A couple of weeks ago, I was ruminating over starting my own seeds or just buying plants and then plopping them in the ground. Starting garden seeds is a time investment, and time is that commodity we are all careful about spending.
Inspired by a YouTube video on building a light apparatus, I went out and bought the PVC pipe, assembled the thing, and set up my seed starting. It’s probably been ten years since I’ve grown my own seedlings. I still had a heating coil attached to hardware cloth, a timer, and fluorescent light fixtures.
The Best Starter Mix for Garden Seeds
At the local discount store, I stocked up on seed, starting trays, and garden seed starter mix (sphagnum and perlite, basically).
It took a few days to get myself motivated to actually plant. I really dislike the process of soaking the potting mix and scooping it into the trays. That’s kind of funny because I spend so much time digging in the dirt!
But, sphagnum is different. It tends to float on the air as you open the package and pour in the water. I usually end up breathing some in and getting it on my clothes and the floor. Sure, I work in the basement, but every spill means more cleanup time.
You may think, “Lady, just use regular potting mix for your garden seeds, and make your life easier.” If you’ve ever started your own garden seeds before, you know that this is a bad idea. The reason sphagnum is sold as a starter mix is because it has a great texture and breathability that promotes seedling health and vigorous root growth. The dreaded damping-off disease is kept at bay.
So, I finally bit the bullet last Sunday and moistened and mixed the seed starter, planted and labeled the seeds, and set the trays on the heating cable.
After Sphagnum Starter Mix, a Heating Cable Is the Seed Starter’s Best Friend
Another investment that has paid itself off a hundred times over is my heating cable. It is attached to hardware cloth with wire, so that the cable stays flat and heats evenly beneath the starting trays. It keeps the garden seeds at a constant 70°F (21° C) to promote germination.
The warmth also discourages mold from growing, thus keeping the seedlings happy.
Now, Wait for Germination
As I pushed the trays under the lighting apparatus and plugged in the cable, I felt a great sense of satisfaction. I expected to see some germination in a week or so.
Happily, I was mistaken. By Tuesday, (yes, Day 2!!) I was already seeing tiny alyssum (Lobularia maritima) seedlings. Unbelievable!
Next, the basil and cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) started popping up, and now the tomatoes have joined the party.
The light fixtures is turned on for about 12 hours a day. They are lowered to within a few inches of the seedling tops, to keep the plants strong. I wish someone had told me this the first few times a grew seedlings!
The Satisfaction of Seed Starting
I am feeling good about my decision to start my own garden seeds. The benefits of choosing the varieties you like, avoiding the importation of weeds, pests and disease, and growing healthy plants far outweighs a little inconvenience and time investment.
Now, I will focus on keeping these little babes alive until it’s time to plant out. Wish us luck!
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