The need for seedPosted: February 15, 2012
Blast those nincompoops who told us, as children, that gardening is as simple as dropping a seed in a hole and splashing it with water. Maybe that’s the case in the Northwest, but here in Texas it’s just not that simple…especially when you’re talking about seed starting.
Heath’s been itching to start gardening from seeds (rather than transplanting) for quite some time now. For one, it’s a pretty stellar way to feel somewhat God-like. Taking a tiny pebble-like object and transforming it into leafy, nutrient providing green. It does wonders for the ego.
Secondly, if the seeds grow to maturity, it’s a much, much, much more economical way to garden. Think about it: a single 3-inch tall tomato plant usually costs around $3.50 and will probably yield around 15 pounds of fruit in a good (“good” being the operative word) season. Not too bad considering what you pay in a grocery store for organic ‘maters. But a package of seeds, which usually has a count around 100 or so, is less than $2. I’m no mathematician, but based on those numbers, if you can do it right, seed starting is the way to go.
No problem except that when you start getting into it, seed starting is tricky business. Conditions must be perfect.
- The seeds need to have between 12 and 18 hours of light each day. In the winter, when daylight isn’t so ample, dropping them in a hole and letting nature do it’s thing isn’t so much of an option. You’ve got to rig up a complicated lighting system, preferably attached to a timer, to make sure they get the appropriate amount of artificial sunshine.
- Not just any soil will do. In fact, when seed starting, the experts recommend “soilless” soil. Which seems a little paradoxical. Using top soil from an existing garden can actually kill the seeds and you don’t always know the exact compounds you’re dealing with, and it has a tendency to compact easily without air ventilation, the presence of earthworms and manual tilling. Instead, it’s recommended that gardeners use a mixture of sphagnum peat moss, plus vermiculite and a little perlite. The soilless mixture is much lighter than top soil and ultimately helps the seeds grow stronger, faster.
- Seeds like the temperature to be juuuuuust right. Like me, seeds do best in temps between 65 and 70 degrees. While the temp has been known to occasionally hover around that level for day or two during Austin winters, it’s not a done deal. So the seeds usually have to live inside, and not just inside, but in a place that is well ventilated with moisture control. I’m telling you, they get a better set up than me, Heath and the doodles combined.
The caring and handy individual he is, Heath spared no expense creating the perfect environment to start our seeds. Well, I guess he spared some expense, considering seed starting paraphernalia can retail in the hundred dollar range. We spent a grand total of about $30, but the top shelf of our laundry room is now Seed City. The spectacular shelf-top community features scenic views (of our washer and dryer), superfluous sunshine (16 hours of florescent lighting) and a cool and breezy climate (a circulating fan rigged to dangle from the ceiling in lieu of an actual ceiling fan). It might be a little makeshift, but dammit if it didn’t get the job done.
By summer, we should have a truck load of tomatoes, kale, chard, lettuce, peppers and broccoli to keep us satiated. What’s more, seedlings are not the only thing growing beneath the light of the laundry room. We have new chicks as well.
It’s going to be an exciting spring.