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#1 of 15 Old 02-01-2011, 10:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi all,

 

As I finalize my seed order, I'm also thinking about how to start the seeds.  For the last few years I've been doing those Jiffy pods that expand in water. Then I usually transplant to a newspaper pot with soil.  I've never been terribly scientific about it.  I don't have overwhelming success, but then I don't have a large garden, so it works out.  ;)  I have a couple of grow lights and a couple of heat mats to keep them warm in our somewhat chilly basement.

 

So tell me your tried and true methods.  What is the cheapest option?  What will give me nice strong roots and stems?  Most importantly, what will be easiest for this somewhat lazy gardener?

 

Thanks...


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#2 of 15 Old 02-01-2011, 11:52 AM
 
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 My lazy tip comes from not wanting to take the time to transplant. I start all my stuff in yogurt containers with holes poked in the bottom. I use some of the single serving size for the little guys and huge containers for tomatoes etc. It takes a ton of space but I have that, I'm lacking time. I used to use those wonderful flats with the wicking mats underneath, and transplant the plugs... blech they are sitting in my garage untouched for years now.

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#3 of 15 Old 02-03-2011, 06:32 AM
 
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I do winter sowing, that is my lazy method, no grow lights, nothing.  It's easy and the plants seem to do a lot better and are healthier.  wintersown.org and this is how I do it: http://cathyanddave.blogspot.com/2010/10/compost-comparison-experiment-for-work.html


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#4 of 15 Old 02-03-2011, 10:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I love the milk jug gardens!  That would be a cute project for little ones even.

 

The yogurt container idea is a good one too - I saved some smaller play-doh containers, that might work too (although I won't grow anything we eat in those - I have visions of my cucumbers tasting like the play-doh *haha*)

 

Is there an alternative to perlite?  What is that stuff anyway?  The blog gets at the heart of what I was asking, now that I really think about it.  I was thinking of just doing a light soil mix rather than the jiffy pods and growing them right in the trays, but I wasn't sure what ratio or ingredients to use.

 

Thanks for the insights, ladies...


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#5 of 15 Old 02-11-2011, 10:03 AM
 
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I think "How to Grow More Vegetables..." includes recipes for seed-starting mix, assuming you have at least some compost on hand.  Has anyone tried any of those?

I don't think perlite is anything to worry about, it is a naturally-occuring substance that happens to make really nice, light potting mix.

 

I am using steamer trays from frozen lunches for my seed-starting this year.  Our cafeteria at work closed and, well, I'm going through several of these a week anyway - might as well get some more use out of them.  The young plants will eventually have to be pricked out into something bigger - I will re-use some nursery pots for that - but for the sprouting and early growth these take up a lot less space per seed under the lights, and at this point I only have a few things started, so the circular trays are nice because they can go under normal lamps rather than the big shop lights.

 

OP, you mentioned that you usually use newspaper pots.  I tried newspaper pots last year and had a lot of trouble with them.  Our basement is unfinished, so they attracted bugs, which caused the pots to deteriorate faster than they probably would have in a finished basement.  Plus, they were always damp so the ones that were in there for several weeks eventually started to mold.  The plants were difficult to move around when I was trying to harden them off because the pots got kind of floppy, which I felt was probably not good for the root systems.  Do you ever have any of these problems?  I loved the idea of the newspaper pots, but just found them so impractical I gave up.


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#6 of 15 Old 02-12-2011, 06:01 AM
 
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In previous years I've used promix in the plastic trays with inserts. I've had really great results with the promix. The plastic inserts I hate so I'm going to be using soil blocks this year as soon as dh makes me a soil block tool.
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#7 of 15 Old 02-12-2011, 08:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I haven't had those troubles with the newspaper pots, maybe I'm just stingier with the water.  (Read, I forget to water my plants a lot.  *haha*)  I don't start my seeds in them, just transplant them, so sometimes they aren't in there for very long in the grand scheme of things.

 

My compost is usually frozen still when I'm starting seeds, so mixing my own would entail buying some from the local garden store anyway.  I may just try buying a starting mix this year to make it easier on me and go from there.  I think some of my flower seeds will just get started in my old play-doh containers and the others will just get started in the plastic flats I already have.  Since most of the vegetables I'm growing happen to be direct-seed, it's just pretty flowers anyway.  Less pressure.  ;)

 

I love to hear all your ideas, keep them coming!


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#8 of 15 Old 02-13-2011, 05:01 AM
 
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Oh, lots of great ideas! Last year I tried using egg cartons and had an epic fail. I ended up direct seeding the things I could in the spring and buying a tomato plant. I am going to try growing sweet potato slips using glass pie plates and peat moss- a tip I got from The Backyard Homestead. Well, she suggests tin pie plates, but I have glass. :)


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#9 of 15 Old 02-21-2011, 09:14 AM
 
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I had a lot of trouble with the newspaper pots.  Tried them two years in a row and my plants just didn't thrive and most got mildew on them.

 

My ds loves to help with the winter sowing and the milk jugs. smile.gif


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#10 of 15 Old 02-21-2011, 09:45 AM
 
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I like the idea of wintersowing, but for all practical purposes I suspect that I would end up killing anything I plant that way - I'm not great at remembering to water outdoor containers.  Also, after a LLONNGG winter here, I'm always keen to actually tend my plants . . . I check every morning for little sprouts, spritz them with the water bottle, do the happy dance when I find a sprout.  Really, that's half the point of starting seeds for me.  I've read a bit about wintersowing before, though, and I think if you're short on time and energy to invest in your plants, it's a fantastic idea.

 

I like little plastic mini-pots and the trays with separate spaces for each plant.  I reuse them every year, and I don't disinfect them (although I do leave them outside in the freezing cold garden shed) and so far I've had no problems at all with seedling diseases.  My SIL says I have a particularily green thumb, but everything I try mostly just seems to work.

 

There is one exception, which is the coir (coconut fibre) pots.  I got these as an alternative to peat pots, because peat is a non-renewable resource (and I live near peat sources, so they're pertinent to me) and coir comes from a waste product from a renewable resource.  On paper, it's a great idea . . . well, except for transport costs.  In practice, they were pretty bad.  The squash, peppers and tomatoes that I started in them grew slower in under the grow lights than the same varieties in plastic pots, inches away.  Once I put them in the ground, the plants from coir pots were so slow that the direct-seeded squash outpaced the ones from coir pots (the ones from plastic pots were the best).  I don't know if the root systems just got too dry while they were still inside, which is possible (our house is extremely dry in winter).  I know that when I put them outside, the roots had a lot of trouble penetrating the pot - at the end of the year, when I pulled up the most stunted plants, without exception, they all had a little root ball still nearly fully contained in the fully-intact coir pot.

 

So not a suggestion for what to use, but a suggestion for what NOT to use, I suppose.


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#11 of 15 Old 02-21-2011, 09:51 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hykue View Post

I like the idea of wintersowing, but for all practical purposes I suspect that I would end up killing anything I plant that way - I'm not great at remembering to water outdoor containers.  Also, after a LLONNGG winter here, I'm always keen to actually tend my plants . . . I check every morning for little sprouts, spritz them with the water bottle, do the happy dance when I find a sprout.  Really, that's half the point of starting seeds for me.  I've read a bit about wintersowing before, though, and I think if you're short on time and energy to invest in your plants, it's a fantastic idea.

 

I like little plastic mini-pots and the trays with separate spaces for each plant.  I reuse them every year, and I don't disinfect them (although I do leave them outside in the freezing cold garden shed) and so far I've had no problems at all with seedling diseases.  My SIL says I have a particularily green thumb, but everything I try mostly just seems to work.

 

There is one exception, which is the coir (coconut fibre) pots.  I got these as an alternative to peat pots, because peat is a non-renewable resource (and I live near peat sources, so they're pertinent to me) and coir comes from a waste product from a renewable resource.  On paper, it's a great idea . . . well, except for transport costs.  In practice, they were pretty bad.  The squash, peppers and tomatoes that I started in them grew slower in under the grow lights than the same varieties in plastic pots, inches away.  Once I put them in the ground, the plants from coir pots were so slow that the direct-seeded squash outpaced the ones from coir pots (the ones from plastic pots were the best).  I don't know if the root systems just got too dry while they were still inside, which is possible (our house is extremely dry in winter).  I know that when I put them outside, the roots had a lot of trouble penetrating the pot - at the end of the year, when I pulled up the most stunted plants, without exception, they all had a little root ball still nearly fully contained in the fully-intact coir pot.

 

So not a suggestion for what to use, but a suggestion for what NOT to use, I suppose.


True its not for everyone, but I check on them daily to see if sprouts have started and if you get enough rain you don't need to water very often, if not at all and if you have enough jugs they seem to be hard to miss, at least for me.  I will have a yard of them. lol.gif


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#12 of 15 Old 02-21-2011, 04:00 PM
 
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I think the newspaper pots (if you mean the kind using the wooden mold) are way too small for growing plants on after the jiffy pellets.  And egg cartons are also too small.  I find anything under 3" simply doesn't give the plant room to get large enough to transplant well.  Six weeks of growth is about right for most--much less is a weak plant and anything without plenty of root space is a weak plant.  The weak ones consistently do poorly and make it not worth the effort to grow them because production plummets.  I am using jiffy pots after pellets again this year due to cost but anything with enough space will work.  

 

Also, I do not leave porous pots intact around transplants like they say you can.  Peat, coir, whatever... I don't  think they really should be left intact.  Roots can penetrate them but not very well and this doesn't result in healthy plants.  I peel the pot off and toss into the compost.  It's not especially better than plastic as long as you can control overall disturbance of the roots when you pull them out.

 

Hardening off makes a huge difference--this is gradually getting the seedlings used to outdoor conditions of light wind and direct sun by bringing them in and out for gradually longer periods and keeping them in during wind or rain for a while. 

 

I direct sow everything that works well that way.  I don't fuss with starting greens or squash indoors.  I sometimes pre-sprout seeds that don't always germinate reliably for me, and then carefully sow them.   

 

Perlite comes from volcanic natural sources I believe.  It is processed with heat only, which makes it expand and causes it to be so lightweight.  One of the least worrisome ingredients AFAIC.

 

I think promix is great.  It is a soilless mix if it is the same as what I know by that name.  I do not use actual soil in transplant containers.  I do not use compost when germinating but I do include it for growing on in the pots.


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#13 of 15 Old 02-22-2011, 06:37 AM
 
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The newspaper pots I use to transplant in are much bigger, but I still don't recommend them, my plants didn't do well in them two years in a row.


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#14 of 15 Old 02-22-2011, 10:14 AM
 
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The newspaper pots I made were about 3-4 inches square, made by hand from three layers of folded newspaper sheet.  You can see pictures in this blog post I wrote about my seed starting last year. Maybe if I'd made them thicker they would have had fewer problems, but I was worried about them breaking down once they were planted - probably a few more layers would have been fine, now that I think about it.  littlest birds, your comment about the size is precisely why I didn't buy a commercial pot-maker and I couldn't agree more.  Plus, I need the flexibility to put different plants in different-sized and/or different-shaped pots.

 

OP, I have also used empty cottage and ricotta cheese containers of various sizes when I run out of nursery pots.  (ETA: with slits cut in the bottom.)  You can usually get them on freecycle or from friends.  They are the cheapest and most flexible (size-wise) option I have found, and will hold up to several years' use.  They're also very easy to clean and sterilize.  However, they are more rigid than nursery pots or the commercial seed-starting trays, and I sometimes find it difficult to gently remove the root ball.  Plus, I'm never sure what level of leaching is going on when I leave them out in the sun to harden off - but that's true with other plastic containers, too.

 

What a great thread!


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#15 of 15 Old 02-25-2011, 07:33 AM
 
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I tired the newspaper pots last year too and wasn't happy with them. They're very frugal and I found them fun to make but they tended to be way too wet (causing mold) or bone dry and light as a feather. I could never find a happy medium. I also used bone meal to give them a boost which may have added to the mold issue and the whole thing was a stinking mess. I lost half my seedlings but surprisingly, once my spindly little plants were in the garden, they really took off. I think the bone meal/mold issue is common (and I read somewhere that it's "supposed" to happen) because I got a lot of traffic on my blog searching along those lines. 


This year I'm going to plant in plastic plant pots, yogurt dishes, whatever I can find. And I'm going to plant directly into them without transplanting. (Before I started seeds in a shallow pan and then planted them individually in newspaper pots.) 

 

I saw in a flyer yesterday that a local hardware store has seed starting shelving (tall/skinny) that comes with a zippered plastic cover on it. It's only $20CAD. I was tempted last year but passed... after dealing with seedlings all over my dining room table and in windowsills, I think I'm going for it this year! 


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