Chomping at the bit to get seeds started? I am! I've got a few more weeks before I can officially start seeds for my 7a suburban garden, but if you'll remember, I started some herb seeds just to test out my seed starting set-up and have the oppotunity to get my hands dirty. January is a long month. I watched videos, read books, and went over in my head how to actually get started. Key points:
Get your supplies ready before starting--including some plant labels
Make sure you use good quality seed starting mix. I used Jiffy Organic Seed Starting Mix from Home Depot.
Pre-moisten your seed starting mix--make it damp, not sopping wet
Fill your pots, seed trays, etc. with the damp seed starting mix and make sure to firm in the mix to eliminate air pockets and prevent too much settling. Look at my photo...this was mistake number one. I forgot this step and my packs settled quite a bit.
Provide some added heat to help germination. I used heat mats I purchased off Amazon. They work fairly well, but I did note that temperatures varied wildly. I since got a thermostat so I could control soil temperature better.
Cover trays with plastic wrap or greenhouse domes to keep moisture and heat in
Mist as needed
Wait some more...
Did you notice a missing step? Yup... while I carefully prepared plant labels, I forgot to put them in the tray. This was mistake number two. No worries, dear reader. I could certainly remember which cells were which when dealing with just six cells, right? Of course I could. The parsley was here, basil there, and that left the cilantro right here in the middle. I plopped in the plant labels--one per row of the cellpack. Then I replaced the greenhouse dome and went on my merry way. Fast forward tp a few weeks later and I discovered what I thought was basil was actually cilantro, and, what I thought was parsley was actually basil, and, finally, what I thought was cilantro looks to actually be parsley--at least I think so. I keep sniffing the seedlings thinking I'll be able to tell but all I can smell is eau de fish (blech)--I'm using Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed fertilizer at 1/4 strength when watering (only use once true leaves appear).
Thankfully this epic fail was on a small scale and I've learned a lesson--put in plant markers as you go. Do NOT wait until the cellpack is fully planted. If you're just starting, like me, you may not know how to identify plants from their leaf structure--herbs are a bit easier because I'm more familiar with them as I cook with fresh herbs when possible, but when I think about the flowers I'm planning to grow for the first time the reality could be scary. I think I have at least six (okay, okay, it's probably more) varieties of Zinnia. Why is it so important for me to know what's what?
Well, for me, there are a number of reasons. Aesthetics being one of them. While I'm attempting to grow a cut-flower garden, I'm a micro flower grower at best. I'm carving out a planting area in my subruban backyard. I don't want to look at a mess from the patio. I want it to look good.
More importantly though, is the growth habit. I wouldn't want my southern facing bed to have my Benary's Giants planted in front of a shorter variety like Pumila Salmon--it would shade them out.
Finally, it's important to track germination rates and growth habits. This information helps us to learn and grow as a gardener--including better aligned expectations. Gardening is not a desitination--it's definitely a journey. Stay tuned for more gardening adventures (and mishaps) from the Bumbling Gardener!