Friday, January 15, 2016

Preparing Your Springtime Plantings

For those of you, like me, who enjoy planting their own seeds for springtime plantings, rather than go buy them at the local nursery, the following are a few tips that I have used for years. Please keep in mind that there are several different USDA Zones across the country, so please go to to find out what yours is in regard to when you should get your seeds started indoors (find out when the last frost date is in your region).

There are a few things that you’ll need to get your seeds off to a good start…some are optional, but all of them have proven to help my pre-season seeding practices be successful.
Soil: If you choose a cheap bagged soil, you may get poor results. I do not have any personal connection with “Jiffy” brand of products, but they have worked VERY WELL for me over many years.  I use the Organic seed starting mix, not because I have a “bend” toward being organic, but because it WORKS! After many attempts at finding and using several different brands, Jiffy works the best for me and my situation.

I also use Jiffy brand “Peat Pots. I choose to start my seeds in the 3” pots, so that by the time I can transplant some of the more sensitive plants into the vegetable garden, like peppers, I can plant the entire pot without disturbing the roots of these delicate babies.

Water: I have consistently expressed the need to keep your seedlings evenly watered. As you can see by the photo above, I place all of my seed pots in trays (with no drainage holes in the trays).  I ALWAYS water from the bottom of the pot (I pour water into the tray), rather than watering into the top of the pot. 

The potential to dislodge the seeds is a risk I do not want to take. I am also able to avoid “damping off” disease. The peat post start to soak up the water and within just a few minutes the entire pot is moist and the seedlings get all the water they need.
Light: I am a simple man, without a lot of resources. To provide my family with quality produce from the garden, at a better price than the grocery store, which always seems to be a challenge, I do not own EXPENSIVE grow lights. 

For all of the years that I’ve been growing my own seeds, I have found that a simple “shop light” with T-8 or T-12 cool white fluorescent bulbs work just fine. I use 4 shop lights with 2 bulbs in them and they are set on a timer for 14 hours per day. Yes, the “grow lights” may have beneficial light waves, or some other magical force, but the cost is too prohibitive for my situation.
Heat: All too often I am told by the so-called experts, on some social media sites, that a warming pad placed underneath the seed trays is unnecessary. Even though I have expressed that I grow in my garage, and it gets below freezing on some days while I’m growing the seeds, they still lambaste me for such a foolish waste. And then I ask them “what is their germination rate?” When I’m told that they get a whopping 75% to 80 %, I kindly let them know that I typically get 95 to 100%.

So, if you can afford a warming pad, because you do not have the proper spot inside the house to grow, then I’m suggesting that you consider getting one.

Seed: It seems like most “forward thinking” vegetable gardeners are shifting to, or have shifted a long time ago, to growing only “Heirloom” seeds. I have, and found it to be a good move. Yes, I do still plant a few “hybrid” varieties, but 95% of my seeding consists of heirloom varieties. I have used several providers in the past with so-so results (considering all of the other things above are the same), but have rested on one provider, The Seed Guy. His seeds are clean and plump and for the last three years (again, considering all of the other things above are the same) I have gotten 100% germination rate.

(NOTE: I am in no way suggesting that any seed company, or myself, are saying that you can ALWAYS get a 100% germination rate. I will say, however, that if you do all of the things listed above, your chances will be much better.) When I plant my seed, I usually plant a seed or two more in each hole. That way, when it’s time to thin the seedlings, I can choose the biggest and healthiest one or two in each pot.
Well, there you go. The things I do to get my seedlings prepped are listed above and I hope you will have the same success and fun that I have had throughout my gardening experience. Good luck to you and your gardening efforts.