Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Growing Stuff in Small Spaces, part II
Ok. As promised, today we're going to plant our indoor veggie starts. Yesterday we selected three good candidates for planting at this time of year and in this locale. The winners were cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, and onions. Yummy!
Planting your starts is straightforward, simple and shouldn't take more than twenty minutes. You should be successful if you follow the steps below:
Step 1: Prepare the soil.
We are going to use a seed starting mix for our starts. The mix we selected is high in peat moss, which accounts for 70% of the mix. Peat moss helps young plants fight disease, particularly fungal infections, so it's important you start indoor plants in a similar mix.
Place the soil loosely into the container you've selected for your starts. We're using 1" x 2" x 2" deep "ice-cube tray" type containers for our starts, allowing us to plant each seed in small and tidy compartments. Under these containers we've placed a drip tray to collect excess water and soil. Our landlord will appreciate this, as the tray should protect the floor from damage during the plants' stay indoors.
Step 2: Water the mix
With the container cubes filled, gently mist the soil mixture in warm water until it's lightly wet. Easy.
Step 3: Plant your seeds
Everything we're planting today calls for placing each seed 1/4" deep and covering loosely with the starter mix. Follow the instructions on your seed packets for each different item you're planting.
Now is a good time to think about the end result of all this work. Ask yourself how many plants you want to end up with for transplant outdoors in a couple months? For instance, we only have room for a maximum of six mature tomato plants in our deck container garden, but we're planting a dozen. Why? We're leaving room for error and assuming some won't make it. We figure if more than six of them do well as starts, we can sell or trade the extra plants on Veggie Trader. ;)
Tip: Don't forget to mark the containers somehow to note what you've planted where. A black marker and those little white plastic stakes are handy here.
Step 4: Water again.
Gently mist the soil again. Make sure you use warm water. Mist until the soil is moist. Don't directly water the soil or you'll possibly disturb the seeds, pushing them in too deep.
Step 5: Set your starts out
As discussed in the previous post, select an area that is warm and gets plenty of light. If natural light is a problem, try setting your starts directly under a fluorescent light, or better yet a grow lamp. Warmth and light are essential to getting your plants off to a good start.
That's it! Now you just keep your plants warm, well lit, and watered while you wait for them to sprout. In our case, with any luck the tomato plants will pop out within a couple of weeks. The onions and peppers will take a little longer.
It should be noted here that starting plants indoors isn't necessarily the only way to maintain a nice container garden. If you don't want the hassle
(or don't have the space indoors), you can always buy starts from the nursery when they're available in spring and then grow them outdoors once the chance of frost has passed in your area.
Good luck, and check back later for updates. Fingers crossed that we'll all raise happy and healthy starts!