Spring is finally springing! The days are getting longer, the sun is shining, the flower bulbs are waking up and the song birds are coming back. We had big, fluffy snow flakes fall yesterday, but the estimated 1-3 inches that we got barely clung to the ground.
I was disappointed to see that my roof was covered in white when I came home from work yesterday evening, but the sun is shining this morning and there are quick and glistening water drops dribbling from the house – a sure sign the white will be gone soon. It’s hard to leave the view I get up to and get to work. I wish I could just sit watching the rising sun out of my kitchen window for more than a moment.
While I wait for the last of the frosty weather to dissipate – the final frost date is April 30th in my zone: 6 – I will bide my time by tending to my established plants and my seedlings. I’ve spent the past month germinating and growing flowers, herbs and some select veggies for our gardens. I promised my husband I wouldn’t go overboard this year, because we are still in the process of clearing space and amending the soil…and then I started 600 seedlings. Oops!
It’s hard to control myself when it gets to this time of year. We had already planned out our personal and market gardens months ago, and I just get so excited. My husband and I both work full-time jobs, so our weekends and weeknights are for spending time with each other and doing all of the things that we love together. Gardening has become a shared passion, thankfully, so although I’ve started about 200 cells more than I was planning, they were the extra lavender and rosemary seeds that my husband encouraged me to purchase in case I had issues germinating the others. That just means we are going to have some excess rosemary and lavender plants kicking around. We are okay with that!
Starting Our Seeds Indoors
Biodegradable Flats & Bags
We usually start our seedlings in toilet paper tubes and egg cartons. This year, because of the number of seeds we had, I chose to purchase some biodegradable flats for my flowers and herbs and biodegradable bags for my tomatoes, squash and peppers. I chose to start the seedlings differently for the following reasons –
- Minimal Disruption to the Roots
I knew that my peppers, squash and tomatoes were likely going to outgrow the 3″ flats that I chose for my flowers and herbs. I have about 8 weeks from germination to the last frost date, and I do not want to have to risk pulling and damaging the roots by transferring them to a larger pot. Additionally, the bags were actually quite cheaper than the flats: about $11 for 300 of the biodegradable seedling bags.
I wanted to start my herbs and flowers in flats with domes, because in my experience, they germinate better when covered and left in their soil. So, to me, that was a necessary expense: about $5 for each flat with dome. The tomatoes, peppers and pumpkins were easily germinated between two damp towels left on top of my fridge for 5 days. These were then neatly set into seed starting soil in their individual bags, where they can mature until it’s warm enough to plant them outdoors.
Feeding TIP – Once the seedlings have their first true leaves (the second set), you can feed them with a light, organic fertilizer. Most organic seed starting soil does not come with any food in it, so seedlings will benefit from food once they are mature enough.
↓ See below: “Homemade Organic Seedling Fertilizer Cocktail” ↓
We set the seedling bags in shallow cardboard boxes lined with tinfoil to catch any excess water. The seedling bags have been placed in front of the south-facing windows in our home for light. The seedlings in the flats are set up under grow-lights where they will remain for the next few weeks.
Watering TIP – When using covered flats to germinate/grow, it is very important that the soil remains damp, but not wet and that the dome is removed to allow air circulation once the seedlings have germinated. Regardless of the container used, over watering can drown the seedlings and poor air circulation can cause mold/fungus to grow in the flats. We water all of the seedlings with a narrow-nozzle bottle/mist them if needed.
Homemade Organic Seedling Fertilizer Cocktail
Although this cocktail is for the seedlings only, feel free to enjoy a nice Rosemary Fizz or Elder-Flower Prosecco while you fertilize your seedlings. Maybe even take it a step further and put on some show tunes and sing along! I think I read somewhere that singing to your plants helps them grow…cocktails and CO2, baby!
- Mix 1/4 cup of processed (not fresh) organic manure or blended dry organic fertilizer into a quart sized mason jar.
- Add warm (not hot!) filtered water to the jar and then put on the lid. Shake the jar up like you are making a delicious cocktail (seedling cocktail!) then let it sit out in a shaded place on your counter for 3 days.
- After the 3 days, remove the lid and secure a cheesecloth to the top with a rubber band. Carefully pour the mixture into a narrow nozzle bottle/watering can to easily distribute the mixture to your seedlings.
- Add a small splash of fertilizer to the soil for each seedling when the soil is slightly dry and not wet as you do not want to drown the seedlings!
- Watch them thrive!
Whether you are indoors with a cocktail and some seedlings, or outside in the frost, I hope that everyone else is feeling Spring and enjoying nature the best they can. Even though it’s chilly, this is a beautiful and exciting time of year. Things are waking up and it would be a shame to miss it!