Monthly Archives: March 2014

Seeds Be in Da Hooouuuse! (or How to Plant Seeds Inside)

It’s time to plant your seeds, peeps!

How to grow seeds inside

Okay, here’s how I plant my seeds inside in early Spring for later transplant into my garden.

What I use:

Garden plan – I need to know how many plants I want to grow. See: You Mean I Actually Have to PLAN a Garden?  My first year I went crazy and planted extras thinking I would find room for them. There’s no room. I was begging people to take my plants. Plus it costs money for all that potting soil later. Now I only plant what I need, maybe a couple extra.

Seeds – I make sure I know when to plant them. See: When Do I Plant These Seeds, Yo?

Seed Starter mix – You can use potting soil, but I always use this stuff. I read that it doesn’t have any nutrients in it, so you need to give it some fertilizer later, which I do. And don’t be dumb like me and go buying three bags of seed starter. When you need to transplant to a bigger pot, you’ll need potting soil, not seed starter. I bought three bags of seed starter three years ago and I still have two and half bags.

Peat pots or plastic seed flats – I use both. Peat pots allow you to just transplant the entire pot right into the ground, thereby reducing transplant shock (I’ve never really had a problem with this. I think it depends on the plant). The roots penetrate the walls of the pot and then the pot disintegrates, leaving you with the peat that enriches the soil (I googled that part). I also use the plastic flats because they come with my tray and dome.

Plastic tray with clear dome – This is a handy way to keep all my seedlings together. It makes it easier to water them and the dome keeps the moisture inside.

Seed Markers and permanent ink pen – I record what I planted where unless because it’s hard to identify seedling leaves when they’re still babies.

Items for mixing the soil starter: A spoon from my kitchen (tablespoon size) – don’t tell my husband – large cup or bowl (I use a large plain Greek yogurt cup that’s going on its third year, but feel free to use any kind of mixing container), and water.

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(I didn’t have a picture of all that crap, so I’m using this)

1. I set up my pots/flats in the tray and write the plant names on the markers.

2. I put my seed starter in my Greek yogurt cup. I mix in some water until it’s moist, but not sopping wet. The first time I used seed starter I filled all the little cups on my plastic flat with the seed starter and then poured water in. That didn’t work. The seed starter repels water like I wish my stupid all-natural bug spray repelled mosquitoes. So I had to mix each little cup individually – what a pain. I ended up spraying the tray with a mister, but it took for-evah! Just mix it all up in a bowl…or Greek yogurt cup.

wet seed starter

Here’s my Greek yogurt cup (should Greek even be capitalized here?)

3. I scoop the moist, not sopping, seed starter into the pots. I put one to three seeds in every pot and insert the marker. I make sure that if I use pots or flats that are attached to each other that I either split them up ahead of time or I make sure to plant seeds with similar germinating times next to each other. (Germinating is a fancy word for green part sprouting out the of the seed. It makes me feel like I know what I’m talking about, so I use it.) Pepper plants can take two weeks to sprout, so I make sure they’re not in pots attached to tomatoes which take much less time.

Seed starting in peat pots

These look a little wet, but they turned out okay. This was taken last year.

4. I follow the directions on the seed packet about how deep to plant the seeds. Then I put the dome on.

They kind of look like prisoners.

They kind of look like prisoners.

5. I put the tray on top of my refrigerator for warmth, until they sprout. I check them everyday to make sure they’re moist enough. If they look like they’re dry then I spray them with a spray bottle, so I don’t drown them.

I also check for sprouting. Once the seeds have sprouted (green poking up through the dirt) then I move them to my homemade grow light system. I’ll show you how I made my light system next time. I can’t put all this goodness in one post.

Overall, it’s pretty simple to plant seeds if you have the right materials. It makes a mess, so lay down some newspaper or plant them in an area where you don’t care about messes. Also, this is a great thing to let your kids help with. Just remember the mess part.

When Do I Plant These Seeds, Yo?

when do I plant seeds

I’m still trying to recover from that last post. I still haven’t seen any of my poor worms. Granted, I haven’t really looked, but…it’s like I’m expecting them to be having some kind of loud worm party and be all disturbing and I call in, “Pipe down in there! I’m trying to watch Jimmy Fallon on Youtube.” Worst worm mom. Ever.

But we’re not talking about worms today, we’re talking about seeds.

You bought some seeds. But you still have snow on the ground and probably will for another few weeks. Your growing season is too short to wait to start the seeds outside, what do you do? You start them inside, of course – unless you want to pay the money to buy the already-grown plants in late Spring, but if that’s the case then that’s your problem because I’m too cheap for that.

So when do you plant your seeds? Well it depends on two things:

1. Where you live.

2. What you’re growing.

I live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5, which is like, I may as well live in Alaska. No joke, there are sections of Alaska that are Zone 5. So I basically can’t put anything in the ground until August. Okay, that’s a joke, but seriously, I can’t put tomatoes in until almost June. Same with peppers. And those are two of my favorite things to grow – because they’re the easiest…and they taste pretty good, well at least tomatoes do. Peppers, I have to cook those in order to enjoy them. Otherwise, bleh – they’re like peppery and stuff.

1. Okay, so figure out the zone you live in…hold up. You don’t even need that. Just skip to #2.

2. Figure out the average last frost date (the approximate date of the last day you’ll see frost for the winter/spring season) where you live. Click here: Farmers’ Almanac – this site is great, just enter your zip code. Heck, you don’t even need to read this post anymore, just go over there and they’ll tell you exactly which plant you need to start inside on what date. Although sometimes I don’t totally agree with everything they say because I trust Bill, my nursery guy, and sometimes he says different stuff. And heck if I know what they’re talking about with that whole planting by the moon stuff. All it did was made me start singing Aquarius…like out loud. When the moooooon is in the seventh house…Aquaaariuuuusss…Aquariuuuuussss!

Alright, so you used the almanac to type in your zip code and figure out your last frost date. Our average last frost date is May 1st to 15th (I checked other sources too). That’s late. OMG, I want to live in North Carolina or something. My aunt grew her first tomatoes in a pot in NC last year and I was all jealous because she was getting flowers on her plant and I hadn’t even gotten mine in the ground yet. Whatevs.

If you want to figure out your planting dates on your own without fully depending on that almanac site then once you find your last frost date, look at the back of your seed packet. All plants vary. The back will tell you when to start these seeds inside. Look at where that giant red arrow is in this photo.

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You need to count back (grab a calendar) that number of weeks (for these seeds, 8 to 10 weeks) from your average last frost date (that you got from the Farmers’ Almanac site, mine is May 1 to 15) to figure out when you’re supposed to plant your seeds. Well, holy crap, based on my calculations some of you should have already started! Then this post is a complete waste of your time. Sorry, southern folk. You’re totally screwed if you haven’t already put your seeds in some dirt – just wait a few weeks and go drop a buttload of money on some plants. But if you live in Alaska or you’re still under a four feet of snow like I am then you’re totally cool. So we’ll continue.

For the packet of bell peppers in the picture, in the Chicago area, backing up 8 to 10 weeks puts me at…somewhere between March 6 through the 20th to plant the seeds inside, if I use the May 15 last frost date. If I go with the May 1 last frost date, then I’m looking at February 20 through March 6th. I haven’t done any planting yet, so we’ll stick with March 6th-ish.

Now you just do that for every seed you need to start indoors. Mark the dates on your calendar so you don’t forget when to plant.

I guess I’ll need to show you how to plant the seeds pretty soon then. And I’ll have to show you my sweet homemade lighting set-up. Next time.

Later Taters!