I pride myself on the ability to raise an orchid from a seed (you can insert your disgust with me here). With that being said, I've moved in with my boyfriend and his house is not what I'm used to. Meaning, the humidity and lighting are hard for me to adjust to. I've set a small corner of the mudroom as a greenhouse for the moment until the garden is ready to be transplanted.
Seeds or Plants?
This is a tough choice for many. Personally I like growing things from just a tiny seed. Many times I fail but its far more rewarding to harvest the fruits of your labor later on in the season. Many prefer to buy established plants from a nursery or greenhouse and cut out the impatient part. That is a totally fine option, I just prefer seeds.
My setup is quite simple. A little stand near a window to allow them some warmer sun in the morning and avoid the harsh afternoon sun. An LED lightbulb to give them mimicked sunlight throughout the rest of the day.
I started off using simply seed starting trays and realized I had bigger issues. I was overwatering, underwatering and couldn't monitor the humidity at all. Then of course we made the mistake of accidently putting them on top of the chickens cages one day under the heat lamp, consider those plants gone! Burnt them completely up, so back to square one. I finally found the perfect seed starter that takes all of the guess work out of it. They're made by Burpee (Self watering Seed Starter) and cost roughly around $20. They're self watering containers, dirt already included in a compressed packet. Litterally just pour the water in and you're ready to go in about 15 minutes. Put your seeds in and done, wait for them to germinate and voila.
Now here is where my mothers lessons come in. So underneath these dirt trays are water reservoirs. You'll keep these full until you're ready to transplant outdoors. They will do all of the work, it's well worth the investment. It's saved me such a headache of checking them daily, draining, drying.... so frustrating. When I mix up the water to put in, I make sure that I always fertilize... ALWAYS! I want to give the plants the best chance at growing good strong roots before going outside. I use Jacks Bloom Booster fertilizer, it's going to allow the roots to get strong at first so it can give you the best results when you harvest. (I use this on the outside gardens as well) I just a matter of a week I have a ton of growth!
I've already had to cut back the beans, clearly you can tell which have been cut. I don't have fingernails, otherwise I would have just pinched them off myself. When you cut your seedling it helps it focus more on the root system. It knows the stem has been "damaged" so it will send more nutrients to the roots to build stronger, healthier ones in order to send more nutrients to the stem. This is a great tip to use, when you transplant and storms come through, the base of your plant will hold up a lot better because of this.
In order for me to have my plants ready to go out in May (rule of thumb is mothers day) I tend to start mine mid March to beginning of April. This has always been my general guess of things but simply read the back of the seed packet and it will clearly show you when to plant. Since I'm planting inside I typically start a week or two earlier. You can protect them inside and help them along. Don't worry about having to do a few trimmings up to the time you take them outside. Plants are used to getting beat up by the weather, animals and the environment. They're meant to bounce back. Just don't cut them to the soil level. You may lose quite a few when you do that.
Over the past few years I've gotten quite close with a Greenhouse owner and she easily shares tips and tricks with me. One is that every time you water, you will always fertilize. I thought this may burn them or wear them out. But imagine if your kids are growing. You wouldn't just feed them small snacks for every meal, no. You would give them the best you could every time, right? I use your typical MiracleGro hose attachment when I water. Simply fill it, mix it with water and you're good to go. Since I have so much watering to do I normally need to refill a couple of times before I'm done watering.
Now say it's May and you're ready to transplant. These babies aren't acclimated to the weather outside. They've been gently cared for and unbothered the entire growing phase. In order to do this, I'll place them outside on the deck for only a couple hours a day. Most people think that putting them outside is fine. WRONG!!! That sun is way too strong now to put them out full time. Sure you could plant them and see what happens but most of them are going to burn up in no time. Gradually introduce them to it on sunny days and make sure to take them back in at night. Only until you can pull the seedling out of the tray and the dirt and roots stay completely in tact when you do, can you put them outside with no worries. Circle back to fertilizing, if you've kept up with it you'll have no problem with this step.
While you're getting your plants adjusted to the sun, this is the ideal time to prep your soil in the garden. I'm fortunate to have rabbits and chickens so a little manure is perfect (I have plenty if you need some, literally a shit ton). If you aren't so fortunate then grab a slow release fertilizer. They make many varieties specifically for vegetables. Work this into your soil, preferably a week before they go out. This will give it time to sit and soak in, less chance of "hotspots" where it can burn the roots.
Once you're planted, put up some netting, birds love new seedlings and will demolish them in an afternoon. It doesn't have to be fancy, just enough that you can keep them safe for about another month. Now like I mentioned, even though you've added your slow release into the soil and have been adding it to the water trays, I still fertilize every single time. The neighbors will hate you and you'll br proud you did! You'll have huge plants and feel so accomplished!
The Little Happy Farm