Remember when I mentioned about my cousin Rachael’s seed starting shelf with lights? I convinced her to write a little post for us on how to build one and get started with the seeds. She is continuing the theme on her own blog with more step by step care instructions and photos. At the end of the article, we’ll give you a link to get there for more information. When you visit, leave her a comment and let her know you came from the Grocery Shrink. Here’s Rachael:
Spring is so close! Are you ready to start some plants of your own and save some money?
If so, let’s get out our potting soil and seeds and get started!
Making Your Plant Shelf
First off, my husband bought a sturdy metal shelf (the kind where the shelves look like an oven rack) and attached a fluorescent light fixture to the underside of each shelf. He used zip- ties to do that. This year he is improving on that and attaching them permanently with brackets.
Either way works. We bought GE Plant and Aquarium F40, 48” bulbs. They were $8.50 each at Home Depot. A fixture requires 2 bulbs. Ouch! On the ‘bright’ side, they last for 9 years, and your plants require a wide spectrum bulb to grow! Might as well not waste all your time and effort by letting your plants die with cheapo bulbs.
Preparing Your Seed Trays
You can use plastic egg cartons with holes poked in the bottom of each “egg”, 9X13 pans (again, with holes poked in the bottom), used plastic plant containers, or professional seed starting flats. Whatever you use, sterilize it first. Fungus is not your friend, and here is where you head it off. Normally I don’t like Clorox, but I make an exception in this case.
Fill your sink or a bucket with a solution of hot water and 1 TB of Clorox. Wash off all the old dirt, rinse well, and air dry.
Preparing Your Soil
If you have dry potting soil, dump some of it into a plastic container large enough to fit your seed trays. Add water until it is nice and moist. If you add too much water, just mix in more soil. It should look like wet soil after a gentle rain, not like mud, and not like a desert with rivers running through it. You will have to mix it together and be patient, it has been dry awhile in that bag, and requires time to absorb the water.
If you have wet potting soil, dump it into a plastic container large enough to fit your seed trays, and you’re ready!
Filling the Trays and Planting the Seeds
I stick my trays in the soil with one hand and with the other hand fill the tray with soil. It’s similar to the motion of filling a bowl with popcorn by dipping it in the serving dish.
Pack the soil until it is firm but spongy to the touch. It should not really be loose at all.
Now with a toothpick, meat thermometer, pencil, or some other sharp device, poke a hole in the soil everywhere you want to plant and plant your seeds! You can figure out how deep to plant them and how to cover the holes if you can read the seed packet. J
Label the seeds! You would be surprised how people think they will remember. You’ll wish you did if you don’t!
Popsicle sticks make nice labels, and if you put one in each corner of your tray and one in the center, they provide a stand for plastic wrap.
In the beginning you will cover your seeds with plastic wrap to give them humidity. Water your seeds every day by setting each tray in a container of water for 2-3 minutes. Drain, and put back on the stand. Spraying or top watering is nostalgic, but it leads to fungus problems, and the greenhouse where I worked always watered their trays this way without exception.
Leave the lights on all the time for about 4 weeks. (to keep them warm)
Your goal is to wean your plants off of the need for the plastic wrap as soon as possible, because too much humidity will cause problems of as well.
After about 2 weeks it is best for your plants if you re-plant them. This is how they become hardy enough to withstand outdoors.
At about 4 weeks, you will begin hardening them to the outdoors gradually.
Check in at my blog ‘rachael-thefarmersdaughter.blogspot.com’, as I take you step by step through this process with my own plants this spring (with pictures J). I wanted to give you pictures here, but technical difficulties wouldn’t allow. Thank you so much for this opportunity to share with all of you! It has been a joy and I wish you blessing as you begin this wonderful project. Tending plants is a little like having children, it takes time and nurturing. Be patient with yourself, check out library books, and enjoy the advenure! You can do it!