Monday, April 1, 2013
Sprouting Seeds - The Adventure Begins!
I love starting annual flowers and vegetables from seeds, but until about a week ago, I had always direct seeded my plants in the garden rather than trying to start them indoors.
For some reason, I thought starting seeds indoors sounded too hard - I'd need a propagation bench and special lights and seed starting soil etc. etc.
Well, I was at Home Depot recently to pick up some mulch and saw a little seed starting kit from Burpee on sale for around $10 or $12. It included a reusable seed tray, expandable coconut coir pellets as a growing medium (they expand when you pour warm water on them) and a transparent lid to create a greenhouse effect. There's a mat that uses capillary action to soak up water from a reservoir to give the seeds water from the bottom, so you don't even need to worry about misting the plants.
I figured, what the heck? Why not give it a try.
My wife and I sowed the seeds together on March 26th - Zinnias, Bunny Tails (a.k.a. Lagurus ovatus), Burgundy Amaranth, Strawflowers, Cucumber-Leaf Sunflowers and Clemson Spineless Okra. (Well, actually the okra was planted on March 27th because I forgot that it's best to soak okra seeds in water for 24 hours to aid germination.)
Instead of using fancy grow lights, I decided to just rely on natural sunlight and place the seed tray on a luggage bench at the southwest corner of the house nestled between two windows.
Then I went away for the weekend to visit family, came back today and - voila! - plenty of sprouts are up and growing!!
Honestly, I'm not quite sure what to do next.
I seeded 2-4 seeds per cell thinking I might not get 100% germination and that I could thin them later on. I'm figuring I should wait until the seedlings start getting a bit stronger and sturdier and then try to thin to the strongest one in each cell?
And when should I transplant these outdoors? From what I understand, it's typical to start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before planting outside, but I worry that these plants would be completely root-bound in that length of time. Maybe better to transplant in just a couple of weeks, provided that temperatures outdoors are warm enough? We've had a cool March, but the long-range forecast seems to show warmer weather ahead.
Our average last frost date is ~April 15th. Maybe I should set them outside sometime after that, presuming the look strong enough?
And should I remove the translucent plastic cover at some point? I don't want the seedlings to have their growth stunted by bumping into the lid, which some already seem on the verge of doing.
Advice and suggestions from experienced indoor seed-starters would be greatly appreciated!!