So this is the year that I have taken on the endeavor of growing seeds inside. Many an hour have been spent pouring through books, magazines, and the good ol' 'internets' researching methods and materials. To be honest, I had been toying with the idea for a few years now, but was confused by the different products available and leery of the investment requirements. But this winter I studied extra hard, made some executive decions, held on tight to my wallet, and took the plunge.
Because they are local, have many organic options, and are all-around-uber-cool, I chose Johnny's Selcected Seeds to purchase my products http://www.johnnyseeds.com/. However I will also attach Amazon links to the same or similar products so that you can see the information and images of the things I have used or am considering.
One of the coolest investments I made this spring is a seedling heating mat. They come in various sizes and I chose 20"x20" so two trays will fit perfectly. You keep the pad under the trays, and it elevates the temperature of the soil by roughly 10 degrees - ideal germination conditions for most seeds. Cover the tray to seal in moisture and heat until the seedlings are an inch or two high. Then it's time for the seedling rotation! I take the cover off, take the sprouted trays off the mat, keep them close to the window for light, and proceed to plant more, more, more!!!
And now a shout out to the maintenance of domestic tranquility... my husband was not impressed with the moisture leakage from the covered seedling trays, the watering overflows, and the spillage of soil. He tends to be more particular about these things than his hands-in-the-dirt wife. I think I may have improved the situation by laying an old towel on the window sill, then a layer of plywood, then the heating pad, then the seedling trays. Problem (hopefully) solved.
So another cool investment I made and played with is the Soil Block Maker. It comes in three different sizes, and I chose the medium. No pic on amazon and I'm too lazy right now to go take a picture of mine. Maybe later. The Johnny's Link is http://www.johnnyseeds.com/c-455-soil-block-makers.aspx. There is a cool block-maker-demonstration video at Johnny's website that really helped me to understand it better. Check it out: at http://www.johnnyseeds.com/t-video_soilblocking.aspx?source=Videos. Overall I have found the soil block maker to be a pretty cool investment. It's a little more labor intensive initially than simply dumping germination soil into plastic cell flats or biodegradable pots before adding your seeds. One advantage over plastic cell flats is obviously in the amount of non-recylable waste and purchasing new ones every couple of years. The biodegradale pots are cool and quick for filling with your soil, but are one-use products. The blocker is a higher initial investment, but there is no waste, no further investment, and the seedlings don't become root-bound like they can in containers.
For comparison purposes, I have also used some plastic cell flats (promising to be very gentle and to wash them thoroughly with a little bleach before re-using) www.johnnyseeds.com/c-451-cell-flats.aspx and I have transplanted some blocked seedlings into some organic, biodegradable pots www.johnnyseeds.com/c-594-biodegradable-pots.aspx. Some of my seedlings from the "blocks" got a little "leggy" when I left them covered for too long, so I put them into the pots and added more germination mix to give them additional support.
An extremely important item in the seedling production rock-pile is the germination mix. Now don't be going out to your front yard and digging up some dirt, okay? I said... Okay!!?? The best route is an organic germination mix that includes sphagnum (brown) and sedge (black) peat mosses, compost, and perlite. Your seedlings will thank you for it, and if planting veggies you body will thank you for it as well. I'm no horticulturalist, but "organic" materials by Miracle Gro or Scott's kinda give me the creeps.
So besides the seeds (a topic for another day), that covers some of the basics. On my radar for future investmests are the following:
1) A thermostat for my seedling heating pad that will help to regulate the germination temperatures with more finesse.
2) A grow light system. I have a reasonably sized, southish-facing bay window so I am using this alone during my first year of seedling experimentation.
3) Another cool product on the market is a piece of crap. Seriously! Check out these Cow Pots!
They are made of cow manure, can be inserted directly into the ground, organic, biodegradable, and add nutrients to your soil and plants. How cool is that in an icky-weird-why-didn't-I-think-of-that sort of way? What a GREAT gift!
4) My very own greenhouse. I know, I know... I'm shooting for the stars... But check this baby out! Adorable, no?
Soooo.... I shall cover "seed selection" at another time. I have probably bored you to absolute tears and will give you a chance to recover whilst I go clean up my leaky cell flats.
My name is Cherie and I live in Southern Maine with my husband and two young children. I have a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology and still have about 10k in remaining student loans to prove it. I left the field of practice three years ago, so this is not the place to be posting any suicide notes, okay? But if you want to hear about my garden and my gremlins, my pests and my problems, well then you just sit right down and read on!