Shag Bark Hickory Farms

  (Milan, Michigan)
your home for heirloom, vintage, handmade, and antique.
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LET'S START SOME SEEDS!

It's here, it's here! My honest to goodness favorite part of gardening. I am not sure if it is the mothering or the miracle of the act it's self but I LOVE to start seeds. Big ones, fat ones, small ones, odd ones.... they all make me feel the same. A jump up and down excitement to watch those perfect little sprouts take off and produce an abundance of food. The knowledge that I can do that, grow my own, makes me feel 10 feet tall. Or..... maybe it is just the word FOOD. Maybe that is the true reason, lol, because I am addicted to food. Not to mention all the VARIETIES that you can not buy from the big box stores.  I mean, this year alone I have 45 different heirloom tomatoes. That is right... 45 and I can't wait to try every single one of them.  The process itself is pretty simple. I built myself a grow stand. Now, you can buy one for a nice chunk of change from a few seed catalogs, or you can do like I did. Read on to find out how:


                                *Standard seed starting supplies. Seeds, dirt (seed starter is sterile), and a tray.

First  you start out with the basic seed starting supplies. You can use any seed starting mix of your preference. Seed starting mix is sterile, meaning germ less, to help give your little seedlings a head start. No fighting with fungus or weed seeds for these little guys. Make sure you dampen your soil as it will be as dry a dust. Water just enough until it cakes in your hand. Then fill up you trays. I like the peat moss or coconut husk variety. I can just plant it in the garden without disturbing the delicate roots of some plants.

                                  * Filling pots with dampened seed starting mix.

Then plant as normal. I usually place 2-3 seeds per pot and I will share with you why in a minute. Use a tool or the end of a pencil ( I do) to make sure your depth is close to accurate (lol). Follow the directions on your seed packet. Some seeds need light.... some need dark to germinate. Just follow the packet and you will be fine. I use duct tape on the outside of my flat to identify the varieties. And I make a paper list with a master seed list on the computer. I know...little over board, but if you know me, you would understand. : )


                         * Started Seeds with labels on tray. I even label the tray using the alphabet. 

Now onto my light stand. I use a general 5 tier metal baking stand. The metal style allows light to shine down between slates and heat to travel easier up. My lights are just plug in shop lights that are 4 ft long. I use a warm (soft) and a cool (white) light in each fixture to ensure a complete spectrum of light. That is it. There is two fixtures a tier and I use "S" hooks to raise and lower the fixture. They should come with chains. Make sure it is the plug in variety. And the only other thing is a heat mat on the bottom tier of the stand. My " greenhouse" is a finished room off the garage that I heat with a plug in heater set at 60 degrees. Between the lights, mat, and heater my room is general around 80 degrees during the day. When I turn my lights of at night it is around 60 degrees.

                                              * Grow Stand with young tomatoes.                                                                  

When about 60 - 80 percent of your seeds have germinated remove your dome (clear plastic top).  Then just water as needed until you have a full tray of seedlings.

 * Basil seedlings.
 
Now on to the reason I plant 2 - 3 seeds a pot. It is a very funny story now and receive a few chuckles on Facebook, but I wasn't laughing then. You would of thought I lost a loved one. My beautiful tomato plants were going great. All the seeds had germinated. I was so proud of myself. I had even pulled all but one seedling per pot like you are suppose too. It was sooooo HARD! Those little babies, that I mothered and loved, struggled to poke their tiny little heads out of the dirt. Each one capable of producing mass amounts of mouth watering deliciousness. And I am suppose to rip them out and compost them. UUHHHHH NOOOOOO, THANK YOU. But I did it. Unlike last year, when I tried and failed. I transplanted them. What was going to be 200 tomato plants turned into 400 plants. Yeah... .well, this year I had no problem ripping those suckers out and throwing them into the compost pile. I have started 1300 this time and NO WAY am I planting that many. lol. 400 was enough work, and I plan to sell the rest as plants at the market this spring. I had two tiers done and went about my day. That night, when I went in to check on everything, it looked like a war had gone on between the seed trays. There was dirt everywhere and drunken stumps, with holes dug all over the place. I just stared in disbelief! What the!?!? As the numerous animals in my yard and the possibilities of them doing this ran through my head, a clear as day picture came to mind. A picture of a cute fuzzy grey mouse with sad little black eyes. And I felt like he had just sucker punched me! I had seen evidence that I had a guest in my room, but I thought nothing of it. I live in the country, surrounded by fields. But he just ate my plants for a snack. Well.... I fixed him. I have a barn full of kitties and a few would love to be in a warm cozy dry room for a few nights. I think they ate him for a snack, because my plants are whole, and I haven't seen evidence of my guest anymore. As to my poor tomatoes, I just waited for the other 1-2 seeds that were late germinators to sprout and transplanted them. That is the reason to double plant, it is to ensure you have enough for what ever reason: say a mouse eats them. lol. Or you drop a whole tray because you are clumsy. Or you didn't know that your new baby ducks and chickens will EAT all things green. lol. Yup. So if you are anything like me, play it safe and OVER plant those babies.

                                                     *My grow stand with last years starters.

That is about it for my Seed Starting 101. Get out there and start growing your own food. Try some new varieties. Just remember to harden them off before you transplant them. We don't want all our blood, sweat, and tears to be for nothing.


 
 
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