Since January is coming to an end and spring is moving closer you might want to start with sowing seeds indoors. Not only for your vegetables but also for flowers.
Growing your own vegetables and flowers not only saves you money but also provides instant access to very nutritious organic produce. You will know exactly what went into growing the plants and you can chose varieties that can't be easily obtained in the supermarket.
When sowing indoors you need to pay attention to three things. The seeds, the container and the soil. Sounds simple enough and it is once you get your head around it.
Before you chose a container check the size of the seeds. You might need different sizes of pots.
- Large seeds can be sown individually into 9cm (3.5in) diameter pots.
- Medium seeds can be sown into individual small pots or jiffy peats in a tray. Jiffy peats are tiny compressed compost pads that expand when you water them. They are very easy to use and probably the best choice for beginners. You can read more about them here.
- Small seeds are generally sown into shallow seed trays and transplanted into larger pots while still at the seedling stage. Or you can use the method mentioned above and sow 4-5 seeds into each small pot or jiffy bag.
- If you are using old containers that have been used before, make sure to wash them. Using old pots without washing them can cause your seedlings to get diseases or die.
You can either buy fancy containers called propagators at the local gardening store or you can use a large roasting tray filled with toilet paper rolls and cover it with clingfilm if you are just starting out and not sure if you want to really do this. Yes, I used the words toilet paper roll, clingfilm and roasting tray in the same sentence. I will write a separate post about this the following days.
Generally speaking it is the same procedure no matter which container you use.
Compost or soil. Depending on what you are planting you might want to opt for pure compost or mix it with sand or gravel. Read the package of your seeds and follow the instructions.
A general instruction would be to use standard seed compost for seed sowing. Fill the containers with compost, even out the surface with your flat hand or fingers and press it down firmly and water well before sowing the seeds.
When sowing it is always wise to label the pots otherwise you will have a hard time figuring out what you put where. It will also make transplanting the seedlings into other pots or the vegetable patch a lot easier. Also keep in mind that some seeds might have different needs when it comes to light and soil. Check the packages.
- Larger seeds can be directly sown by pressing each seed individually into the surface of the compost. Use small individual pots or plant them a couple of centimeters / 1 inch apart in a seed tray. I usually plant two large seeds next to each other and then use the strongest seedling. If they are equally large I use both or give them away.
- Small seeds can be sown thinly over the surface of the compost and should best be covered with a very thin layer of compost when sown in a tray and pressed down slightly.
- Attach your labels and water lightly. At this point I like to use a water spray bottle to make sure I am not moving the seeds around when watering.
- When using a propagator cover it with a lid. When using a regular tray cover with a clear plastic bag, clingfilm or sheet of glass. Place the tray in a dark, warm room until the seeds start sprouting at around 18-20ºC (65-70°F), unless seed packet states otherwise. Usually it will take 1 - 3 days for flowers and the average vegetables or herbs. Larger, harder seeds can take a lot longer to propagate, keep the soil moist but not soggy, and the temperature steady, and your seeds will eventually emerge.
You might be tempted to constantly check on your upcoming seedlings and lift the cover, but don't. They need a steadily maintained temperature which is provided by the cover, no matter if you chose glass or plastic. Once they started growing you should however remove the lid and place them in a very bright spot with steady temperature. Best would be a windowsill. Keep the compost moist at all times but don't over water. Again I prefer to use water spray bottles. You can also use a watering can with a very thin spout and water very carefully.
Once your seedlings are large enough you might want to plant them into larger pots and separate those grown from larger seeds that you planted in pairs. At this stage you will see the brilliance behind jiffy peats because this is a step at which you can easily ruin your seedlings.
- Prepare the pots you want to transplant your seedlings into by adding soil to them and making holes for the plants.
- If you planted your seeds into a tray, carefully loosen the compost around your seedlings with a blunt object like the end of a teaspoon or a toothpick and lift them one by one into their new pots. Do so by very delicately lifting the tiny plant between your index finger and thumb.
- Place each seedling into a 9cm (3.5in) diameter pot. If the seedlings are very long and started to lean, bury them slightly deeper in their new pot to ensure healthy growth by supporting them with the soil.
- If you used jiffy peats you can guess the procedure. Simply lift the peat into the the new pot. No struggling with loosening the roots is necessary. It is nearly fool proof and no stress for the plant either.
Once you made it to this stage all you need to do is maintain a healthy moisture level and watch your seedlings grow until they are big enough to be planted into their final homes.
Ideally we would all be blessed with our own house, surrounded by acres of land. In reality that is the case for only a few of us. Luckily vegetable patches don't need to be big to provide you with fresh produce. In fact you can even make due with small balconies. But that is a topic I will revisit in my next post.
This year I am focusing on leaf kales and swiss chard for juicing.
Now get sowing and tell me what you managed to sprout and grow!