In years past, I have started my seeds using those peat pellet kits you get at most home stores. You know the ones that come with a tray and a clear plastic dome to simulate a green house? They always start out nicely, however once they start, I never quite know what to do next. Do I leave the dome on? Where should I put them? Should I transplant them into bigger pots? What I have done in the past is leave the dome on longer than should be, and then once I take it off, just set it in front of a sunny window in my bed room. However, each year, my plants look sickly and small. So there I am in the spring, transplanting my sickly tomato plants in my tilled and ready to go beds, while next door, my neighbor has these healthy, bushy tomato plants purchased at a garden store. What am I doing wrong? Needless to say, the poor start that my seeds get, translate into late season fruits and a mediocre crop.
This season, I am trying something different. I was listening to a local garden radio show called "You Bet Your Garden" and they were talking about tips for starting seeds indoors. To sum up, window light, although may seem good enough, really isn't enough light for the young seedlings. So in order to deal with that, it is recommended to use fluorescent bulbs for light. Keep the light about 2" away from the plants and keep the light on them 24 hrs a day 7 days a week. You can read about it here.
|I can adjust the distance of the bulbs to the plants with the chain.|
So, what we did this year, is Mike made for me two shelves worth of fluorescent bulbs. I have 4 - 3 foot fluorescent bulbs on each shelf. He connected the lamps with pieces of sheet metal and then I can raise and lower the lights with a chain he attached to the sheet metal. This is great, as the plants grow I can adjust the distance of the lights. I keep the lights about 1"-2" away from the plants and I have the lights on constantly. They seem to be responding well to this set up.
|Makeshift lights does the job - 2 bulbs attached together with sheet metal|
So, based on a projected last frost date of April 21 (however I suspect this will be later this season with how cold it's been), I worked backwards with my plan of when to start different seeds. I started in the beginning of February with onion, broccoli, broccoli raab, celery and parsley seeds. Each week planting different seeds such as, pepper, radicchio, lettuce, swiss chard, tomato, kale, napa cabbage and brussel sprouts. Out of all of the seeds I started, all but pepper, tomato and lettuce are repeats for me. So needless to say, this will be an interesting learning year with all these new vegetable varieties.
|Hoping that these tomatoes will look better than last year.|
|Radicchio - always tasty in a salad.|
|Onions - this is the first time I'm growing from seed. I usually start with sets.|
|Peppers and celery|
|Broccoli and celery|
|and more celery - I will have celery this year!|
Rather than using peet pellets, I planted my seeds in those 6 pack trays and using potting soil. The potting soil needs to be saturated, similar to the peat pellets. I filled my trays with soil, then wet the soil a bit, planted the seeds and water some more. By doing it this way, the seeds won't float to the top as the soil is already a bit moist.
I will continue to share my experience on how this is all going. So far I'm pleased. Warmer weather can't get here soon enough.