Tis the season for vegetable growing with seedling starting and I love it! Now is when I gather all of the supplies I need to begin this yearly adventure. I have a few staple items that have made my life of gardening easier and they are listed below:
- Fibre pods: These pods are tiny little discs that expand in water. I simply buy as many as I need, follow the instructions and viola, my soil is ready for seeds.
- Warming Mat: I use this tool to heat up my seeds and aide in germination. I put the mat under the seedling tray, cover the tray with a lid, and that is it.
- Natural sunlight: I a blessed with huge windows in my kitchen. My table becomes a greenhouse for a few weeks while I set the seed trays in the sunshine. I am south facing so that is a real benefit. If you are not, I strongly advise you invest in grow lights. They really do help.
- Soil: A healthy plant thrives in well balanced soil. When my plants are ready to graduate to larger seedling pots, a 50/50 combination of Jim Hole’s potting soil (Hole’s Greenhouse at the The Enjoy Centre), sea soil compost (The Enjoy Centre), crushed egg shells, and a hint of bone meal is the recipe I use.
- Cow Pots: These are a gardeners secret weapon. Made from cow manure, root systems grow right into them. Once ready for planting, the entire pot goes in the ground and organically becomes part of the soil bed.
- Fertilizer: Any brand of seedling starter works well. Just be sure to use it.
(Now before I go any further, all of the products mentioned above I buy because I love them. This post is not sponsored, and I have not been paid to say the above items work. Instead, they are my personal choices and I am simply sharing my favourites with you.)
So how does one get started with a seedling?
This journey alway begins with the seed choices I make. I enjoy companion planting. This simply means placing plants that enhance each other’s growing capacity together. Some plants when placed together, stunt growth and reduce yields. I have spent a lot of time researching the plant combinations that grow well together and I choose my seeds based on that.
To keep things relatively simply for the sake of this post, I am focusing on planting Tomato seeds. I do quite a few seedlings in the spring and Adopt them out via my “Adopt A Tomato” event. It’s my way of giving back to my community. Because of this, I take the time to choose the variety of tomato seeds I wish to try.
Once I have selected my vegetables, it is time to get them started. It begins with fibre pods. These little pods are simply soaked in water until they expand to be a nice little “cushion” of seedling soil. Just drop your seed variety into the centre, place a lid over your seed tray to keep the moisture and heat in, and voila. Now you monitor growth and keep the seedlings moist.
The trick is to not let the seed pods become too wet. Water sparingly yet check often. Lift them up and feel the bottom. When they are barely moist (almost dry in fact), add water. Don’t be too hard on yourself if some of your plants die off. Not every seed is viable and strong. Majority are, but you will lose a few. If you are loosing lots, they are either thirsty or drowning. Again, monitor carefully.
Once your seedlings have grown and they have developed 4 “true leaves”, they are ready to move into larger pots. The image below here shows you the proper size.
To transplant these seedlings, I love to use the organic Cow Pots I mentioned above. These pots form the perfect home for root development and once you place them in your garden bed, they organically dissolve adding nutrients to the soil. Made from cow manure, you can’t go wrong with these.
For the soil combination, I use the same soil found in my garden beds. A 50/50 split of garden soil and compost. In my case, I use Jim Hole’s potting soil and sea soil from The Enjoy Centre in St. Albert. I add some egg shells and bone meal to my soil for added nutrients. Sprinkle a bit of soil at the bottom of your pot, add your seedling pod, fill with soil until it reaches just below the first set of leaves. Water.
Now you fertilize as required and you water as needed, waiting patiently until the weather warms up enough for you take your seedlings outdoors.
Always remember to work from the “ground up” when gardening.