I admit my lack of experience when it comes to raising plants from seed, which is equalled only by the depth of my ignorance with regards to growing fruits and vegetables. My fascination with perennials has led me to neglect these critical skills for far too long and resulted in countless blunders, wasted resources, and a loss of possible pleasure.
And that brings us to this season, in which I resolve to rectify this sad state of affairs. In taking on this challenge, I hope to remain patient with myself and enjoy the learning process.
Growing from seed. I do have a decent LED light setup, heating mat, and propagator sets (water tray, seed cells, and clear cover), as well as a small, dedicated area for this purpose. Of seeds I have far, far more than I need. They are roughly organized into vegetables, flowers (annual and perennial), and paper bag full of a jumble of unlabeled envelopes of seeds I have collected on walks. I have been using a seedling mix acquired at the local Grange.
Lately I have been sowing the cells with 12 different types of seeds. Labeling has always proven challenging for some reason. I have tried stickers (soggy) and recycled plastic labels (interfere with closure of propagator cover). The most recent innovation is simply labeling one side of the tray with a short plastic tag that reads “1,” while the other side is labeled “12” and then maintaining a separate list of which plants have been sown into each numbered row. This system worked well enough until it was time to transplant seedlings into larger pots with more nutrient rich soil to grow on. As you will likely not be surprised to hear, this resulted in a plethora of unlabeled seedlings. The solution is pretty self-evident.
I had been turning the LED lights on immediately after sowing, but recently decided to wait until the first seedling emerges before doing so. I had also been keeping the heated mat on even after the seeds germinated. Research suggested that this was inadvisable. Now it is unplugged as soon as the first seeds sprout. The clear plastic cover is removed once the heating mat is turned off. The seedling mix is moistened with a mister until germination, when I begin watering from below.
After being transplanted, the seedlings are placed in my mini greenhouse with hopes that they will increase in size and hardiness. The mini greenhouse is watered 1-2 times per week. Unfortunately, some of my seedlings seem to be stunted, putting on little or no growth following transplant. Others have done quite well. I am uncertain whether the cause of the stunting is low temperatures, waiting too long to transplant, insufficient nutrients, or something else I have yet to identify. I plan to try transplanting earlier in the future and introducing organic fertilizer once the true leaves emerge.
A future post will relate my experiments and travails in the vegetable patch.