Saturday, February 19, 2011

Starting the seeds, Part 2

It’s past time to get some seeds germinating.  My original plan was to start the seeds on Feb 12, but the remodeling set the schedule back a little.  I use a commercial sterilized seed starting mix that contains some plant food so I don’t have to mix plant food into the water.  I got the mix from Menards last Fall when it was about ½ price.  I’ve found that these mixes need to be prewetted as they will not wick up water when dry.  The surface tension of water is apparently too great to penetrate the small capillary spaces between the particles.  I added about 3 liters of water to the bag, some Mycorhizae mix,  closed it (most of these bags have a ziplock), turned the bag over several times to mix and let it sit overnight.  I filled the pots with the mix and dropped each pot onto the table a few times to settle the mix.

The first set of plants is not much.  There's 2 baby bok choi from Burpees that I recently bought at Menards since I forgot to order some early bok choi when I made the Pinetree order.   Later this spring I’ll switch to Black Summer (F1) bok choi from Johnny’s.  It’s a green-stemmed variety that is more heat tolerant.  I’m also starting two kohlrabi varieties, one is Grand Duke from Pinetree and the other is Early White Vienna from Ferry-Morse.   I like to use larger pots for brassicas than the small cells in multicell packs.  These pots are 3” deep and easily tipped, so I set them inside of some coir pots for stability.    I dropped 4-5 seeds in each pot and covered with ¼ inch of potting mix.  

I also started lettuce in a 4-cell tray:  romaine, loose-leaf (2 cells), and butterhead mixtures from Burpee’s.  These seeds were bought in 2009 but should be good for several years.  I'll thin each lettuce cell to 2 seedlings and set them out as doubles.   I don’t like to buy new seed when viable seed is available from prior years unless I really don’t like the product.   The seeds planted today won't produce anything edible until April but the lettuce and spinach that overwintered in the greenhouse bed will start providing greens in a few weeks. 


The pots were set in the flat system that was discussed in the last post.  Water was added until it just covered the capillary mat (see pic) then the flat was covered with a humidity dome.  The rheostat was adjusted to give a more-or-less constant temperature at the soil probe of 75 degrees.   When the seeds germinate I will remove the dome, turn off the heat mat, and switch on the lights.  Once the seedlings are up the dome becomes a negative.  It prevents air circulation and reflects light.  The lights should be within a couple of inches of the seedlings for best growth.  

That’s it for now.   I finally cleaned out the sunroom enough to get both tables set up, one for seedlings and one as a workstation.  Here’s the pic of the setup.  I set the reflectors below the table for now.  They will be set on either side of the fixture once the seeds germinate and the lights are turned on.  Happy growing.

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