Another year, another round of seed-starting

Little Edie has adaptation skillz at the ready.  Any time there’s a pile of something warm-ish in a greenhouse, she’s sure to land and nest.

We are all born tinkerers.  Tinkering’s a prime adaptive skill, of course, honed over millenia to help us fulfill our needs.  In this age of relatively easy money, though, I think that within the ease at which we exchange money for goods, we’re also exchanging something else.  With every dollar goes a bit of inborn knowledge, some nascent adaptation, a skill…simply because it’s easier to pay for it than to do it yourself.  We’re not so quick to tinker!

I am surely not saying you all should get out a circuit board and some solder and make your own computers.  Hah.  No; rather, this is more a signal to myself that not all my troubles have an easy monetary fix.  Indeed.  Sometimes, life requires a little bit of pain.

Case in point:  I abhor indoor seed starting.  Really.  And every year, I seem to be on a quest, a grand period of Deep Think, to solve this problem.   It’s not an insurmountable problem.  In fact, it’s really not even a problem.  It is just, of all that goes into gardening, seed-starting in trays interests me the least.  Maybe because it’s phony?  Maybe me warming 48-plug trays to start the tomatoes and okra in my basement is somehow cheating the process?  Ah.

Who knew I was such a purist, right?  Well, I have no problem at all planting seeds outside in the ground.  And I do start a fair number of spring/summer veg in rows in the greenhouse beds themselves.  But not all plants find these beds–and their wild temperature swings–to their liking.  Knowing how some seeds require a constant warm-ish soil temperature to germinate, is there a way I can get around this?

Nope.  Not if I expect a harvest.

Shrewd:  When moving them to get at what was under them, I threw the agricultural cloth in a pile over the top of the kale.  Edie took that as an invitation to lie UPON said kale.

Not all early veg are so picky, though.  For the last two years I have experimented with growing the seed-start trays in the greenhouses themselves.  Problem was, the voles (field mice, the scourge of the winter greenhouse) found a few of the seed trays and mowed them down of their particularly delectable victuals, so I needed them off the ground or somehow out of harm’s way.  A makeshift table seemed to work, but it cast shadows…and the warming late-winter greenhouse needs no shadows.

Now this year, on Leap Day, I actually splurged bought my way out of my problem by getting a new wire shelf for the old greenhouse’s back wall.  Wire shelves let the light through, I figure, so I can leave it on the wall all year…and darn it, the vermin can’t jump that high.

Probably the lamest tinker ever, new shelf on back wall.  Mylar blanket wraps about trays of herb, flower and cabbage-family seeds on wire shelf.  Those sticks coming out of the ground?  Attempts at fig propagation.

But damn.  The tomato, celery, okra, tomatillo, and pepper family plants are all testing my patience in the basement.

Here’s a bit more context.  Dang, I try not to show you what a slob I am…sorry.  But do you see Edie?

14 responses to “Another year, another round of seed-starting

  1. I share your dislike of the fiddly business of indoor seed starting, El. Just gotta push through it, guided by visions of tangy Green Zebras, sweet Brandywines, eggplant simmering in garlicky olive oil…. Can you guess that out the window here it’s still all white? But a big thaw is on the way. Can’t come too soon.


  2. My tomato seedlings are getting all leggy, begging for their lights to be installed. They sprouted quickly this year, more quickly than I expected and I’m just not in the mood for fluorescents to overtake my kitchen just yet. Better than losing the seedlings to my own futile rebellion, I suppose. But still. Also, the cat. We got a cat last fall. A house cat. And I keep catching him up on the counter giving the little green sprouts the stink eye. Little bastard better not eat them.

  3. Well, we just sowed the seeds right into the ground. The DH planted carrots and some 21 day turnips. Also planted leek starts. Went and bought our first tomato plants (2) and peppers (2). It’s early for the peppers yet, so we’ll keep them covered for a while. Oh, and basil. It’s a start; we still have plenty of garden and plenty of stuff to plant yet. Tomatopalooza is Saturday. Of the list of 15 or so varieties, we’ve got 8 picked out to try. Looks to be a bumper tomato season.

    We’ve still got turnip tops, mustards, kale and chard. Turnip roots, beets and some very small carrots, planted early winter last year. Oh, and DH has about 8 pea pods from the early peas we planted in November. I’ve still got brussel sprouts growing but I think they got too cold over the winter and haven’t flourished. All knowledge to write in the book.

  4. Random question for you today! I have an iPad and for a bit I could view the blog differently now it’s back to normal. Did you change something or was it me!?! I’m not too tech savvy 🙂
    I started some seeds last week and thought of you and your disgust for it, wondered when you would mention it! I don’t care for it either, it seems like such a project to me. I guess its not really, I just hate all the coddling of the seedlings.

    • Niki, it’s nothing I did; that just seems to be the way the Ipad is set up to view blogs! I think it’s kind of cool, picking up a picture…though i think it’s probably a lot harder to comment (yeah the lack of a keyboard doesn’t help either) but, well, sometimes it is neat to see things in a new light, right? And yeah, sorry about the Down On Seeds thing; it’s really just starting them in trays. Once they sprout I love them. 🙂

  5. For years I used to feel ashamed when I wished my mom would just let me seed our trays myself. It wasn’t until I moved out that I found out she hated seeding trays and was just helping me because she felt guilty making me do it alone! I actually love seeding trays… haven’t met anyone else who does, though. Most of my gardening friends feel the same way you do.

  6. I started my Cherokee Purple and Trip L Tree tomato seeds today. Also some wonderfully suggestive hot Peter pepper seeds. All my other tomatoes (Sungold, Green Grape, 4th of July, and Black Cherry) I buy from a local supplier. This leaves me room to start Chinese brocolli, lettuce, and snow peas before I plant them outdoors in 2 weeks. I hope. We had a high of 32 degrees today so, I’m waiting for 3 straight days of 42+ degree weather. This will be my 1st season using a tunnel to extend my growing season. As much as I love harvesting a cooking my produce, this necessary messy start is worst than weeding or building a raised bed from scratch. At least then I have something to show for my labors after a few hours. When seed starting, there can be too many “ifs” before it’s a guaranteed success: bad seeds, drafty room, some fool turning off the heating element trying to save energy, cats grazing, nosy 3 year olds, etc… I’ll breathe easier after 4 weeks. Can’t wait until April!

  7. We had a bit of drama with the seed starting event…….we had carefully organized our garden seeds into an accordian file by when they needed to be planted. Enter un-named child (nameless to protect the clumsy) and about a gallon of water. The water doused the file and all the seed packets were soaked….even the melons! I am not sure how this will turn out but since we spent a fortune on the heirloom seeds, we won’t be buying more. drama, drama, drama…….

  8. We are in Leeton, MO. This is our first year with our own garden and you would not believe the drama we have already been through and still nothing in the ground. We had our soil tested by the extension office and the results indicated that we were very low in phosphate. However, none of the nurseries or box stores around here carry anything to remedy that. The MFA refused to sell us anything less than a dumptruck full (they must have thought we were terrorists or something) and so we ended up driving a few hours to Amish country to finally get what we needed. Whew! Also, the first batch of chicks had to go to another home because we don’t have the chicken coop built yet……..the list goes on, but somehow we are going to get the hives put together before the bees arrive:) Think of Green Acres and you might be able to picture me learning how to do simple things in the country now. (and we are living in the fixer upper trying to fix it up…..)

  9. I started my second batch of tomato seeds last week (the first batch a month ago) so I can try succession planting as suggested by a tomato farmer at the farmers market. Meanwhile, I’ve been hardening off my broccoli, cabbage and leeks and accidently left the month-old babies out overnight on a 20* night last week! Horrors! Needless to say the soil was the equivolent of a tray of frozen dirt cubes with little seedlings sticking out and I thought they may be doomed. Luck was on my side and they are growing just fine after thawing out so I guess they can go in the garden now, maybe I could have direct seeded them in the first place!

  10. I’m glad I’m in good company.
    I have to start sunflowers from seed in order to have plants by late May…sunflower plants are not often available at nurseries. They’re wonderful annuals and my client wants a few.
    I used to love to start seeds indoors but I’ve changed! I see it now as a hit or miss problem; one’s never sure of making it through to the growing season and my basement where the flourescents are is cold!
    I did read up somewhere that it’s only the germination that needs heat; once they have leaves they got to go into a cool area with plenty of light.
    You’re set up looks like it’ll work. AndI love the way you use your greenhouse!
    One thing I notice: isn’t it too early to start warm weather things like tomatoes? We’re still having 40º night here in NY zone 6B.
    Great post.

  11. A Good Old Chinese Wisdom:
    An elderly Chinese woman had two pots, each hung at the ends of the pole which she carried across her neck. One of the pots have crack while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrive only half full. For two years full this went on daily, the woman brings home as one and a half pot of water only. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, but the poor pot was ashamed of its own imperfection.

    After 2 years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, because this side of my crack causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.

    The old woman smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other’s pot side..? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them..” For two years, I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you just being the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.” Each of us has its own unique flaw… But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.

    You’ve just got to take its person for what they are and look for the good in them…

    To all of my cracked pot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the green plants and the beautiful flowers on your side of the path…!!! Lets start……

    Hey! I actually host a weekly gardening link up every Friday on my blog. I’d love for you to drop by and join in.

  12. Brett I certainly can believe it’s still white up there because until late last week it was here as well. I don’t believe we had to shovel though all winter, an amazing feat, because we in the snow belt *normally* get about 70″ a year. Ah well. Are you going to set up at the new place? Or do you think doing it in SP would lead prospective buyers to think “great idea, let’s start a garden”?

    I can beat you, Diana, in that we just recently got two kittens. Egads, kittens. They DID look at my seed trays, and now, the seed trays are outside in the greenhouse. Whether this means I will be getting tomatoes this year or not remains to be seen….

    Look at you, Jules, finding your way to year-round gardening without the hassle that I apparently go through! Maybe if I just moved south, I can do without the greenhouse? But yeah, I think I’ll stay here and keep my rhubarb and butternut squash, hehhehheh!

    Eliza! Welcome! Glad to hear your mom humored you all the while: looks like it took, lucky for you 🙂 There is something very meditative and considered about placing wee seeds in individual holes in the trays. Problem is I always seem to be in such a rush that the relaxing part of it is lost on me…sigh. Great setup you have, I will visit often!

    JoAnna, I agree…its a bit maddening, the seed-expectation part of it all. I hope your little house-hugging tunnel is working out for you…I would definitely use it to harden off the seedlings. And Peter peppers! I grew them 2 years ago…naughty, but funny. Actually I had to look at them 2x before I got it. But hot, indeed.

    Jocelyn, hah, your story brings back memories. Our daughter literally learned to walk by grabbing on to moving boxes, as we moved into our house before the drywaller and electrician were finished with their work wiring (seriously, 4 bedroom house, all upstairs, and 2 outlets! total!) and repairing the holes and the horrible ceilings and walls of our 100 year old farmhouse. We had to move from one room to the other before they were finished. And our girls were laying before OUR coop was built. But: I did bite off one project at a time, kind of…sounds like you guys are taking on a lot! makes for a good story, eh? Anyway, if you need seeds, email me, ok?

    Liz, hah, I have done that too! Actually it’s a true shock when you enter the greenhouse when the lettuces etc. are still frozen in the early a.m., it is SO DISHEARTENING EVERYTHING IS DEAD until you come back with your tear-stained eyes 3 hours later and miraculously, things are fine. But succession-planting your tomatoes, eh? Hmm. Might work with my reliable determinate (bloom, fruit, die) paste tomatoes (Bellstar is the varietal) and I actually miss them once they’re gone.

    Hiya Chris. I would check your last frost date and count back 8 weeks to learn when you should seed your tomatoes and eggplants and peppers. Wimpy plants all. I’m able to cheat a bit (we’re 6B too) because they all live in the greenhouses through the growing season, so I can plant earlier, harvest earlier and get rid of ’em earlier than if I were just planting outside. You’re right, though, it’s germination that requires a warmer soil. And seeds are diurnal, and can take a bit more cooling at night than you’d think…but there is a sweet spot, surely, with temperuature. And in my opinion nothing beats the sun as a light source…so I abhor the indoor setup. This is an interesting year, its being so warm out right now…mad experimientation is beginning. But thanks. That chair is my enjoy-a-glass-of-wine chair after work…when I am picking the nightly salad. Have a good spring start!

    Thanks, Tiffany, for the crackpot advice! Hah. Your homestead is beautiful. I am kind of not that great at blog roundups…I seem to have trouble keeping on top of things! But thanks for the invitation. Makes it fun thinking there’re people around the world as crazy about gardening as I seem to be….

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