I started many different types of seeds indoors in February and March, and I wanted to review what has worked well and what has not worked well for me!
In my area we do not experience frost-free nights until mid-May. It can be much earlier, but you just never know. Traditionally the Southern Ontario garden centres go crazy on Victoria Day weekend as everyone starts planting out, and I try my best to stay away from garden centres at that time! Generally we are supposed to start our vegetables and flowers indoors anytime from mid-March onwards, even April. I used the Farmer’s Almanac planting calendar – but then I chose to ignore it, because winter is just too long.
This early starting results in seedlings being ready to move to individual pots early, and to plants being leggy – the little seedlings are stretching to reach the sun, which is not strong enough here yet. Nevermind though – I have started far too many seedlings for my little garden, so I will be satisfied with whatever works.
Here are my results:
The Containers – I used four greenhouse style 36 cell planters with an organic packaged soil. I find that these containers are a little easier to move from place to place in my house than the larger 72 cell style. I had my best result with peppers and nicotiana in these containers – they sprouted quickly with the clear top on, when the earth was misted daily.
I also used every kitchen recyclable under the sun – plastic vegetable cartons, an egg carton, tin cans, plastic margarine containers, even a Hungryman TV dinner tray. The cardboard egg carton absorbed too much of the moisture – so I’d say so far it’s a fail. I inserted toilet paper tubes in some of the planters to separate the seedlings, and I think this is useful – but not necessary if I plant seeds far enough apart and re-pot early – so it’s kind of fun and crafty, but not necessary.
I was most successful in seed starting with the clear plastic covers retaining the moisture. When I added a layer of clear plastic wrap to cover the Hungryman tray, the basil SUDDENLY sprouted. So the greenhouse effect and light misting works.
I planted 3 varieties of hot peppers from 3 different seed companies, and I had a 100% sprout rate. Unfortunately I planted too many seeds to a cell – thinking only a few would germinate. So there are a few cells that sprouted 4-6 seedlings tangled up together. Normally, we should thin these out and just cut away some of the seedlings at the earth – leaving the strongest to grow per cell. In these times of physical distancing and not knowing what the future brings, I just couldn’t do it. I’m a plant hoarder from way back, so this current environment increases this tendency. But what should I plant them in?
This week we had a little bit of above freezing weather (alternating with snowy days), and so I went outside and brought in any old flower pots – old hanging baskets and put them in my basement laundry tub to thaw and drain. I have separated cells of peppers and repotted them successfully in my hanging baskets.
As for the tomatoes, I have also planted 2 types of beefsteak tomatoes and one type of roma tomatoes. Suddenly my family (who previously claimed to despise cherry tomatoes) claim to love cherry tomatoes. I will order some cherry tomato seeds online. The tomatoes sprouted in the covered cells – but I had some fluffy white mold all over these seeds. I’m not sure which variety had the mold, as I had the brilliant idea of mixing all 3 types of seed in a mason jar and sowing them gradually. As soon as the mold appeared I cleaned it up immediately and took off the clear lid. The mold did not return, but the plants got overheated in the sun and a few withered. The seeds stopped germinating! After a few days I put the lid back on and the germination started again.
Now I am re-potting the tomatoes as well in my re-used hanging planters.
I planted some giant pumpkins and cinderella pumpkins from 2 different seed companies. These sprouted in the cells, but reached the lid too fast. It was not too well thought out to plant pumpkins in these cells with only an inch and a half of clearance. I had to take the covers off, and then the seedlings shrivelled up with too much sun. Not to worry though – most of the seedlings despite losing their first two leaves – seem to be still growing – have re-potted a few in some recycled containers. Perhaps they just don’t need to be in cells to start.
My pelargoniums (Annual Geraniums) still haven’t sprouted from seed. My geranium leaves propagated in rooting hormone, also experienced some mold die-back with the tomato seeds. The geranium stem cuttings have rooted! They are small, but growing.
The perennial geranium seeds (cranesbill) are still stratifying in the refrigerator. The 60 and 90 day stratification period is more than I can bear, but getting closer.
Purple Coneflower and Sweet William have sprouted without much effort or intervention.
Nicotiana and Petunias have sprouted in the cells – but I planted them too close together. They have the smallest seeds and so I just sowed them haphazardly. I have separated the little sprouts in a few planters, and they are still growing – but not as agressively as the peppers and tomatoes.
The basil, parsley and oregano have sprouted without any intervention in a planter, the basil as I said before enjoyed a bit of tenting in some cellophane, but the dill is taking it’s time.
The sun is shining though, so I think it’s time for a glass of wine on the front porch.