Maybe you have a green house maybe you don’t. If you’re like most of us you probably don’t have a formal spot for starting seeds when there’s still snow on the ground. Each year my home turns into a green house. Picture frames are moved from shelves and replaced with seed trays. Tables are set up anywhere I can find a space and for a couple months my home is covered with plants. When you’re starting a garden remember to plan where you want it, how big it will be and how many plants can it hold. Most seed starting cell trays hold about 72 cells ready to sprout seeds…this kit usually sells for maybe $5-$6 and is common in most stores. So if you’re new to gardening one tray this size should be plenty. And this tray will only take up one shelf or can be put on your kitchen table. For me, I currently have 11 of those large trays and more will be coming over the next few weeks. So when you have multiple trays it can get tricky where to put them. If your growing tomatoes or peppers they will only sprout if the room is warm. So my warmest room tends to be the play room. So I bought the plastic painters tarp and laid it across my daughters train table and that holds 4 trays. Then I have 2 trays on a bench and 5 trays on a card table. With good natural light (or grow lamps) this will be a good way to keep your seedlings until you can plant.
To help encouraged seeds to sprout I lay clear trash bags over the top. It traps humidity which warms the soil. But onces those leaves pop up take the bags off so the soil doesn’t mold and your sprouts don’t wilt!
You might be thinking “wow, plastic tarps, plastic trash bags…seems like a lot of waste”. Hold on, let me explain. These will serve many purposes over the growing season….so you can buy a 3 pack of the tarps for like $2-$3. When starting seeds you can use it to line a table so if water drips it won’t damage anything (in my case water would damage the scene on the train table top). Once your seedlings start to spend time outside (hardening off…we will talk about this soon) you will want something to drape over them to hold in some warmth if it’s a chilly day. These plastic tarps will also work as row covers for those of you with a bit larger gardens…this will protect against a late frost as well as keep baby bunnies from eating your young plants. Once the season is warmed up enough you can fold up your plastic tarps and save for next year. If there’s a hole in it patch with packaging tape and you can get years put of these tarps!
You may see there’s grow lights and heat mats galore on the market these days. The question is do you really need them? The short answer is yes, to be honest. Seeds grow best in naturally well lit rooms (grow lights are different then florescent lights) as well as in a warm spot. So by using grow lights and a heat mat your seedlings will be far more vigorous and healthy when you go to plant them outside. But those items aren’t cheap….a good grow light usually starts at about $150 and a small heat mat large enough for a cell tray starts at around $15. Personally I don’t have the budget to buy these things right now. I do own one grow light which I set up in my basement to keep outdoor plants alive during the winter but that’s all I have. I still have a nice garden every year and it’s still productive. So if you are starting seeds and your home tends to be a bit chilly then a heat mat and light will be a huge benefit to you! My home has pretty good natural light and it holds heat well so as much as I would like the heat mats and lights I can get away without them as long as I rotate which seed tray is closest to the windows.
If you’re really hoping to feed your family from the garden this season don’t stress too much. Start small. If you try to do it all your very first year you will be bombarded with how to learn everything. Try to sprout some of your own seeds but also plant to take a trip to the local nursery and buy a few plants as well. This way you can test your seed starting skills but not solely rely on it while your learning.
Another question I hear a lot is “I want to grow veggies but I don’t have space for both the veggie garden as well as a flower bed….and I prefer the look of a flower bed so what can I do?”. This will be answered in my blog next week (I am hoping to do weekly blogs each Monday from now on ). So to combine both the flower bed and the veggie garden I will be writing about the benefits of companion planting…that’s right! There’s a lot of beautiful flowers that will not only beautify your veggie garden but it will also benefit your veggies! Keep checking for new blog posts next week!