Seedlings aren’t for the faint of heart

damping off

Let me start by saying I am by no means a professional when it comes to growing food. I am however very passionate about it and eager to learn whatever I can from whoever will teach me. Books have been pretty informative so far but I find reading other blogs and interacting with other gardeners/homesteaders to be the best source of knowledge. Oh, and don’t forget your own mistakes – you’ll learn a hell of a lot from those.

Back to the topic at hand; plants and the daunting yet rewarding act of growing them from seeds. I was optimistic this year since my first garden (last year) was so successful. I thought, ‘hey, you know what? I’m going to double the size and quality of my garden this year and I’m going to start from seed. No transplants for me!”  So I started planting, watering, watching frequently, and rotating my babies to optimize the sun from my relatively small South-Western facing window. Well they grew, but they also suffered an ill fate damping off.

Needless to say I’m starting over and I’m hoping these ones will be healthier. Instead of bagged seedling starter I’m going to load up my trays with some good ol’ cow manure and peat moss. Luckily the hubby works on a farm where both are in great supply. (It’s the best miracle grow I know of and why I didn’t use it to begin with I’ll never know.)

SEED TRAYS

This year I didn’t really do too much planning, which was short-sighted on my part. On a whim, I decided to buy seedling starter pots that you could just plant directly in the ground with your transplants. Looking back on that decision I regret it because now that I’ve found a DIY idea I love, it just seems silly to have PAID for them. Note: I really don’t think they benefited the health of the plants either.

These Recycled Newspaper Pots are brilliant and super easy to make. Today’s looking pretty gloomy outside so I think my toddler and I are going to have a crafty afternoon constructing little plant pots. I definitely suggest these to anyone looking to recycle and save money. Did I mention they’re environmentally friendly?

Paper Plant Pots

Garden Betty’s Recycled Newspaper Pots

WATERING

This was certainly an issue for me this year – being a little overenthusiastic with the spray bottle was not a good idea. A late start to the season, cloudy days, and water without any great deal of sun turned into disease in the soil, wasted seed, and a flustered gardener. So, I’ve decided to modify my watering schedule a little.

– First initial watering is just misting the seedlings to create damp soil. Cover the tray your pots are in with a plastic dome or plastic wrap. They can be kept somewhere warm, and since they don’t need sun at this stage the soil won’t dry out quite so fast – little to no watering needed.

– Only if the soil is dry to the touch do they need light mist. Only watering when soil is dry will allow more time for the soil to dry out which promotes root growth. (Instead of keeping the soil damp by spraying both morning and evening like I was previously.)

– Once sprouted, setting trays (with holes in bottom) in a dish of water to absorb from below for about 2-3 minutes. This is only needed every other day or else you risk root rot or damping off. It also ensures you’re not wetting the leaves or stems, which also cuts back on your risk of disease.

 

These are just the first few steps in growing my seedlings. Once I know they’ve grown sturdier and more likely to survive I’ll work on hardening them and then transplanting them into my raised beds. I’m pretty excited to get this whole process down pat and become confident in doing it multiple times a year.

“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides”

– W.E. Johns

Note: Major shout out to Linda Ly at gardenbetty.com – SO many wonderful and informative posts!

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