Last year I tried a couple of experiments with seed starting, and learned a some lessons in the process. The first lesson came from my use of a combination of paper, plastic, and peat starter pellets, with disregard to how well they might absorb and hold water. I wanted to see what I liked best. Well, duh! Paper dries out faster than plastic and those little peat pellets are a pain in the arse. Use what you like! The main concern is personal preference combined with moisture consistency.
Last year was also the first time I tried a heat mat under my seeds. I didn't see much of a difference in root development but it definitely increased the amount of watering I had to do. I don't know if I'll use it again this year, I'm really not into high maintenance.
With those little lessons in mind, yesterday I started a small tray of mesclun seed mix (similar to this one from Gurney's).
Materials: Seed starter soil (a loose mix of organic materials to keep the fragile seedling roots able to grow far and wide), toilet paper tubes (cut in half), plastic storage container with drainage holes drilled in the bottom and sides, seeds to start!
Here's my no-effort how to: 1) Cover the bottom of the container with about 1 inch of seed starting soil, 2) press the paper tubes down into the soil, then loosely filled them with more seed starting mix (Don't compact it! The seedlings need room to wiggle their rooty little toes), 3) sprinkle seeds on top of the soil, then 4) lightly cover with a little more dirt.
Mist the top lightly with water (or experiment like I did and start of with damp seed starting mix to begin with) and keep them misted as they start to germinate. Remember: consistent watering. Don't drown 'em, but also don't leave them thirsting for more.
Once they're settled into their new lives as seedlings, water from the bottom, so the roots will grow deep and strong.
What should you plant now? See the Victory Seed Co.'s chart of states and last frost dates then use a chart like this one from North Carolina's Cooperative Extension to count the weeks back and find out how far off you are from your last frost date. Here in Charlotte, our last frost date is early April, so we're really only 4 weeks away from getting things in the ground. Uh oh, I guess I'm a little later than I thought I was!
Have a history with toilet paper tubes? Planning your own planting party this weekend? Leave a comment! Let's chat seeds and until I see you back here next week friends, go get dirty!
Renee Garner has a passion to make things grow, although her brownish thumb wants her to believe otherwise. When mud pies aren't on the menu, you can find her doodling the days away at Wolfie and the Sneak.