rather flimsy – and seem to get flimsier by the year! This year, however, I’m going back to the plug sheets for the onions – I tried starting each variety in a large 2″x4″ cell last year to save space, but they didn’t do nearly as well.
I’ve never used the plug flats, just re-use cell packs from the nursery, and have amassed quite a collection. I started some lettuce a few days ago, and will start onions and brassicas next week. The weather this year is quite insane and I’m tempted to start everything about a week earlier.