This post will take you thru the step by step process to start seedlings at home and put them into the final stages before planting them in the garden.
Get all those seed packages in order. Research which ones need to be planted indoors for proper prep for the outside. Plan to start some as much as 10 weeks before placing the plants in the garden. Other seeds may need two or three weeks.
Most of the story will be told in pictures with brief explanations about each step. As I stated in an earlier posts, this process takes a large room and a lot of patience and time. It has been a learning process for me.
Given this is the first time I have planted so many of my own seedlings, I will do some things differently the next time around. I will mention some of the issues as I go thru the steps.
Step One: Setting up the jiffy pellets for planting seedlings and add water.
This is the seedling bed. We start with a small circular pellet with one side as shown above & the bottom side with no markings. There are two sizes, 36 and 42. Use depends upon the size of the place holder size. Measure the size of the place holder diameter before ordering. After placing them in each place holder, place about 2 inches of water in the pan. Amazing! below is what happens!!
Talk about cool!, all of a sudden (takes maybe 1/2 hour to have them look like this) you have the nest for the seedlings. Notice the top has an opening. This step went alright. I would have a better count on my overall needs. As I learned the more you order the less you pay. Also, In my case ordering these on-line allows larger orders and they were cheaper.
Step Two: Placing seeds in the formed pellets.
Notice I made the openings larger for the future seedlings. I have placed seeds in each of the place holders. At this point it is VERY important to identify what seeds have been placed in each pocket. Believe me, in seconds one can wonder if there are seeds in there AND which seeds are in there. Keep track. I would suggest an organized process to identify with a label, write it down and keep it in your records.
Step Three: Identify the seeds, label the pocket and write it down.
Step Four: Keeping count and identity.
Keep records regarding what has been planted. I made this chart to list what was planted in each seedling pellet. Many seedlings look alike when they emerge. If you do not keep track of what is planted where you may have a mess! Record Keeping Helps!! Records can avoid a mess on identifying your plants. Otherwise you may end up with a broccoli plant in your cabbage patch!! As seedlings, broccoli and cabbage look alike.
Step Five: Providing proper temperature and moisture for germination.
I used the dome system this year. I also have a heat pad under the domed pan (the dome was described in an earlier post). Note, even after just one night the moisture shows up on the dome. Many seedlings call for temperatures between 70-75 degrees for proper germination. Research indicates various views in using domes. Domes may cause possible excess moisture that could cause mold and than seeds will not grow. Watch for this and take the dome off if this happens. My domes had a circular opening on the top to allow air into the domes. Note the black circles on the dome in the above picture. My success with this system was "ok". I need to work on what is best for this step. Maybe it works for some seeds and not others?
Step Six: Separating early germinating seeds.
Something to work on in future seedling plantings! Not all seeds germinate at the same time. Thus you can have two seeds germinate and two others in that same pellet still not germinated. Germinated seedlings need light immediately, or they will get "leggy" and stretch for light. If some seedlings germinated I had to sacrifice and just move them in to the light and hope the remaining seeds still in the pellet will germinate. At this point this system "somewhat" worked?? More reading up on what to do in the future is necessary.
Please note this major problem! You HAVE to have the focus to throw seedlings you do not need! I find this as one of my biggest struggles. Example: I need five cabbage plants. I end up with 15 good looking seedlings in the original Jiffy pellets. You must throw 10!!?? Not me!.. I kept them all and figured I will give them away. Hmmmm? Got to think this step thru and work harder to limit seeds in the pellet AND throw any extra seedlings. An emotional issue for me as I see it as throwing a "perfectly good seedling".. Maybe a garage sale on seedlings??
Step Seven: Providing the seedlings with proper lighting.
If you have limited seedlings the lighting system (above) is adequate. Because I went "overboard" on keeping seedlings, I have had considerable coordination for proper lighting. This actual lighting system is easy to operate. Lighting of this type eliminates the seedlings from becoming "leggy" which weakens the plants.
Step Eight: Transplanting seedling into larger trays.
I have transplanted the seedlings pictured above from a pellet to a medium sized tray. The important thing is to have enough room for all the additional trays you need. Advice!! Limit the seedlings you keep unless you have room. Having enough room for all the trays can be a problem if you do not pre-plan the space. As they grow you may have to transplant them again to larger trays.
Step Nine: Transplanting into larger containers and starting the hardening.
These Seedlings will be transplanted into larger packs and in some cases individual packs. They eat up water and sources of food quickly. Keep them watered! Providing adequate room for each plant is also an important step.
Now we are ready for the final preparation for the outdoor garden. The seedlings need to be "hardened" for the outdoor air. Basically, you set them outside in a shady area for a few hours daily. After several days of this process, the plants have adjusted to the differing air and weather conditions. This is a tiresome process BUT is necessary for some plants to survive the outdoors.
In the next post I will review my idea to eliminate the majority of weeding!! Hmm??? will it work. I may be a happy gardener in one month or a sorry weeder!1 We will see. Look forward to the next post of my plan to "little or no weeding". Also, I will have a post on... "Making potatoes easier to grow!!"