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Seed starting and spacing indoors?

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Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 1/10/2011, 1:21 am

I have luckily landed a seed starting and house plant overwintering station my father built for my mom in about 1980 when they added on to their house. This thing is crazy nuts in design with shelves, hangers, and dedicated lighting.

So, now I am suddenly thinking about diving into the realm of starting seeds indoors...something I've never done before. Obviously, the spacing outdoors is indicated in the book. However, I haven't read anything on spacing indoors.

I plan on planting some broccoli, peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes. Once seedlings pop up, what size cup should they be in? Basically, how big will the plants be when I transplant them? I assume pepper and tomato plants will be a touch smaller than you buy if you wait and buy plants. However, I've never seen broccoli. And, I know lettuce is pretty small.

I've also heard of some plants, maybe tomatoes, where you have to replant them several times. I will tackle researching those threads tomorrow. I just want a general idea of how to plan since the broccoli, in my area, goes in pretty quickly.

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  quill33 on 1/10/2011, 5:36 am

I enjoy seed starting indoors. It's a fun way to pass the time til one can get their fingers in the soil outside. I use individual sized yogurt cups that several holes were punched in the bottom. It works well to grow a plant from seed til transplant. I use seed starting mix. Set up is on a simple metal shelving unit with shoplights.

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  Lavender Debs on 1/10/2011, 7:48 am

Way kewl Bird!

Job #1
Discover your average last frost date. It will be your plumb line.
Discover your "after all danger of frost" date. This date is different than last frost date. You will need to know it for tender plants like tomatoes and peppers.

Most plants recover from transplant shock quicker as babies than as older plants. Your broccoli can be one of those, although it is certainly not the worst.

If you have seed in packets the information on the back of the packet will give you a clue about how far out from these dates to start your seedlings and what size of container you should consider.

You can use yoghurt cups, they are the equivalent of a 2.5 to 3" pot (single serving) I've done this myself but they never break down and become garbage in a land fill.. I am switching to homemade paper pots.

I keep a bag of sterol potting soil to fill my paper pots (or yoghurt cups or peat pots or whatever you choose to use.) I am not sure it is necessary but observation says it is a happy place to start babies.
note: If you keep your seedlings in starting soil for more than about 3 weeks they will need a bit of liquid fertilizer......watered way down. Seedlings live off of the first two leaves that emerge until the 2nd set of leaves, known as true leaves become obvious.

Tomatoes want to start early in the North. Many have success with 6 to 8 weeks before "all danger of frost" date.

Gotta get my guy to work.... but people on this board LOVE writing about these things. You will find your mentor and have a beautiful garden.

Deborah.....feeling a little dedicated light envy

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seed starting

Post  ander217 on 1/10/2011, 8:41 am

BBG, my eyes are turning green with envy over your seed-starting station. Please send us a photo when you get it set up.

I grew transplants successfully for the first time last spring. I used several different items I either scrounged or had been given to me, including 2-3" peat pots, recycled 16 oz. plastic cups and 4 oz. yogurt containers, and those little flat peat discs in netting that expand when wet. I filled the smaller containers with sterile potting mix (anything you can do to eliminate damping off is desirable, and starting with sterile mix helps) and after sowing two or three seeds per container or disc I placed them on old cookie sheets purchased at a thrift store, covered them with plastic wrap, and set them on top of our TV satellite receiver where they would keep warm.

As soon as they sprouted I removed the plastic and moved the containers to a cool room, and placed them under a grow light. I snipped all but the strongest plant in each container. After that, just keep them moist - watering from the bottom is best, but mine did fine with watering from above. I transferred them to the larger plastic cups after a few weeks. Occasionally I gave mine weak doses of fish emulsion which got them through until transplanting time. If they begin to look pale green or start to have yellow veins you know you've waited too long to give them more nitrogen.

If your plants get plenty of light and the water and fertilizer they need, they will be as big and strong as any greenhouse plants. My tomatoes had long stems, but when I planted them I just buried all the stem sort of sideways up to below the first leaves. Be really careful not to snap the stem. If they lean a bit at first, they will grow straight eventually as you train them to the trellis. The buried part of the stem will set out new roots, making your plant stronger.

Regarding growing broccoli in St. Louis - I'm 150 miles south of you, and personally I've found broccoli does better here when started in mid-summer and set out in the fall garden. For me it does better when it can mature in cool weather. Spring-planted broccoli bolts really quickly once the summer heat begins. You might try planting some both times and see which does better in your area. (Don't forget to buy some bacillus thuringiensis - Dipel, Thuricide - to control worms on your brassicas. It's an organic spray that makes the worms sick. They stop eating immediately, and die within a few days. You have to reapply every week or so and after a rain.)

I have also read that tomatoes should be transplanted several times before their final growing place. I say, "Hog wash." Mine were grown in small containers then transferred once to larger ones before the final transplanting in their box, but I have also had extremely hardy tomato plants come up in the garden from seeds that dropped the year before. Those were never moved once and they had extremely thick stems and produced wonderful tomatoes.

Good luck!

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  walshevak on 1/10/2011, 8:58 am

Found a Jiffy seed starting setup in a box I had not unpacked since I left England in 2002. Guess I've got no excuse now not to start some seeds.

Kay

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 1/10/2011, 10:47 am

Debs, I have my frost date already discovered, but how to I find the "after all danger" date? I know there is one, but have never tried to find it.

Two thoughts on pots (poet..lol). 1) The wife eats a lot of yogurt, so using them twice, once in mouth other in soil, has to be some form of recycling even if they don't break down in landfills. Or, at least it's better than only using them once. 2) How about Dixie cups? Those are super cheap and would have to break down faster.

I will post a pic for you when I get this thing set up in a week or so. Considering it's totally handmade and conceived, it's an amazing piece of logical creativity. I can't believe my mom was ready to part with it so quickly...I just wanted "dibs" on it someday. I was shocked when she said, "when can you take it?"

If I post detailed enough photos, would anyone be interested in trying to copy it's design? I can measure the boards and tell you where it's fastened...pretty much whatever you would need to build a carbon copy of your own....provided you like it when you get a glimpse.

Ander, wow...good tips. I like the peat disks a lot. I do the planting tomatoes deep thing, as it's pretty common among gardening grammas...where my training came from...lol. But, I have yet to lay them sideways. I just heard that last year for some reason.

I will likely need a reminder about the broccoli worms because in the few years I have been gardening, I swear I have yet to deal with any pest whatsoever...other than animals like squirrels and rabbits. No fungi, mildews, or worms/insects that hurt anything. Obviously, I will try a lot of fall plantings this year, too. But, of course, I am going to try some spring stuff, even if it bolts, just because I'm excited...lol.

And, I LOVE that you hogwashed the multi-transplantings. I wasn't really looking forward to having to do all that baby maintanence.

Thanks, guys.

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  ander217 on 1/10/2011, 12:34 pm

@BackyardBirdGardner wrote: But, I have yet to lay them sideways. I just heard that last year for some reason.

When planting in 6" of MM, you can't go deep, so you go sideways. Smile

I did it, and it works.

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  LaFee on 1/10/2011, 1:25 pm

It also makes a wider root ball, even if you're planting in the ground.

I use the paper-fibre egg cartons for my starts - then I can cut them apart, and they even biodegrade if I just plant the whole cup.

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  Odd Duck on 1/10/2011, 2:08 pm

I use cut up toilet paper and paper towel rolls to start the seed for a lot of veg, then up-pot to potting mix as soon as I can see a root coming out anywhere (usually on the bottom). I use 1/4 strength, hot, unflavored gelatin poured over the soil "blocks" to help them hold together BEFORE planting the seed. Then I plant the seed after they've been thoroughly wetted and they've absorbed as much liquid as the soil-less mix can and they've usually completely cooled by then. I often leave them soaking overnight, then plant the next day.

I use the lettuce/salad tubs from the grocery store as germination flats so I can see through the bottom, but by the time the first true leaves pop out, the soil is holding and I can just pick them up to check the bottoms.

Depending on the veg, I usually up-pot at least once, sometimes even twice, sometimes not at all. This year I've made some self-watering stuff from water bottles and soda bottles that I'm trying - seem OK so far, too soon to say.

I've also read that aerated compost tea, particularly that made from vermicompost, can help control damping off. Also some info out there that says adding a bit of vermicompost straight to the sterile mix can help control damping off. I didn't find specifics on how much to add, but most recommend adding about 20% vermicompost as a general recommend for anything/everything. Make sure to uncover your sprouts as soon as they pop up, don't wait for the true leaves to appear, as another way to limit damping off.

That light is super important! Strong enough light is the biggest thing in keeping seedlings/transplants from getting leggy. I've heard that having an oscillating fan blowing on the seedlings will also help to prevent legginess, but I haven't tested that yet, myself. Smile Still looking for little fans that will fit inside my cat repellent, seedling protective cage!


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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 1/10/2011, 3:27 pm

Good stuff, OddDuck. Most of it "too deep" for me, but I will study it and get back to you with questions. That bit about strong light and leggy plants really makes sense. I couldn't get some veggies I was goofing with last year to transplant well because of this. I put them in my basement where light came through a small window over the laundry machines. The plants were growing, so I thought nothing of it....stringy as they were. Now, I know why.

LaFee, incredible idea. This and the paper cup idea is probably where I'm heading for starter containers.

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  Blackrose on 1/10/2011, 3:53 pm

@BackyardBirdGardner wrote:That bit about strong light and leggy plants really makes sense. I couldn't get some veggies I was goofing with last year to transplant well because of this.

It's also a good idea to try and get your seedlings as close to the light as possible without touching it. I learned the hard way last year too. Most of my seedlings were quite leggy and just flopped over. I couldn't figure out why. After doing some research, I realized that I did not have them close enough to my grow light. I have also read about putting a small fan on them a few times a day. It helps to make them stronger as they grow and makes hardening them off easier. I plan on trying that trick this year as well.

Good luck!

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  middlemamma on 1/10/2011, 7:45 pm

I am so glad I started some sacrificial seedlings in November to learn how to to this. I have a problem with things getting too leggy as well...and apparently dampening off also. I have aced tomatoes though...so when I start mine 10 weeks before all danger of frost date I am confidant. Smile

I am trying the TP roll idea and I gotta say I hate it. Sad The cardboard takes FOREVER to saturate...but I will persevere because it is a readily available resource! LOL

Also I have Jiffy seed starting mix and I hate that too!!! ARG! Water takes forever to soak in....any better suggestions?

But I do love the peat disks...THOSE are a great cheap item and work well!


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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  sceleste54 on 1/10/2011, 8:33 pm

I have a bar/counter on the side of my kitchen with a shop light raised up on bricks. I try to keep the light fixture about 3 inches from the top of the plants. So far I've not had a problem with damping off. Odd Duck thats a very interesting idea using the gelatin as a binder. I think thats a good source of nitrogen as well.. Can't wait to try it !

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  quiltbea on 1/11/2011, 1:07 am

I use soil blocks to start my seeds. I spray the sown blocks with weak green tea which seems to help prevent damping off. I start with the little 3/4" size because I can place many little ones in a low clean container (like meat packs) on my heat mat. I only put one seed per block, then cover with vermiculite. Remember, until they germinate, they do NOT need sunlight and they need to be kept damp.
Lettuce is otherwise. Lettuce seed needs light to germinate.

Soil blocks are made out of soil and water only. There are no pots to sanitize or toss in the landfill afterwards. Its all planted.

When the 3/4" ones germinate, they are dropped into 2" soil blocks, one to the block. No transplant shock.
They go under my 'sunlight' shop lights with the light 2-3" above the plants.
Whenever I check my plants, I use a sheet of paper to brush against them back and forth a few times to help them strengthen.

Many of my plants can be transplanted outdoors from the 2" pots, but the larger ones, like peppers and tomatoes I transplant to my 4-5" air pruning pots I make myself from 2-litre soda bottles.
I cut the bottle down to about 5" tall, punch 5 holes (because our bottles have 5 lower lobes in their bottoms) in the bottom with hammer and nail (I sit on my garden bench and do this on the lawn), then with scissors I cut up from that hole in a very narrow strip for about 3" so that the plant is air pruned. A slit at each of the 5 drainage holes.
I fill halfway with potting mix, then place the 2" block in the middle and fill up with soil around the block. Again, no transplant shock.

Here are some 2" soil blocks on the left and air pruning pots on the right. The air pruning pots keep the roots from circling since they stop growing at the air vents.

Here are some of my seedlings hardening off outside. The two small ones front left were purchased at the garden store.
I guess we all have our favorite methods and this is mine.



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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  Blackrose on 1/11/2011, 10:00 am

Quiltbea, I have read in other posts about your method of planting seedlings with the soil blocks and air pruning pots made from soda bottles. You have inspired me! I purchased the 3/4" and 2" soil blockers from Johnny Selected Seeds as a Christmas gift for myself and had my husband save about a dozen soda bottles from his nasty soda drinking habit. We have a great recycling program here, so the soda bottles can go right into recycling when I'm done with them.

Thank you! I'm looking forward to starting my seeds this way.

I'm just waiting patiently for my soil blockers to arrive in the mail. (insert smiley, impatiently drumming fingers here)

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  acara on 1/11/2011, 10:28 am

@middlemamma wrote:I am so glad I started some sacrificial seedlings in November to learn how to to this. I have a problem with things getting too leggy as well...and apparently dampening off also. I have aced tomatoes though...so when I start mine 10 weeks before all danger of frost date I am confidant. Smile

cheers

Killed two rounds of Tom's from seeds myself over the last month .... thing I got the hang of it this time (same issue as you ... leggy and/or dampening off)

Also I have Jiffy seed starting mix and I hate that too!!! ARG! Water takes forever to soak in....any better suggestions?

Completely IMHO ... the Jiffy peat pellets and the transplant pots rock ... the soil mixes .... kinda suck. I'm using MM right now and getting good results.
The trick to the Jiffy "seed starting mix" is to make a slurry and let it dry out to the consistency you want, then plant & maintain the moisture level after you transplant the Jiffy pelet into it. I don't know what's in the stuff, but it's damn-near water repelant, right outta the bag.

Even after I figured out how to make it work ..... it's still a pain....so I just dumped it in wifeys flowerbeds Evil or Very Mad


But I do love the peat disks...THOSE are a great cheap item and work well!

Same results here ... definately make the whole "from seed" process easier to handle for me....and the smaller "12-packs" are a space-saver & fit perfectly on a ledge/window-sill (vs 72 pellet trays)

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  quiltbea on 1/11/2011, 12:03 pm

Blackrose....I hope you also got the Johnny's 512 Soil Mix to use with the soil blocks. It is a mix that holds together very well when wet and is fortifying for the seeds. You can make up your own mix, but its easier for me to buy it.

Don't use the bottles that get narrow in the midsection or you'll have trouble removing your seedlings. I buy soda with the smooth, straight sides. It just makes removing the seedlings easier. They slide right out since the roots don't tangle.

I think you'll like how easy it is to grow this way. I've tried peat pots and plastic cups, but this works best for me. No root disturbance at all. Of course, now they have something called Cow Pots made from cow manure that not only disintegrate when planted in the ground, but help feed the plant as well. I might try a few of those.

Good luck.

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  middlemamma on 1/11/2011, 12:54 pm

I looked at the soil block makers last night and if I sprang for it I could only do one. Do you think that the 2 inch would be better since I could use the peat pellets and then transplant to the 2 inch block?

I think those cow pots are too expensive for the # that you get...I wanted to try them as well...but I just couldn't justify the expense. At least the soil block maker is going to last for years.

I'm sorry that sounded judgemental...I didn't mean for it too....FOR me the cow pots just don't seem efficient. LOL...I need more coffee. nanana

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  Blackrose on 1/11/2011, 4:45 pm

@quiltbea wrote:Blackrose....I hope you also got the Johnny's 512 Soil Mix to use with the soil blocks. It is a mix that holds together very well when wet and is fortifying for the seeds. You can make up your own mix, but its easier for me to buy it.

Unfortunately, I don't think it's legal for them to ship that to Canada. I will try my regular seedling mix and see if it works.

@quiltbea wrote:Don't use the bottles that get narrow in the midsection or you'll have trouble removing your seedlings. I buy soda with the smooth, straight sides. It just makes removing the seedlings easier. They slide right out since the roots don't tangle.

I noticed that you had mentioned that before. The bottles we buy have nice straight sides, so I don't anticipate any issues there. Smile

@quiltbea wrote:Good luck.

Thanks!! Very Happy

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  quiltbea on 1/11/2011, 6:37 pm

middlemamma.....I think the 2" maker is fine. You can start a couple of seeds in it and thin to one when they germinate. Then they can go into larger pots if necessary.

I've started broccoli and cabbage directly in the 2" block and planted into the garden when it was big enough.

I like the 3/4" ones because I only have one seed mat to warm the starting seeds and I can get more of those started on the mat by using the littlest ones. I have lots more room on my growing tables under the lights after they germinate and are dropped into the 2" blocks and larger.

I happen to have Eliot Coleman's recipe for his potting soil that he uses for his soil blocks (he developed the soil blocks originally):

3 Qts peat moss
3 Qts compost
1 Qt perlite
2 Tablespoons greensand
2 Tablespoons phosphate rock
2 Tablespoons dried blood meal
Mix together well.
When ready to make your soil blocks,
Add water to the mix until it feels like cooked oatmeal or peanut butter and use to form soil blocks.


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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  Blackrose on 1/12/2011, 8:33 am

@quiltbea wrote:I happen to have Eliot Coleman's recipe for his potting soil that he uses for his soil blocks (he developed the soil blocks originally):

3 Qts peat moss
3 Qts compost
1 Qt perlite
2 Tablespoons greensand
2 Tablespoons phosphate rock
2 Tablespoons dried blood meal
Mix together well.
When ready to make your soil blocks,
Add water to the mix until it feels like cooked oatmeal or peanut butter and use to form soil blocks.
Thanks for the recipe quiltbea! The seed starting mix that I use has the first 3 ingredients you listed above. What are the other 3 for? Are they necessary for the mix to work in the blocker or are they there to feed the seedlings?

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  Odd Duck on 1/12/2011, 9:12 am

Those last 3 are definitely natural fertilizers - green sand is a potassium source - K, phosphate rock is a phosphate source - P, and dried blood meal is the nitrogen source - N. That's the basic NPK in all fertilizers. Those particular sources are also going to give you some trace elements as well and are all considered organic.

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 1/12/2011, 9:14 am

Keep chatting, guys. I am learning a lot right now. And, I appreciate it.

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  camprn on 1/12/2011, 9:42 am

I usually use a sterile seed starting mix like Jiffy. I pour some mix into a bucket, add water to make it moist and manageable the night before I plan on using it.
With my lights, I have the fixture suspended by jack chain over the seedling trays. There is several feet of jack chain wrapped around the post from which the lights are suspended. The lights need to be quite close, a few inches at most, from the seedlings. The wrapped chain allows me to lower or raise the lights as the plants require.

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

Post  Blackrose on 1/12/2011, 10:13 am

I plan on having a similar setup camprn. Just waiting for my hubby to build it for me.

As for the soil... Are the greensand, phosphate rock and blood meal necessary at the seed planting stage? I was under the impression that the seedlings didn't need any kind of fertilizing until they have their first set of true leaves. Am I wrong?

Blackrose

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Re: Seed starting and spacing indoors?

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