A couple of weeks ago I started collecting my seed starting paraphernalia in anticipation of the up coming gardening season. I’ve been starting my vegetable plants from seed for over 15 years thanks to this wonderful set of indoor plant lights my husband gifted me. In the picture the stand is configured to 3 tiers, but in reality it’s a 4 tier stand. Part of my preparations a couple of weeks ago was cleaning up the houseplants, reconfiguring the stand to 4 tiers, and replacing the spent set of bulbs in the middle.
When my children were young and I wasn’t working a traditional job, I planted a HUGE garden. Considering the size of my garden, starting my own vegetable plants from seed was very cost effective. Additionally, seed starting has always provided me with a little encouragement as I’m trying to kick the end of winter doldrums, and find myself almost crazy for wanting spring and warmer temperatures. I suppose I look a little silly running my fingers through the dirt and petting my little green friends.
This past fall I saved some of my own tomato and pepper seeds for the first time, and I’m very interested in learning to save some of the more difficult seeds. This first attempt at seed saving left me with a lot of questions, so recently I purchased a copy of Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone serious about saving seeds (insert Monsanto/GMO rant here).
In the foreground are San Marzano Redorta tomato seeds, an indeterminate heirloom variety. In the background are my heirloom Chervena Chushka pepper seeds, an absolutely sublime roasting pepper I wrote about last summer.
These days my vegetable garden is limited to three 6′ x 12′ raised beds (plus another raised bed herb garden), which allows for a three year crop rotation. I’m a busy person, and I’ve found that raised beds are much less labor intensive than what I used to do. Also, the local soil is very heavy clay which comes with a host of challenges I’d rather not deal with. OK, back to seed starting. I use some inexpensive seed flats, some seed starting soil mix, and a few jiffy pots I get from a local farm supply store. I’ve also been known to make pots from newspaper, but the jiffy pots hold up better, and the nice neat grid of square pots appeases my OCD sense of organization. I place the seed starting mix in the pots, place 3 or 4 seeds in each pot, cover with a layer of soil, and wet the soil by pouring water into the bottom of the seed flats to wick upwards through the pots.
At this point I find myself wandering to the plant stand to look for the first tiny shoots of green at every opportunity. It’s crazy to look only a day after I’ve planted the seeds, but I just can’t help myself! The tomatoes were up within about a week, but the peppers drove me nuts. They can take up to 2 weeks to germinate, and this time around they took 10 or 11 days.
I also started Listada de Gandia eggplant (seedlings pictured at the beginning of this post), an Italian heirloom variety I’m hoping to be able to save seed from. Lastly, I started some Fino Fennel, a bulb type of fennel. I started experimenting with fennel last year, and I’m still trying to learn how to grow it here in Indiana. I direct sowed it in the garden last spring, but it didn’t do well thanks to unseasonably hot dry weather. This year I’m experimenting with planting times as well as giving the plants a head start indoors.