Here it is, seed starting time again! Love this time of year. Trying to plan out what I want to plant, what to try, what not to plant, where everything goes… We always overgrow everything here anyway, usually give away a bunch. But its time to start with basic timing facts.
If you are starting indoors this year, then you should have some basics down:
On the packet of seeds, there is a germination or emergence time, and a harvest time in days. In the description of the plant, most will tell how far in advance to start, like Tomatoes, Egg Plant, Onions, and Peppers take the longest. Our last average killing frost is around April 15th. Notice I said, Average.. Me? I’m in the ground on the 15th, no matter what. I’m not afraid to cover a couple of times for frost, I eat first in my neighborhood. So back to the packet info. There’s also a Planting Chart for zone info. We are Zone 7a here in Richmond, Sunset Zone 32. Parts of Oregon are 7a, but different Sunset Zone. That’s just a mathematical equation for length of day, angle, intensity which sometimes comes into play for planting times and longevity of the season. That’s why I also do “succession” planting on the really fast harvesting veggies like Radishes, Green Beans, etc. Some I am picking thru Thanksgiving. That’s why I bought a freezer last year.
So starting indoors will be in about a week for me of Tomatoes and Peppers, maybe a few Eggplants. I have my racks set up already which is very simple. I have a 2 gang flourescent fixture and a 4 gang on 2 racks. I don’t use grow lights. All you need is different bulbs in them, like a soft white and a cool light, or any combination, just as long as they are different. Why? Because any two different tubes will give the same spectrum of light as a Grow Light, but way cheaper. My racks are on wheels so I can roll them out later in March on warmish days to harden them off before transplanting, which I have several ways of doing.
Here is the scenario:
Have your light fixture in place over your seed starting tray at about 2″ from the top. If you are us
ing the store bought starter trays, make sure to keep a slight gap in the lid or you may get a fuzzy black fungus growing in there. Use only a seed starting mix. Not potting mix. You don’t want any fertilizer to start, makes them lanky. As the seeds germinate, there will be only 2 leaves for a bit, they are not “true” leaves. They are looking for intense light to convert sugars to the roots. After the 3rd or 4th leaf appears, now the plant is looking for food. Some folks topdress with a potting mix at this time, or use a water-soluble fertilizer with an N-P-K of like 18-18-21 or so. Others just sprinkle a bit of 10-10-10. For the Organic approach, Fish Emulsion works great. You still want the light at about 2″ from the top of the plant. If it’s too far, the plants get tall and lanky, then collapse. Dont forget to keep the soil moist, it does dry out quickly under light.
Simple huh? So while the seedlings are getting ready for transplanting in about 8 weeks, you should be prepping the bed. I usually compost layer my garden through the Fall, toss a bit of lime on it, and maybe a thin layer of manure and let it “cook” over the Winter. In early March, I will till all the goodies in, rake it out smooth, 10-10-10, water, and cover with clear plastic until early April… See my “Solarization Made Simple” entry. You’ll see why. But we’ll get to that later.