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Seed Starting Station

February 5th, 2018

For my entire gardening career, I’ve started seeds on the kitchen table. It’s not a big deal, but here in this house we don’t have a light in the dining room. Thus we have a strand of Christmas lights. They’re OK for ambiance during dinner, but don’t offer quite enough light when starting small seeds.

This winter, I added a station upstairs for my mailing and other work projects. It happens to be PERFECT for seed starting as well. The counter height is perfect, no more stooping over. As long as I work during the day, the light is much better as well (though I still have a strand of lights for added light).
Overall, It’s the perfect space for, not only the work I do there, but for starting seeds as well. I’m hoping to add cork behind the tabletop for pinning up charts and other necessary items.

Where do you start your flats of seeds? Do you have a dedicated area for garden necessities?

Getting a Head Start

January 22nd, 2018

This weekend, I started four flats of seeds! YAY!!! My plans were to have flats of greens going under the grow lights all winter, but I never got around to it. On Saturday, I managed to get three flats of green and one flat of cilantro going.

For some I used soil blocks, but for others I just put soil in the flats. I’ll see which ones works best for this method of growing.

While I had the kitchen table turned into a potting bench, I decided to make a few flats of soil blocks to have ready for seeding. Last year, as I sowed seeds, I kept thinking it would be handy to have flats of block already made for quick seeding.

Now I have a nice little stockpile of flats of blocks. I managed to make three large flats and four half flats of soil blocks. I thought about making more, but decided I’d better see how this works before investing too much time this early.

Did you manage to get any garden related things done this weekend?

Experimenting with Potting Soil Mixes

April 26th, 2017

One of the things I love about gardening is being able to experiment. I’m always planting different varieties to see the difference between them. While I was at the feed store a few weeks ago, I spotted their Pro-Mix potting mixes. I’m a big fan of the 512 Mix from Johnny’s Seed and have been using that for quite a long time, but I decided to give Pro-Mix a try.


So I made a flat of soil blocks with each of the three mixes. As far as soil blocks are concerned, the Johnny’s Mix and the Pro-Mix Premium seemed to form better blocks. The regular Pro-Mix has a lot more perlite in it, so the blocks don’t seem to form as well or be as strong.

I seeded three different seeds in each type of potting mix to watch germinate and watering rates.

The seeds are just starting to germinate and so far they’re pretty even across the board. The Johnny’s mix definitely retains water much better than the other two varieties. Pro-Mix Premium is in second place and the Pro-Mix is in last place, it’s drying out much more quickly than the other two.

What experiments are you doing this gardening season?

Potting on the Peppers

April 24th, 2017

My peppers are growing very well this year, probably better than they’ve ever grown. Typically, I plant them directly in the garden in their soil blocks. This year they outgrew them and needed potting on.



Now they are happily enjoying more root space and the warmth of the office. My tomatoes are just starting to germinate, hopefully they will be ready to transplant directly into the soil without repotting. I used to start them early and pot them on, but I found out they don’t seem to produce any earlier and it’s a lot more work.

What’s growing in your seed starting area this week?

The Importance of Fresh Seed

April 6th, 2017

I’ve talked before about the importance of using fresh seed. Some types of plants, like brassicas and nightshades, maintain seed viability longer than others. Other seeds like alliums barely germinate after a year. Lettuce is supposed to last a few years, but I have found that fresh seed is worth the few extra dollars each year. The length of time it takes for old seed to germinate and grow can mean that you are harvesting your lettuce two or three weeks later than if you had fresh seed. In a short growing season like mine, those 2-3 weeks aren’t worth it. I also find that the time saved under grow lights is another reason to purchase fresh seed each year. If I can move plants outside 2 weeks earlier I can start another flat much earlier.

In order to illustrate this point, I used year old lettuce seed (these seeds were purchased in 2016) and new lettuce seed. The variety that is from last season germinated very quickly last year and grew very vigorously. In fact, it was the first lettuce to produce heads. You can easily pick out which seed is from last year and which ones are from this season. I’ll keep you updated on the growth rate throughout the season.

One of the reasons for the decline in viability can be due to age of seed since we don’t know how old seed is when we buy it. That’s one reason I like buying seeds from Johnny’s Seeds, they do germination tests and put the date of the test and germination rate right on the seed packet. Old seed not only has lower and slower germination rates, but it has less vigor overall. Plants take longer to grow and reach maturity.

Just because seed isn’t fresh doesn’t mean you have to throw it away. Mix all your lettuce and endive seeds together to make a mesclun mix and direct seed that in the garden or under grow lights in the fall/winter. Purchasing and sharing seeds with friends is a great way to be able to have fresh seed every year without increased costs. Truthfully, most seeds stay fresh for a few years, lettuce and alliums are the only two I make certain to purchase fresh every single year. The rest get a few years before they are repurchased.

What seed do you make sure to purchase fresh each year? Have you noticed reduced germination rates and slower plant growth in certain varieties?

Head on over to this post for a seed viability chart I made a few years ago.

Seeds and Sundries
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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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