While I didn’t actually save any seeds this year, I am trying to start my garden plants from seed again. While my results were mixed last year (especially since the seedlings did poorly once I planted them), I’m taking the best from last year and learning from the worst.
First, I’m actually starting them at the right time (mostly). Although I owned the Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardeners’ Handbook last year, I completely ignored it. Seriously. It was amazing how much I managed to totally forget it existed despite the fact that it seemed quite useful. Figuring that following its advice might be a good idea, I actually consulted it two weeks ago and found out that I was already a little behind the calendar so I got started right away. However, it’s still three weeks earlier than last year!
Second, I’m keeping it simple. Last year, when I used the “Simple, Drop-Dead Easy” seed starting kit, it stayed far too moist and developed mold. Serves me right for buying something from the store that I could do myself. This year, I stuck to my cheap plastic troughs in the shed that worked fine last year. To prepare them, I repeated my process from last year as well – soap and water followed by a 10-1 bleach ratio. I then filled them with specialty seed starting mix, which is both far more sterile and able to hold water than traditional potting soil. We planted the seeds, watered them until they were suitably moist, and then covered them with old-fashioned plastic wrap, securing them with packing tape. Excepting a new bag of seed starting mix, it was all completely free.
Third, I’m being more strategic about what I’m starting. I tried to start sunflowers and butternut squash from seed last year, both of which do very poorly in containers. Instead, I’m focusing on the plants that must be started from seed, like peppers and tomatoes. In addition, I worked to separate out plants that germinate at different times and places. This week, I planted shallots, eggplant, and two types of peppers, which all require fairly high temperatures and low light to germinate. They also grow fairly slowly. (In doing so, we learned that shallot seeds look like little gems! How appropriate for such delicious vegetables.)
In contrast, we decided not to start the seeds for broccoli because they require cool temperatures and intense light to germinate. They pretty much require setting up grow lights in the basement, which I haven’t been willing to invest in. Similarly, we’re waiting to plant the tomatoes, as they grow quickly and get planted much later than eggplant and peppers.
So now our seed containers are sitting on top of our heating vent in our spare room, sucking up our heat and not doing anything particularly visible. I hope that with a little more strategy, even though we lack any specialty equipment, our little seedlings will be stronger and more successful than last year.