On messing with seed-starting

So.  Every year, in the broad quest to simplify (HAH!) my life, I try to jigger the seed-starting routine.  I abhor planting things under lights indoors; it makes me tense!  It needs to be done, though…but if I could shorten the season, it would stand to reason it would shorten my stress level.  To wit, Exhibit One:

Onion seedlings sprouting in the greenhouse!   These were planted on Feb. 22nd, so…the germination rate I have found is both better and about the same, speed-wise.  These guys are interplanting a garlic bed.  The whole 3’x6′ bed is full of little sprouts from the onion family.

So now I am asking myself:  how important is it I have my first tomato in mid-July?  Because if I can direct-seed them…

Oh: and here’s a friend I found today amongst a weedy carrot bed:All Hail Bufo Americanus

16 responses to “On messing with seed-starting

  1. A toad in the garden is ALWAYS a good sign. Lucky you playing paparazzi to that handsome fella….

  2. simplelifeinfrance

    Hmm I’ve never grown anything early by using lamps. I doubt if I’d have the patience, but I do realize you’d get a longer growing season and more vegetables by doing so. I like the idea of starting things in greenhouses though. I’m glad to know it’s working for you!

    Nice toad, by the way.

  3. I hate hate HATE starting seeds under lights. I always end up neglecting them, and they end up dried out or leggy by the time I get them in the ground. Even my automatic lights-on-a-timer shelf didn’t help.

    That’s why I was absolutely thrilled to find http://www.wintersown.org — now I just save any plastic containers I get through the year, and in the winter I drill holes in them, fill them with dirt water and seeds, plonk them outside in the sun, and wait. If I don’t have enough containers, I sneak them out of my neighbor’s recycle bins on trash day.

    Come spring, I have healthy, hearty seedlings ready to transplant – with no wasted electricity, and no effort on my part other than checking in on them once in a while. My favorite part is that I never have to harden off my tomatoes, they go straight into the ground and thrive.

    I actually failed to winter sow this year, I was just too busy – so I’ll be doing them this week. the only difference is you put them in indirect sun instead of direct sun, and the plants turn out just as hearty.

  4. I’ve heard of folks doing direct seeding of tomatoes even here in Minnesota–think it was a version of the “wintersown” method lib mentions. I always have volunteer tomatoes, though none but the cherry type really produce much. Volunteer squash (lazy man’s direct seeding) did well last year, but not better than if I’d just planted in the ground in late May, I imagine.

    Overall I love to see this sort of spirit of thoughtful experimentation among free-thinking gardeners!


  5. I was digging up (ok, DH was tilling up) my garden beds this past weekend and I was flinging compost on one when I unearthed a big fat black toad! He must have been in the compost and was clearly unhappy at being rousted from his winter spot. Sorry toady. I put him back under a pile of compost to finish out his nap. I guess it’s too early for the toads! But not too early here to dig the beds up.

  6. Magic toad !!!
    In my garden they are still deep asleep. Spring is here, but ground still frozen and snow dotted.
    I usually don’t see them until they return after mating in the local waterhole. Unless I dig in soft soil or compost – which I than avoid.
    Nice onions in the greenhouse.

  7. I’m with you on hating to start things indoors. Year before last, I started my tomato seeds indoors and a gardener friend of mine started hers outdoors in a cold frame, both six weeks before the frost free date. My seeds sprouted a lot faster, but by setting out time (May 15), her plants were bigger and happier! Last year, I gave it a shot, and was sold. No more starting seeds indoors! You get the same time boost by starting them in a cold frame. (Mine’s covered with row cover fabric, so it doesn’t overheat and does get the rain it needs.)

  8. I would love to find a toad. Maybe I’ll try wintersowing as I’m terrible at neglecting my seedlings.

  9. I have got onions, leeks, collards, brussel sprouts, and peppers startedunder a light. The collards and brussel sprouts are about to be bumped up to bigger pots and hardened off. The onions and leeks are not far behind and the peppers will be going into the small green house soon. Next year I think I will ditch the light and try all the seedlings in the cold frame.

  10. I did the whole light table thing for the first time this year, and now I’m frantically trying to get a planter box filled with sole because some desperately need to be transplanted! Some did well, and some are way too leggy.

    I have a used window that I bought for making a cold frame, so I’ll try that next winter.

    And thanks to Lib for the winter sown link- bookmarked that one!

  11. You found a prince in your garden!? How lucky!

  12. I don’t mind starting stuff inside, but it’s true I direct sow a lot more than I did as an enthusiastic new gardener–most things catch up and do better that way, it seems like. I don’t know about tension though–I’ve found myself checking my little hoop for lettuce sprouts 5 times today….

    Love the toad–our yard is full of them and finding the first one is a rite of spring (not yet this year though). They do love my mini hoops, they must think they’ve found a mini Hawaii in the middle of Wisconsin.

  13. Hi Veriance! I admit he spooked me a bit; it was in the greenhouse and other than the cat and the very occasional rodent I don’t see much movement in there normally. But indeed I took it as a positive sign too!

    Hello Mme Slif, yeah, sometimes you’re forced to grow things under the lights because doing it out of doors puts the harvest way too close to frost-time…or onions, let’s say, require they be in the ground to reach peak size right when the sun is on the back end of the calendar. Indeed, lights are necessary-ish. Patience is key though!

    Lib, hi! Thanks for the wintersown link, I know it has helped so many gardeners! If I have my act together I actually try to sow certain things directly into the ground in the fall: radishes, parsnips, even some potatoes. What cracked me up is that you’ve been too busy to even wintersow! (It happens!) Not sure where you are but you still can now I would imagine. And yeah you’re right about hardening-off the tomatoes. Once they get their 2nd pair of leaves they go into the ground in the greenhouses and YES it gets cold at night for them.

    Brett, I have one patch of grape tomatoes (ickickick) that will be on Year 4 of self-seeding. They actually taste about 90% better than their progenitors in the plastic carton that my mother *had* to bring to me. And yeah most of my butternuts are volunteers…heck, MUCH of my summer garden is things I find in the compost. But you’re on to something with the free-thinking idea. I have always said that in my ignorance I have done more and learned more and probably accomplished more, at least in terms of variety, than if I had been “born” to this life. (There’s a post in there somewhere….)

    Jules, indeed, it IS too early for toads. I probably made a mistake by relocating him to the pond in the side yard which is Amphibian Spring Break Heaven right now…figured if s/he was looking for action s/he’d never find it in the greenhouse. Glad to hear you’re starting in on the gardening work already though!

    Hi Mr Skrubtudsen! Yes I see we love our toads, don’t we? We’re *just* out of the snow here, actually; the resident green frogs are singing loudly. I thought it would be a while until I saw one too but obviously life in the greenhouse is a bit ahead on the calendar…

    Anna, I like that, mainly because of the energy thing. I have to watch for slugs and pillbugs in my greenhouses; they’ll take down the hardiest little plant once it warms up enough, sigh. The last couple of years I have had the tomatoes under the lights until the 2nd set of leaves showed up then I threw them into nursery beds in the greenhouses. It worked fine for them but the tomatillos and peppers got eaten so I had to start again! [OH: and I love your DIY stuff. If Tom was 100% on board (he’s more like 50%) then we would be doing a lot more stuff around here. Glad you’ve commented so I can watch your progress!]

    Stefani, you might be on to something, especially since your winter is something like 3 weeks long :O It actually might be a cool homeschooling lesson.

    Andy, those brassica family things really do up and take off, don’t they? I always need to remind myself about their enthusiasm. I have been direct-seeding them too in the greenhouse; seems to work. Peppers though, they’re picky!

    Paula, it’s all a learning curve we’re on. (And good that we are, too, can you imagine what we’d do with all this time if we didn’t?) There’s ALWAYS the leggy-rush thing, again, gives me hives! Oh well.

    Liz, isn’t it? I felt pretty lucky that morning. And he didn’t even pee on me when I moved him!

    Sara, I think they’re hardier too with having to deal with the extremes in day/night temps when they’re outdoors. So they’re shorter, but their stems are a lot stronger…all the better to transfer them. And I know *I* wouldn’t mind climbing under a mini-hoop so I can understand!

  14. Those are very HEALTHY looking onion seedlings, El.

    I know several people who direct seed tomatoes (in Virginian Piedmont). They just have a shorter harvest season, but it’s Ok with them. Yes, it’s certainly less “fuss”

  15. @ Sara – what is this hoop of which you speak?

    @ Brent – I am always happy when I hear of fellow Minnesotans 🙂 People think I’m crazy when I tell them of some of the things I am thinking of trying (because I am very new to gardening, at least any kind of serious gardening)

    El, I am sooooooooo jealous of your greenhouse!!! I love imagining what it would be like to hoof it out to the greenhouse and pick some lettuce, or to enter and have it be all warm when outside it’s all cold! I think it would be a few years off if ever for us here where we’re at, but as I think about it, if we got something we could put up just in winter and then take down in summer, maybe we could do it . . .

    Keep ’em comin’!

    • Well stay tuned, then, Kelli! Tomorrow I order a 10’x12′ hoop house for my mom’s suburban backyard! I will put it together this spring, before the tomatoes go in the ground…

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