Sunday, March 14, 2021

Seed Starting - Step #1

 It's Time!  The earliest plantings in my schedule are seeding the cole crops indoors and direct seeding the first planting of peas.  

Last year I wrote about my seed starting set up and my theories behind the different methods of starting and transplanting and the supplies that go with each.  This morning I seeded my cauliflowers and I thought I would do a more detailed step by step of what I have found to work for me.

This year I treated myself to a Tidy Tray.  Whenever you are playing with dirt indoors, it is hard to contain the mess.  With the Tidy Tray I can keep the seed starting mix contained, and when I am done for the day I can just set it aside without having to vacuum and wipe everything down.  When I am done for the year I can clean up and store everything away

I use the Koram bottom watering seed starting cells for starting the seeds and then sometimes the initial transplant.  This year I plan to transplant into 4 inch pots not the cells, but these are still the best for the first step.  The tray on the left has no drain holes.  I start with the tray about an inch full of water.  This will dampen the seed mix through the cell drain holes from the bottom up.

Some people dampen their seed mix before they fill their containers, but for me that is even messier.  I like to start with the mix dry.  I fill my cells most of the way and then set the seeds on top.  I am intensive planting these and will separate out the individual plants from the clump when they set their first true leaves.  These are Flame Star and Mulberry cauliflower. 

Then I sprinkle more seed mix on top and use a spray bottle to dampen it thoroughly.  Between the spray bottle and the bottom watering, by the end of the day the mix should be fairly uniformly dampened, but I will keep checking to make sure.

I finish off with a sprinkle of cinnamon powder.  Cinnamon is an anti-fungal agent and will stop the fuzzy white mold from growing on top.  This can be a problem with humidity domes.  It doesn't hurt the seedlings but neither does it make the grower feel good about their set up.  I prefer my plantings to be mold-free

Finally I place the humidity dome on top and the cell tray is complete

Next I set up my grow light and accessories.  The fan will not be used until the seedlings are transplanted, but I set it up anyway.  The outlet timer lets you set as many on-off sequences as you want.  I have used these inexpensive timers for years on house lamps and Christmas lights.  I've accumulated a lot of the little green and red triggers so I can set up many more sequences.  I start with three half hour increments and increase from there.

I have a second timer for the light and heat mat.  This power strip has two rows of outlets.  One is on the timer and the other is on constantly as long as the power strip is turned on.  I put the lights on the timed side and my heat mat on the constant side.

I place a vinyl tablecloth under everything to protect the workbench from water stains and the set-up is ready to go.  When the seedlings are separated out they will take up an entire flat of pots.  For the first couple of days I will monitor the moisture until I am sure the mix is soaked through.  The humidity dome will keep the surface damp, but when the seeds send down roots there needs to be enough moisture throughout the cell.  As soon as the first seeds begin to sprout I will turn off the heat mat and remove the dome.

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