Sunday, March 31, 2013

Seed Starting - 2013

This year Andrea is starting several plants from seed, rather than buying plants from a nursery. The amount of plants she is starting from seeds seems ambitious, but so far the majority of plants are doing well. Growing from seed, rather than buying plants, should be a real money saver in the long run. Even better, however, is that we're looking at this as a first step towards eventually been able to save our own seeds.

Andrea used a couple different types of containers for starting the seeds. She has been saving round aluminum take out containers, which make perfect planters. She also had some old rectangular plastic containers that she used. She used ice cream sticks to divide the containers, so that multiple seeds could be planted without mixing them up. Here is an example of a round container, divided into four sections. Here is an example of a rectangular container divided into five sections.

The planting medium used was coir. We like coir because it is a natural waste product of coconut production. We do, however, have concerns about the transportation requirements, since coconuts are certainly not native to this area. She hopes to use leaf mold next year, which will be both cheaper and have less overall environmental impact.

Once the seeds were planted, she arranged them on a counter in our living room, which we have turned into a seed starting area. There is a mirror in the back of the area, which reflects the light, therefore spreading it more evenly over the plants. We have two shop lights, suspended by chains, over the plants. The chains allow us to adjust the height of the lights as the plants grow taller. Each fixture uses two 40 watt fluorescent bulbs. We use a timer to automatically turn the lights on and off, running them for a total of 16 hours each day.

Andrea has been keeping detailed records of the progress of plants. Several of the plants have had to be thinned, some multiple times. A few have developed to the point of needing to be transplanted into new containers. For these containers she has been using some plastic containers that the lemonade mix she uses comes in, which can be seen here. In the photo you can also see a few plants that were transplanted into standard cell inserts, which we saved from plants purchased from the nursery last year. The containers are filled with a mixture of coir, blood meal, and perlite.

Currently Andrea has seeds for 40 different plants started. Most of there were started on March 9th, with other started on either March 16th or March 21st.

Plants started from seed:

Pepper - 11 varieties: Paprika, Bulgarian Carrot Chili, Jalapeno, Serrano, Habanero, Ring O' Fire, Long Red, Carolina Wonder, California Wonder, Orange Bell, and Pizza Pepper.

Flowers - 10 varieties: Butterfly Milkweed, New England Aster, Tall Coreopsis, Joe-Pye Weed, Blazing Star, Cardinal Flower, Bergamont, Ironweed, Blackeyed Susan, and Moonlight Marigold.

Herbs - 18 varieties: Rosemary, Thyme, Calendula, Chamomile, Echinacea, Feverfew, Lavendar, Lemon Balm, Sage, Anise Hyssop, Chives, Royal Catchfly, Parsley, Cumin, Basil, Purple Basil, Garlic Chives, and Marjoram.

Other - Roma Tomato

Unfortunately I do not have records for the cost of the seeds for these plants. I'm estimating maybe $1 per type, which comes to roughly $40. We've probably spent another $20-$30 for the coir, blood meal, and perlite used in the containers. The only other expense has been the electricity for running the lights, which I've calculated at approximately $8 per month. At a total of around $80, I am confident that we will realize a significant savings over buying the plants from a nursery. Of course there were some up front costs, such as the light fixtures, bulbs, and the timer which we already had on hand, that I am not including in the calculation.

I am excited to see what our success rate is with seed starting this year. I am especially excited by the variety of pepper plants, and am already looking forward to having fresh peppers to cook with in a few months.

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