Seed Starts

April 04,2011
Sweet Pea Chef
Jessica Efird( )

Jessica, aka the Sweet Pea Chef, is a former U.S. Senate staffer/weekend gourmet turned full-time mom/family gourmet. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two sons.

If April showers bring May flowers, April seeds bring May plants.  Let me explain:  now is the time to start seeds for your summer garden.  For those of you living in warmer climates, you can sow your seeds directly into the earth, but for those of us in cooler areas, starting seeds indoors will allow you a jump start on beginning your summer vegetable or herb garden.

Last week the boys and I planted tomato, eggplant, pepper, lavender and basil seeds.  In a week we will sow beans and cucumbers.  Does this sound like I am an experienced gardener?  I am not.  In fact, outside some minor experiments in seed planting here and there over the years, with sporadic results, this is our first seed planting experience. 

This year I decided to dive into seed planting at home, so I started to query those I knew who had experience in this area.  I read books, articles and scoured the Internet for any information to help guide our way.  Veteran gardeners were eager to share their wisdom, and so with a little bit of knowledge under our collective belts, the boys and began our seeding experiment.

Today I will share how to get started, on Wednesday I’ll show you how we’re helping these seeds hopefully germinate and thrive.  First though, to get started, we needed a few things:

*several pages of old newspaper

*some 10 ounce (although 15 ounce work great too) cans of food

*seed planting soil (*not* regular soil or anything with dirt in it, you need a soil-less mixture to help seeds sprout and grow, as dirt can have bacteria and other things that can rot weak seedlings)

*tape

*marker

*seeds

To start, we made our planting cups.   The boys cut each newspaper whole page in half lengthwise, and then half again.  Using one strip at a time, we rolled it up using a 10 ounce can:

Once it was rolled, we bent the one end over the sides of the can (much as if you were trying to “wrap” one end) and taped it on the end and the seam to hold the cup in place.

We removed the can and repeated the steps above until we had approximately 20 cups.

Then we prepared the planting mix by pouring lots of water over a compressed block of the mix. 

The boys loved watching the soil mysteriously grow and expand as it absorbed the water.  I was blown away with the expansion myself!  One 8x4 x1 inch block produced 8 quarts of planting mix, more than we used for all twenty cups!

Once the soil was fully rehydrated, we filled each cup approximately 2/3 of the way full with soil.  We then labeled each cup with a letter to know what seeds we would plant in it.  Carefully, we planted 4-6 seeds in each cup and then put a scant amount of planting mix on top of the seeds.  Since the planting mix was very wet, it was not necessary to water the cups.

Now that we had the seeds planted, we needed a warm spot to encourage germinating.  More on the next steps on Wednesday!

SPC