Posts Tagged With: tomatoes

Seed starting

I finally planted the seeds for my warm weather veggies. If all goes well, I should have three kinds of heirloom tomatoes, three types of bell peppers, and mini-eggplant. I present my photo essay on starting seeds:

I used the Gardener's Supply Company's APS (which I finally figured out stands for Advanced Propagating System). To the far right is the water tray. You turn the pegboard upside down over the tray, then fill the water reservoir. That flat grey thing is the water mat. You soak the mat, then lay it over the upside-down peg tray. By sticking part of the mat into the water, you create a wicking system that keeps the mat wet. The plant cells (at far left) have holes in the bottom. They sit on the mat, thereby soaking up water.
Ingenious, no?
The APS comes with a seed starting mix, that, like most, is largely peat moss. The directions say to wet the peat moss until its slightly moist. Have you ever tried to wet down peat moss? It absorbs a huge amount of water, and it's difficult to get it consistently wet.
Also, peat moss is extremely fine and prone to flying about until it's dampened. Don't use your sprayer attachment on the faucet unless you want to be cleaning peat moss off every surface in the kitchen. Not that I've done that.
So here's the assembled system; the big bowl of seed starting mix; my pretty, pretty seed packets; tags; and the doohickey that you stick in the water reservoir to tell you how high the water level is. It has an actual name, but I can't remember it. 
I used an old measuring cup to put the mix into the bottomless seed tray cells. Peat moss is light, so I had to keep packing it down, making an even bigger mess of the kitchen counters in the meantime. Once each cell was full, it was time for the actual planting.
I put one or two seeds in each cell, covered them with about 1/4" of seed starting mix, and squished it all down. Squishing is important, because you need good contact between the seed and the soil for germination.
Next comes labeling. All seedlings look the same, so you have to mark what you've planted. My labels are on little wooden tags that look like popsicle sticks. I had some trouble fitting the plastic cover on the tray until I figured out the labels needed to sit at an angle to accommodate the cover.
Here you see the completed tray with watering doohickey sticking out. You water through that little notch there.
Seeds need heat to germinate, but the APS recommends that you not use a heat mat with it. I'm still stumped by this one. I know some people use warm spots like the top of the fridge, but the top of my fridge is 1. not really warm, and 2. filled with stuff like margarita mix and fruit juice (when you have a small house, you have to make the most of your storage). So for now, they're sitting under the lights until I figure out something else.
By the way, here's my indoor potting shed. It used to be a breakfast nook, but it's really too small for a table and chairs. The bookcase I use as a seed starting station, shop light, and rocking chair fit nicely, though. You can't see from the picture the haze of cat hair on the chair; the rocker is one of Miss Kitty's favorite lounging spots. Note the corner cabinets filled with gardening books (on the right). The left cabinet holds my cookbooks, tea pots, and tea cups. Isn't it cozy?
Updates as they occur!

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