I love this time of year-the promise of new life and springtime are so apparent when it is time to start seeds! Now, in Iowa, really the only thing I am putting in right now are realllllly long season items, like onions. But, a friend of mine, Diana, put up her post on seed starting. A good starter post; here is what I have learned over the years of starting all my plants for personal and in previous CSA use, plus some more recent research as I try to grow some items I usually just bought in the past. I will most likely post some pictures once I get started sowing (in a couple days) and go over some more tips as I am in the midst.
Some basic thoughts, though:
I have been doing some research lately on seed starting. I have used the jiffy setup for years, but recently found in my search for guajillo seeds that Miracle Gro's organic or orchid potting soils work better than classic seed starting mixes. They retain moisture and have necessary nutrients that many potting mixes lack. Also, peat pots may be plant-able in the garden, but they also wick moisture away from your seedlings, drying them out faster. What I have started using is yogurt cups, after I have started the seeds in flats. I very carefully transplant the seedlings once they have a couple true leaves to the cups and do not water so heavily that they get too wet. Those cups give more than enough space for root development and that extra transplanting step gives me a chance to fix some legginess if it arises in the seedling.
The yogurt cups are reusable, too, and a recycled item, so it cuts my cost. Just wash them well between uses. They work similarly to the little gem planters used by pros. Just carefully dump the plant out when you are ready to plant it, begin careful to not disturb the roots too much.
I have found the best advice in starting seeds is patience. Everybody-even within the same families- have different germination rates. I cannot tell you how many times I have said I was going to throw an attempt out only to have it sprout the next day (maybe it sensed the threat?). Don't be discouraged. Make sure you keep everybody warm enough. I know some people use heating mats. I use a space heater in the general area and a thermomter. I never let the area get below the seventies, and prefer the eighties. I can get anything started-my issue here lately is keep animals and wind away from the starts once they get put outside to harden off :)
Oh greenhouse, where are you!