To all my newbie garden friends, this post is for you. If you are starting vegetable seeds for the first time, please, please step away from the Home and Garden supply store. You have everything you need to start seeds in your own home.
Most of us have plastic containers lying around the house that look like this container. One only need to add a layer of shredded newspaper, (that is damp enough to be soggy), then add a layer of potting soil.
Containers of this nature become “instant greenhouses.” Placing them on a heating pad for a couple days will heat the soil enough to expedite germination. If you don’t have a heating pad, you can “cook” your soil in the oven. While the soil will not retain heat, it will be warm enough to stimulate germination.
Please. Step away from peat pellets and those seed starter cups one finds in the store. They will not work.
Here’s why: either the seeds will germinate and take off like a rocket, (which results in a weak plant), or the seeds will be so strong they will become root bound in the container, which means damaged roots upon transferral to the real garden.
Either plant directly into the ground and cover with plastic, or use this “red neck” greenhouse I suggest.
Also: the following plants will never transplant well: carrot, corn, okra, lettuce, kale, and any other “greens.” Plant them directly into the soil where they will spend the summer.
Those that do transplant well include: beans, peas, peppers and tomatoes.
Back to the redneck greenhouse. In this photo notice how I have placed newspaper into the bottom of the container.
There are NO drainage holes. That is because the top of the container has a gap wide enough to allow air curculation. I chose this container because I can easily remove the lid and allow air inside.
Newspaper provides much-needed moisture beneath the seed. This is important because as the seed germinates it will seek moisture. Moisture beneath the seed encourages a strong root. Moisture above the seed encourages the root to grow up (meaning upside down).
The container is sitting on a heating pad. Notice how moisture is already condensing on the side of the container. This is heaven to a seedling. Once seeds emerge water by using a spray bottle (a recycled cleaning bottle will work). Do not pour heavy water on delicate plants, they will break.
Now here is the tricky part, when it is time to transplant into the seedling’s permanent home, one might be forced to remove the bottom of the container in order to protect delicate plants.
How many seasoned gardeners have broken plants trying to remove them from containers? How many seasoned gardeners have killed their plants by pouring water on top of them?
This is why, if at all possible, it is best to plant directly in the garden. Nothing is more frustrating that investing time nourishing delicate seedlings only to kill them when removing them from containers. Happy gardening and remember to keep those hands dirty.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author of the book In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com