Thinking Spring!

There is nothing more promising for spring than to see the first sprout of a seedling!
There is nothing more promising for spring than to see the first sprout of a seedling!

This winter has been long, cold and snowy – and we are simply ready for it to come to an end!  And even as the forecast looms for another possible snow event early this week – we at least can now begin to “Think Spring” as we get ready to plant the first of our seeds indoors! So with the first indoor “planting” day arriving this week – it was time to get the seed stand, lights and trays ready to go. See: How To Build An Indoor Seed Starting Stand

Counting Backwards – When To Start What Seeds Indoors…

The seeds of some of our ornamental pepper plants - like these sangria seeds - can take up to 28 days just to germinate.
The seeds of some of our ornamental pepper plants – like these sangria seeds – can take up to 28 days just to germinate.

When to start seeds indoors is always the million dollar question. For many of the typical vegetable plants (i.e. tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc.) – it is standard practice to start your plants 4 to 6 weeks before planting day.  We like to use 6 to 8 weeks however as the standard count back date.  It gives us plenty of time to grow them on the stand – and then begin to harden them off on the warmer days on our back porch.  It also gives us a little larger plants to get started in the garden.

We start almost all of our seeds on our home built seed starting rack
We start almost all of our seeds on our home built seed starting rack

Although we are still a few weeks away from starting our traditional vegetable plants – we start all of our ornamental and many of our hot pepper seeds the first or second week of February – simply because they take so much longer to germinate. The first to go in this week will be our Chinese and Sangria pepper seeds  – they can take up to 28 days just to pop through the soil – so it’s important to get them sown early.  One thing we have found really helpful is to get the seed trays filled up with soil and watered down a couple days before the actual planting day. Preparing and watering the trays a few days in advance helps the soil settle, and makes planting all of the tiny seeds a bit easier.   For more see : How To Easily Start Garden Seeds Indoors and The Basics Of Saving Your Own Seeds

Getting Prepared – Making Our Seed Starting Mix…

We use our compost as a main ingredient in our soil starting mix.
We use our compost as a main ingredient in our soil starting mix.

We used to start our seeds in commercial bags of seed starting mix soil – but in the last few years, have begun to mix our own from five simple and natural ingredients. Not only is it less expensive in the long run – it gives us peace of mind. We don’t have to worry about where the mix came from, what the consistency will be, and more importantly, what fertilizers or chemicals might be in it.

Some of our ornamental peppers in full bloom last year from seeds we saved and grew.
Poinsettia ornamental peppers in full bloom last year from seeds we saved and grew.

We  make ours from 5 parts of our compost – and then 1 part each of garden soil, vermiculite, perlite and peat moss. Vermiculite and perlite are naturally occurring substances found in nature. Vermiculite is a mineral, and perlite is a volcanic glass. Most people recognize perlite – its the little white beads you find in most potted plants and commercial potting soils. They both have amazing properties of absorbing and storing water  – which of course is a huge benefit to young seedlings. You can find both in most garden stores.  When making the mix, we use an old screen to sift the compost and garden soil – it sorts out all of the larger materials and makes the mix easy to work with.

There is something so exciting about starting plants from your own saved seeds
There is something so exciting about starting plants from your own saved seeds

So with our trays ready – and the indoor light stand all ready to go – at least Spring can come to us indoors – even it does snow another 4 to 6 inches this week!

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Happy Gardening – Mary and Jim

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