Seed-Starting

The 2022 Garden Season Begins Now

There are many advantages to starting seeds indoors.

With seedlings, you begin with viable plants and transplant them to get the maximum use out of your Garden space.

As an added bonus, if you start your seeds indoors:

  1. You won’t be outside, digging in the garden when it’s still cold.
  2. You won’t worry about the weather ruining your start.
  3. Six weeks less weeding time… double the harvest.
  4. You save time & don’t waste money.
  5. You can sell the extra plants you don’t need.

The best seeds

These are the online retailers I recommend:

  • Burpee – this is the most common vegetable and herbs producer we see at Lowe’s, Home Depot and the garden centers near me. I wasn’t happy with their bare-root plants, but the seeds have performed just as well as the seeds / seedlings I’ve purchased in stores. Why pay a chain store when you can save money by ordering directly?
  • Baker Creek – for rare and/or unusual seeds, this is the place! I love their ethical approach and the huge catalog of options. You would expect their products to be pricey, but they are affordable too.

Note: As seeds age, they become less likely to germinate. If you are purchasing your seeds at a retail store, check the packaging date to be sure the seeds are good through this calendar year.

An Affordable Seed Starting System

  • Shelves – This is the best deal on metal shelves that I could find right now. (Yes, even considering the shipping cost.) The shelves are super sturdy, easy to assemble. Plus, if gardening doesn’t work out, you can use them for many other things!

The shelf width and caster wheels make a big difference in versatility and use-ability: Shelves that are narrower than these are cheaper, but they aren’t going to accommodate as many uses. As for the wheels, our “grow” shelves are in our living room right now.  With the wheels, it’s a snap to wheel them to another room if we have guests or need the space. It’s also a lot easier to bring the shelves to the water than to carry each of the 10 totes individually to the sink.

  • Shop Lights – You don’t need expensive grow lights to get your seeds going.  In fact, even LED lights work! It’s a bit more expensive on the front end than other shop lights, but it’s safer, uses less electricity, and is guaranteed to last for several years without needing replacement.

               

Still, finding the right shop lights is not as easy as it seems. If the lumens are too low, your seeds will not germinate. If the lights are the wrong length, they won’t cover all of your seeds or will be too long to hang on your shelves. You also need to be sure the lights are adjustable, as with a wire chain, so you can change the distance from the plants as they begin to grow.

If you go with the Sunco lights I am using (see the 4-pack above), you would need 10 lights for each shelving unit (that’s two per shelf). And since you will be hanging the lights from the shelf above the seedlings,  you’ll also need S-shaped hooks to attach onto the wire chain. One pack of the linked S-hooks is exactly enough for two wire shelving units.

  • Storage Totes – you need something to put your seedlings in. At first, I used cookie sheets, but they rusted and spilled water onto the hardwood floor when I tried to move them. Plastic storage totes are a convenient, inexpensive alternative.

What a relief this has been! Well worth the money. Watering is no muss, no fuss; they will be convenient to carry in and out for hardening; and, come transplant time, I’m less likely to tip them over than I did with the cookie sheets. That was truly a disaster because I hadn’t labeled the trays and didn’t know what what I was planting next to what.

You can fit two of these containers per shelf, so you would need 10 per shelf unit.

  • Potting Soil – 2 cubic feet of potting soil was enough to completely fill all the DIY seed pots I made for two shelving units.I have had success with Miracle-Gro and decided to stick with it again this year.

  • Pots – I used recycled newspapers to make my own, but you could purchase bio-degradable or recycled containers. Don’t buy peat (trust me) and please know that the plastic cell trays are a pain in the behind at transplanting time (IMHO). Yes, even the pop-out ones. I will continue to think about a pot that’s less time consuming to make, but for now, recycled newspaper is the best recommendation I have – having made 600 this year, that’s saying something!

Optional:

  • Fans – attach these to the shelving unit to mimic the outdoor environment. I got one per shelf, or 5 per shelving unit. Last year I tried to grow spinach indoors. Supposedly ANYONE can grow spinach.  Well, mine was a fail! They were under lights and sprouted just fine, but eventually all the plants died. Their stems were too weak to support leaves. This year, I’m on a mission to grow stronger seedlings.

 

My Completed Seed-Starting System

We are waiting for our fans to arrive and I am still in the process of planting seeds, but here is what it will look like when you’re set up:

These are the same materials linked above. You can see that I don’t have the lights turned on for the top row, since there are no seeds on the shelf.

The next three shelves are seeds I started early to use for permaculture (to deter pests, attract beneficial insects, act as natural mulch, and/or to provide nutrients). Notice how close the light is to the plastic container. Another bonus of using LED is that the lights can rest directly on the plastic without damaging it.

The bottom row is an indoor lettuce mix that I intend to keep re-seeding year-round. It is in a brown planter so that, when seed-starting season is over and the metal shelves get put away, we will have an attractive container in our living room/dining room.

A peak inside the storage containers:

                               

Seeds @ 3 weeks (started 1/31/22)                        Seeds @ 1 week (started 2/17/22)

 

I’m pretty excited with our progress. I hope this system blesses you too.

Cheers to a successful 2022 gardening season!

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