Thursday, March 12, 2009

Inside, outside (in that order :)

Well, first things first--we finally found our camera, which we figured was lost because little hands can hide things very well. Wasn't the first time we've been wrong, and probably won't be the last...turns out, judging by the location in which it was found, it is highly more probable that we attempted to hide the camera from the children, and ended up hiding it from ourselves...ah, well. Anyway, it's back, hence the picture above.

One of our children brought the plant pictured above home from school a while ago, and I have managed to keep it alive, which is cause for much celebration, at least for me. The stick stuck in the soil along with it indicated that it is a pea plant, and hopefully it will make it to the garden sometime in the not so distant and warmer future.

Having not had that great of a success last year with the yield in our garden, perhaps due to cold weather later than expected (i.e. snow in June, resulting in late planting) I am thinking seriously of taking Anonymous' advice in a recent comment to start my seeds inside. I'm looking into it more, and considering timing, etc., but it would be great to be able to give the plants a head start on survival in the great outdoors.

Hence my poll question this week--have you had success with starting seeds inside? What kind of plants have you found do well/better if started this way? I know that you can buy some varieties of plants already started, but it seems to me that knowing how to best start your garden plants yourself would be a valuable skill to have...


Carla said...

Hi, Marie - Happy Friday!
I checked Yes in the poll because I've HAVE had some successes - but I think I've had more failures than successes! I haven't started anything yet this year because there's still several feet of snow on the garden, but I'm saving my egg shells to try starting in those (another experiment).

And I have most of my seeds ready - leftovers from last year plus a few purchased already this year. I've even drawn up a garden plan and put it on paper - a first for me - usually I keep it in my head because it changes as I plant.

I seem to have better luck with starting the larger seeds indoors: winter squash, pumpkin, cucumbers, etc. Mu tomatoes & peppers always end up pretty spindly...

Stephanie in AR said...

Yes I have started many different kinds of seed indoors with varying amounts of success. The disappointments were due mostly to inexperience or not being diligent, some were due to poor seed quality. Look up each seed that you are considering - some transplant poorly (dill and root vegetables) while others must not be started too soon or will be stunted - squashes & melons. If it will be awile then these do better if started in large pots right from the beginning. Repotting slows growth and in melons and squash that slow-down can undo any time advantage of indoor starting.

After that check to see if the seeds need to go through some time in the freezer (forget the correct term). This is more for flowers & herbs than regular vegetables. Check too for seeds that need to be left uncovered to germinate. Again, mainly for herbs & flowers. There are some seeds that are considered hard to start and it is because most never mention this detail.

After that - well it depends on how basic you want to be. I love my light as it keeps plants from becoming straggly. You could look up diy to make plant stands. Mine is a regular shop light hanging from small plant chains on hooks screwed into a shelf. The cost was less than $15 dollars for one light but if you are serious two is better. The chain lets me raise the light to keep the proper distance. Every year it is recommended to change the bulbs, but that can get $$.

After that it will depend on if you are more concerned with getting as much food into the ground as possible or learning to do without electricity. You can start the same amounts but its the equipement. I really, really love my heating mat. We bought it on clearance some years back for $7 and it has been wonderful. Our seed starting area was in the back unheated porch and that seed mat made a world of difference in carrying flats & germination. Most seeds need a fair amount of warmth to sprout but after they get going the seedlings can take some chill. The mat made it possible to start everything on the back porch instead of on top of the fridge. Moving flats gets old when there are very many little helpers. If I had known that the prices would increase so much (and the box store wouldn't carry them again) we would have bought more than the one.

My other favorite item is the self-watering trays. That doesn't need electricty and would be a good investment. Those tiny starting cubicles can dry out so very fast and that will kill or stunt a plant. Sometimes they seem to recover fine but it is in the harvest that the damage is seen. It is as if the plant knows drought is around so it puts out whatever it can then just vegetates. The system can be found in most home stores but again, can be $$. Mine lets me keep more irons in the fire without dropping so many. BUT people have started seeds for years without them - maybe there is a diy version on the web somewhere.

Use warm water when watering. Every single time babies don't like cold. Cold soil takes a long time to warm back up.

Peppers are very fussy about coolness - as seeds & as plants. Sometimes fussier than eggplants. If you purchase/grow baby plants wait at least a week past setting out tomatoes to set them out. Start their seeds earlier and unlike tomatoes they do like to be buried deeper with each transplant - only a little bit.

Sometimes starting indoors isn't necessary if you just presprout the seeds. Peas & okra come to mind but in your case okra might be better in a pot. Even here in the south many give the seeds a quick soak to get them started.

It isn't as complicated as this sounds - babies like warmth & sunshine. Get that and most of the battle is done.

I can't tell if I typed the verification right so if this is a second post - sorry

Marie said...

Carla--Your weather sounds like ours--snow on the ground here as well, but some of it is gone. Just have to wait and see...
Thanks for your input--it really will be a new thing for me to do seed starting indoors. I figure that even if I fail, at least I will have tried, and hopefully the yield on our plants will be higher this year than last. We haven't had much trouble with the pumpkins, but I don't think we've tried cucumbers, so that may be a good place to start. Thanks for your comment, and for sharing your planting experience!

Stephanie--Thank you so much for your detailed comment--I've learned a lot! I would have to go figure out some of the setups, and I didn't even know there were warming mats, so I have a lot more to learn than I thought originally. Thanks for the pointers on repotting, freezing seeds, basically all of it--I'll be referring back to it when I actually get started. It's tempting to just use it as a post because it's so informative. :) One thing I did right so far with the pea plant, I guess, is that most of the time I used warmer water to water it, so I'll keep your tips about warmth and sunshine in mind. Thanks again for taking the time to share your knowledge--it is much appreciated!

Stephanie in AR said...

You are welcome but I see a mistake, the sentence with the peppers should read do *not* like to be buried deeper.

I just purchased a book called "Gardening when it counts, Growing food in hard times" by Steve Solomon. He was the original founder of Territorial Seeds. It is very good & worth the money. He does an excellent discussion of intensive planting & why it isn't as great as he once believed, which food plants to focus on first and a lot of other good information. You can read blurbs from it at The Deliberate Agrarian

Its nice to know that my years of garden failure were not truely wasted.

Marie said...

Stephanie--Thanks for the info on the book--I'll have to look for it, because I really want to do the best I can with the garden. I would be surprised, having read in your blog about how hard you work to do everything well, if you have had too much garden failure... :) Thanks again for sharing info!

Anonymous said...

Don't know where you live but contact your local Extension Service - it's part of the State College/University and typically has an office in each county.

They will provide, free of charge, any and all information you need to succeed in gardening in your area. Most of the info will be provided by a Master Gardener - a volunteer who has taken & passed an intensive gardening course.

I've picked up lists of plants by name, like Celebrity tomatoes for SW Florida, that really do well for me.

Good luck in developing your green thumb.


Marie said...

Bellen--Thanks for the great information--I will have to look into whatever they have here in Idaho. I always try to avoid reinventing the wheel if I can, so benefitting from other people's knowledge scores high in my book. Thanks for the idea, and for leaving a comment!