Monday, February 28, 2011

Seeding Starting at The Funny Farm

Today I began starting seeds indoors for planting out after the last frost. Our average last frost is at the end of March however we have had frost as late as the middle of April many times in the last 10 years. I am in no hurry to get my tomatoes, peppers, and other warm season vegetables in the ground so I schedule my indoor seeding to have tomatoes ready by April 15, peppers at the end of May and eggplants in the middle of May after the first onslaught of flea beetles has subsided. All of these plants need warm soil to grow in so there is no reason to take a chance in my opinion.

My Seed Starting Method
I start all my seeds in a mix of 75% Funny Farm Gourmet Worm Castings (more about how I produce that in the next post) and 25% local granite sand. The sand helps with drainage, adds micronutrients and is cheap. A ton costs $35.00. I plant all of the above in 112 plug trays because I can germinate lots of plants in a small space. When the roots fill the plugs i transplant them into 2 1/4 pots to grow out to the size i want to plant in the beds.

I have a 4' grow light set up in the basement (it stays about 60º) over a bed of granite sand through which in have a heat cable run. When I originally set this up i skimped on the cable so the sand bed only gets up to about 65º. Between it and the heat from the grow lights, which are positioned about 8" above the flats the soil warms up to 70º, ideal for tomato seed germination. I can grow out 9 flats of plants with this set up. After they have been transplanted into the larger pots and have a day or 2 to settle in i move them to the unheated greenhouse to grow out to transplanting size.

Peppers and eggplant need a soil temperature closer 80º for good quick germination, about 7 days. I built a box under which i place a reflector with a 100 watt light bulb. I put the plug flat of peppers on top and keep the light on until the seeds germinate. After germination i move the tray with the rest under the grow light. I could have bought a heat mat but i had all the materials on hand to build the heat box so that is what i did. It's a permaculture thing.
Plant List for Today
Tomatoes- Amana Orange, Big Beef, Tomato Berry, Yellow Cherry, Eva Purple Ball, Jersey Giant
Peppers- Habanero, Early Jalapeno, Corno di Toro, Snapper Bell
Eggplant- Brazilian Oval Orange, Ping Tung Long Purple
Okra- Burgundy, Burmese
Other plants- Flat leaf Italian parsley, Bachelor Buttons Frosted Queen Mix, Fennel Zefa Fino

Spring is coming Y'all!


nicky said...

Thanks for the tips!

I'm starting seeds indoors myself. So far arugula and bright lights chard are the first to germinate. It's always a joy to watch plants grow.

Happy planting!

Anonymous said...


I really like your indoor growing set-up. Similar to mine in many ways, but enough difference for me to contemplate steering a slightly different direction.

Notable is both of ours strategic use of incandescent lighting to elevate the ambient temperature. [Is it time yet to horde those incandescent bulbs?]

Besides the range of species you mention, except the okra (that I always seed directly to the garden), I've also planted basil (a lettuce-leafed variety) as this is the year for us to replenish our supply of pesto which usually lasts two years.

By the way, the winter's last planting of cilantro (variety = Santo), seeded about two weeks ago, is now seeing the first non-true leaves pop above soil's surface. So, I'm looking at a big batch of black-bean soup about early May [hint: a wee bit more vine vinegar at the finish].

Good Gardenin', Pickin', Grinnin' & Eating!