Tag Archives: Seed Starting

As spring rolls around we start to think of being outside, enjoying the wonderful weather. Now is also the time to think about planning your vegetable garden – it’s a wonderful way to save money, get exercise, and help your family to eat healthy.planning your vegetable garden And taking care of a garden is a never-ending and rewarding learning experience.planning your vegetable garden

 

The most important thing to consider is where your garden will be located. Gardens need sun, the more the better. Locate your garden away from any shadows cast by large trees or buildings. Ideally, you would like to have level ground. If the garden is on too steep a slope, the soil will erode and nutrients will be washed away, unless you are able to create several terraces, which is a lot more work than most home gardeners want to do.planning your vegetable garden

 

If this is your first year gardening, you also want to consider the size. It is better to start small and increase your garden size year by year. A 15 x 15 foot plot would be a good size to start with.planning your vegetable garden

 

 

Once you have decided where to place your garden, the next thing to consider is the soil preparation. Well-prepared soil will help you have a successful garden. And any soil can be improved. Soil quality is determined by three characteristics: composition, pH (its acidity), and fertility.soil tests, vegetable gardening, home front

 

  • Composition: If the soil is too loose and sandy, or too heavy and clayish, aeration, drainage and nutrient retention will suffer.
  • pH: Vegetables require a pH range of 6.0 – 7.0, anything above or below that and optimal growth will be affected
  • Fertility: The fertility of the soil also affects plant growth; insufficient fertility cannot support healthy crops.
  • A simple soil test will help you to determine the level of major nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium – each important for healthy plant growth. A soil test will also help you determine the pH of your garden soil, and to improve it if necessary.soil, testing, gardening
  • Now that your garden plot is laid out and the soil is ready, it is time to decide what vegetables you want to plant. If you want a rewarding, productive garden, do some research to find out what grows well in your area. An excellent resource is your state’s agricultural extension office. You want to make sure you know what growing zone you are living in, when your last frost date is expected in the spring, and when the first date of frost in the fall is expected. These dates will determine when you can plant outdoors, what you should try to grow (since the days to maturation will need to fit in this last frost to first frost window, and when you should be harvesting your vegetables.gardening, prudent livingSome vegetable seeds are planted directly into the garden soil while others have such a long growth period they must be either started indoors or the young seedlings purchased at a local nursery.
  • Usually I have my seeds started by now, but with our house going back on the market I will be purchasing young seedlings from a neighbor who grows a wonderful selection of heirloom vegetables.
  • Whatever you decide to do now is the time to plan for this years garden! Planning your vegetable garden now will insure that you have a successful harvest this year!

It is going to be a few months before I am able to get outside and work in my garden again. It will be at least another month before I can start seed inside. In the meantime what’s a gardener to do?

I actually enjoy this quieter time of year and there is nothing I enjoy more than sitting by the woodstove with a cup of tea and my favorite seed catalogs!woodstove

When I first started gardening my main resources for seeds were the larger more commercial catalogs. As the years have gone by I now focus on heirloom seed suppliers and if I can find a local seed supplier that’s even better!Solstice Seeds

Several years ago I took a six month long seed saving class offered by a woman who runs a small seed saving business. Not only was the class informative but I was able to see first hand how Sylvia works hard to save her seeds and provide her customers with seeds that will grown in Vermont!

I have to say that Sylvia’s seed catalog, Solstice Seeds is by far my most favorite catalog. I know that all the seeds offered in this catalog were grown less than twenty miles from my home! I have wonderful results with Sylvia’s seeds and will continue to order from her. The numbers of seeds offered increase each year. Sylvia does not have a web site but if anyone is interested I’d be glad to send you a pdf of her catalog. Just contact me!Solstice Seeds

If there are seeds that I can’t find in the Solstice Seed catalog there are other catalogs that I also enjoy. Fedco Seed catalog is from Maine. It is a no frills catalog printed on black and white paper with no color photos. The descriptions are excellent and I have also had good results planting their seeds. Our local co-op places a group order each year where I get a 20% discount. Fedco prices are excellent to begin with and when you add the 20% discount they can’t be beat!Fedco Seeds

Another favorite Vermont Catalog is the High Mowing Organic Seeds catalog. I just love shopping local and supporting other Vermont businesses.High Mowing Seeds

Have you followed the Baker Whole Seed Catalog? They are in their 18th year of business and have the most wonderful seed catalog.Baker Seeds Last year they planted around 2000 varieties at their Missouri farm! All the seeds they sell are heirloom varieties. Their 2015 catalog is by far the best, full of big colorful photos.Baker Seeds It’s fun to see what all these heirloom varieties look like especially since both the Solstice Seed Catalog and the Fedco Seed Catalog are black and white and do not offer any photos.Solstice Seeds

One last catalogs worthy of mentioning is the Seed Savers Exchange catalog. although not local, it is a catalog full of heirloom and open pollinated seeds. For 40 years the Seed Savers Exchange has been in the forefront of the heirloom seed movement, working with gardeners and seed savers to preserve our garden and food heritage.Seed Savers Exchange

Do you start your own seeds for your garden or do you purchase local plants? I love looking through the catalogs and planning my next garden!

gardening, prudent living

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The seeds have been gathered; the potting soil is mixed up, I’ve told you what I plan to be starting indoors and now is the time to get started. I love reading seed catalogs and tend to get carried away with what I want to plant. However, I only have one simple growing table with two grow lights, so my space is limited.

grow lights, seed starting

Seed starting set-up.

Organization is key when it comes to starting seeds. I keep a chart where I write down what seeds I will start and when to start them. If you search online there are various resources to help you stay organized. There are two downloads I have used in the past.

seeds, gardening

Seed starting charts

Little House in the Suburb has a little booklet you can put together. By determining your last day of frost you work backwards to determine what you should plant and when. I have also downloaded a seed-starting chart from Martha Stewart. It is basically the same information just on one sheet.

As I told you last week I will be starting peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and leeks this year. I have a collection of containers I use to start my seeds. The containers are re-used each year.

seed starting, gardening, prudent living

Various containers I use for seed starting.

I place a small piece of paper towel in the bottom of each container. This keeps the soil mixture contained and by the time I need to transplant the paper towel will have dissolved.

seed starting, gardening, prudent living

Paper towel is used to contain the soil mixture.

Using my homemade potting soil I fill the containers and moistened them slightly.

One rule of thumb is to plant the seeds 2-3 times as deep as the seed is wide. Leek seeds are rather small and are pretty much sprinkled on the top of the soil.

seed starting

Container for the leeks.

Once my seeds are planted I make sure the soil is moist. One way to do this is to fill a plastic bin with water and float the pot in it until the surface is damp. I then label each container with the date and the name of the plant. This will help me keep track of how many days it took the seeds to germinate and will also help me when it comes time to plants the vegetable plants in the garden. I may be able to tell leeks from eggplant but it is very important to keep track of the variety of peppers and tomatoes.

labels, plants, prudent living.

Labels for seedlings.

Cover the seeds with a plastic or glass cover to create a mini greenhouse.  You need to keep the seeds warm; a heating pad may be necessary. You do not need a grow light until the seeds sprout. Once you see the first seed sprouting remove the cover and place under your grow light. Keep a close eye on the seedlings, as you don’t want them to dry out.

greenhouse, plastic greenhouse, seed starting

Creating a mini-greenhouse.

It may still look winter outside, but once I’ve started my seeds I know that spring is coming. It won’t be long before I’ll be busy outside in the garden!

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Looking at our weather forecast you would not think that spring is right around the corner. My garden is still snow covered and our forecast is for another 16” of the white stuff! However my seeds have arrived and my potting soil is mixed up and ready and it is time to start my seeds indoors.

seed starting, gardening

Sylvia’s heirloom seeds.

What are you planting this year. Here are a few of the seeds I will be starting early inside. Tomatoes and peppers are always started about 6-8 weeks before planting time. This gives the plants a time to get started and give you a better chance to have a good harvest.

The majority of my seeds that I ordered this year are all heirloom and come from Solstice Seeds; all the vegetables are grown locally and then the seeds are saved and available for purchase. I have confidence that these vegetables will do well in my garden since they were grown locally. This year I am growing three types of tomatoes.

Amish Paste – this is one of our favorites. An heirloom form Lancaster, PA the tomatoes produced are acorn or heart shaped with a deep red color and an intense tomatoey flavor. The fruit is meaty with few seeds and is excellent for fresh eating or caning.

tomato

Amish Paste

Burbank – This will be a new tomato for us this year. The fruit is medium sized round and smooth with good flavor and good drought resistance. Luther Burbank developed this tomato in 1915.

Burbank Tomato

Burbank Tomato

Orange Banana – These 3 oz plum tomatoes are very productive and adapted to a wide range of uses from drying to sauces to fresh eating. Unusually full and sweet flavor for a paste tomato. I am looking forward to trying these apricot colored tomatoes.

Orange Banana Tomato

Orange Banana Tomato

I will also be starting an assortment of peppers.

Odessa Market Sweet Pepper – this is an heirloom pepper from Odessa on the Black Sea in the Ukraine. The plant has strong stocky stems and unique green leaves and grows rapidly and dependably. It usually sets 7-12 fruits per plant. The fruit is crisp, juicy and tasty.

peppers

Odessa Market Sweet Pepper

Peacework Sweet Pepper – This is an exciting sweet early bell pepper. The peppers have a good flavor and a full bodied sweetness.

pepper

Peacework Sweet Pepper

Boldog Hungarian Spice Pepper – This pepper is somewhat blocky but a slender paprika pepper with an intoxicating aroma and a touch of heat once dried and ground. The plants are robust and about 2-3 feet tall, bearing heavily close to the stems. Peppers start dark and then ripen to a rich reddish brown.

In addition to the tomatoes and peppers I will also be starting Leeks and Eggplant. I don’t usually have much luck with eggplant here in Vermont but I give it a try each year.

Scotland Leeks– I have grow these leeks before with an incredibly harvest. Scotland Leeks are a very sturdy heirloom winter leek with a fat, pure white shank and deep green leaves. They have an outstanding flavor and exceptional hardiness. I have to space them generously as they can achieve remarkable size!

Leeks

Scotland Leeks

Diamond Eggplant is a Ukrainian variety brought back to the states in 1993 by Seed Saver Exchange co-founder Kent Whealy. The fruits are glossy, elongated, tapered, dark purple with a pale green flesh that is free of bitterness. Of the various varieties of eggplant that Solstice Seeds have grown this is the best performing. Hopefully it will do well in my garden!

vegetables

Diamond Eggplant

What will you be growing in your garden this year?

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It’s the time of the year I look forward to. As we near the end of winter it is time to start my seeds indoors. Starting vegetable plants indoors from seed can be rewarding or disastrous depending on the outcome. If you start your seeds too early you will then have to hold back the seedlings until they can be planted outdoors. This can often result in tall, spindly seedlings that topple over and may never do well when planted outside. In order to be successful at growing seeds indoors certain conditions must be met for the seeds to germinate and grow properly. These include temperature, light and humidity.

First I mix up my germination media. You can purchase seed starting soil at your local nursery or you can make you own. Click here to read my post on making your own seed starting mixture.

potting soil, seed starting

Seed starting mixture

To start your seeds find a container that will hold about 2” of the media and have drainage holes in the bottom. Fill your containers with the moistened mix, firm the soil and mark the container.

seed starting, gardening, prudent living

Various containers I use for seed starting.

Use only the best seeds. Old seeds or seeds that have not been stored properly may not germinate. If you have time do a seed germination test to determine the viability of your seeds. Check my video on the seed viability test I did on some pepper and tomato seeds.

Sow your seeds about ¼ inch apart in rows. Cover lightly with the soil mix.

seeds, planting seeds

Cover seeds lightly with soil.

After sowing and covering the seeds, water the seeds lightly. Do this with a fine mist so that the seeds are not washed around. After watering, try to keep the humidity at 80% or higher. I use old salad or lettuce containers as mini greenhouses. Once the seeds have sprouted I remover the lids. You can also slip your containers into large plastic bags. Check the containers daily to make sure they are moist.

greenhouse, plastic greenhouse, seed starting

Creating a mini-greenhouse.

Once your seeds have sprouted they can be placed under a grow light. Place the containers about eight inches below the light. They should have light for 14 hours a day. Once the true leaves appear you can transplant your seedlings into larger pots.The containers should be placed in light but not direct sunlight.

grow lights, seed starting

Seed starting set-up.

Temperature is one of the most critical factors in starting seeds. Temperatures too low or too high will reduce germination. Bottom heat from electric cables, hot pipes or radiators my assist in maintaining proper temperatures. Ideally a temperature of around 70 would be perfect.

If you follow these steps and pay close attention to the light, temperature and humidity you should have good success with starting your seeds indoors.

gardening, prudent living

Vegetable Seedlings

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Last week I started my first batch of seeds. In just a matter of days there were green sprouts showing through the dirt!

Here are the onion seedlings:

seeds, vegetable gardening, seed sprouting

Onion seedlings

The broccoli seedlings:

seedlings, seed starting, prudent living

Broccoli sprouts

And the lettuce:

seedlings, seed starting

Head lettuce

Today I will start some more. Pretty soon my kitchen will be filled with flats of green growing plants! Just wanted to share the progress. for those of you that haven’t seen my little video clip for Prudent Living, I’ve attached that as well! There may be snow on the ground here in Vermont but spring is coming!

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