Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Starting Seeds

I realize this post is titled, "Starting Seeds", but I've decided I'm going to buy the majority of my vegetable seedlings for the garden this year. I'll give the seed starting thing a little more of a try next season once I figure out what does, or doesn't do well this year. The one plant, I am going to try to start from seed, indoors, then transplant, is tomatoes. I have to admit, I really don't like them fresh all that much, but, my wife loves fresh tomatoes. I guess, I do like salsa, and it seems like tomatoes are the thing to start early, from seed, so, that's what I've chosen to try.

I'm just going to attempt to start seven plants. Mostly because that is how many containers I happened to have on hand. (Seven is also a lucky number!) My son Henry and I had a great time putting the dirt in the pots... cut off 1/2 gallon milk cartons and a couple of reused plastic nursery pots. We planted the seeds about a 1/4" deep. I put in two seeds per pot, in case one is bad. I'll decide when they come up, which seedling looks like it has the best chance, then pinch off the other one. I believe the last frost is around the first week of May here in Northwest Iowa. The tomato packet says to start the seeds 6 to 8 weeks prior to planting, so, I think I'm pretty close on the time line. I, admittedly, didn't give myself a whole lot of time to compensate for errors or a lack of germination.

In the interest of keeping my little growing operation out of the way, I've put the pots on a window sill in the basement that gets decent light, and I'll supplement the natural light with a compact florescent bulb on a timer. It should be a little better on the electricity usage than a traditional broad spectrum grow bulb. I've read a few places that florescent bulbs are as good as long as you have a warm and cool bulb. I'm hoping the window and a CFL will do the trick. I've also read that if you don't supplement your light with an artificial light of some kind, your seedlings will be tall and spindly. Which, isn't good. You want stout seedlings with relatively thick stems. "The experts" recommend around 12 hours of light a day for starting seedlings. I'll see how this setup goes. Speaking of experts, here are a couple links to Iowa State University pdf files on Home Vegetable Gardening and Starting Garden Transplants at Home, which, is where I got a lot of this info. Consider this a nod to my source.

I purchased Burpee organic tomato seed. Baxter's Bush Cherry Tomato and Beefsteak varieties. I used some regular potting soil that I had around. I don't know if having "seed starting" soil will be an issue or not. Maybe. I think potting soil has less organic matter in it, which doesn't allow the soil to get overly wet for the seedlings. One thing I did notice after the fact, is that the potting soil I used is not "organic", so, technically, it was pointless to spend fifty cents more per packet to buy organic seed. True organic vegetables never touch a chemical or pesticide anywhere in the process. I can't imagine it makes that much of a difference in the long term growth of the plant. Unless my potting soil has been sterilized by using arsenic! Anyway, I'll keep posting on how my little seed starting experiment goes... It's not like I can go weed the garden right now. So, I guess this is what I have to "garden" at the moment.

Here is a picture of my seed starting setup. Yes, it looks a little ghetto, but, I'm experimenting. I'm not going to go crazy with intricate lighting and containers. If I can get seeds started in this manner, think what will happen when I actually put some time into it!

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