I always get a huge rush of energy, and, dare I say, optimism, when I sow those first seeds of the gardening season. Once the flats go under those bright fluorescents, I’ve officially pounded the first nail in Old Man Winter’s coffin. At least, it feels that way to me.
Over the weekend, I sowed my first veggies of the 2009 gardening season: ‘Rosa Bianca’ eggplants that will look just beautiful in containers on my super-sunny front porch, and ‘California Wonder’ bell peppers, which will probably grace the porch as well. I really haven’t grown peppers for the past few years, and I’m the first to admit that, as far as pepper varieties go, ‘California Wonder’ is pretty run of the mill. Maybe next year I’ll try something more exciting. At any rate, they seem happy on the seedling heat mat that my husband bought me for Christmas.
I also started annuals, including some dark pink “Wave” petunias and ‘Watermelon’ coleus.
I used a couple of different methods for my seed sowing. For the veggies, which I expect to develop fairly strong, extensive root systems, I used my 2″ soil block maker. I’ll also use it later on for the melons, squashes, and various brassicas I’ll be sowing. For the annuals, I used a standard 72-cell plug insert for one of those plastic flats with a clear lid. They’ll be just fine in a more confined area.
Experimenting With a New Planting Mix
Up until this year, I always purchased the bags of peat-based soilless seed starting mix, but I’m looking for better results. The old mix worked fine, but I ran into the same problem Eliot Coleman found: there is no nutritive value in that peat-based stuff, so you have to spend time fertilizing later on to ensure strong growth. I based this mix on Coleman’s mix (which is outlined in his book The New Organic Grower. I originally saw it on the show he and Barbara Damrosch hosted together–Gardening Naturally.)
Here’s the recipe:
3 parts peat
1 part perlite
3 parts vermicompost
2 tbsp. greensand
The peat is the base, the perlite provides aeration, and the vermicompost adds body and nutritive value. The greensand is a good addition (though not entirely necessary) for overall strong growth and disease resistance. Coleman’s original recipe calls for compost directly from the garden, but since I’m a passive (lazy) composter, I always end up with tons of weed seedlings in my compost–not something I want to deal with in seed starting! I’m interested to see how much this mix improves my seedlings, and whether I’ll have to tinker with it a bit more or not.
I also want to get some alpine strawberries started this week. Of course, the main attraction, tomatoes, is still a couple weeks away. I can’t wait!
Have you started your seeds yet? What’s growing under your lights?