At the risk of speaking the obvious or even preaching to the choir, this post should be considered a beginner’s guide to starting seeds. Many, no actually ALL, of the things I’m doing for the garden right now aren’t actually happening in the garden. Things get started way before the planting, and they start in my mixing bowl.
Is it too soon to start? According to my seed starting calculations, I’m way ahead of schedule. I typically start my seeds around St. Patrick’s Day (mid March), but this winter has been particularly brutal and I just want to do something besides look at the 12+ inches of snow and ice that cover the lovely gardens.
I decided to start with pansies this year. They can be started well before your typical start date, usually 8-12 weeks before last frost. They can actually be set out before last frost.
I purchased peat pots this year and some Miracle Gro seed starting mix. The package does include instructions, but if you follow these completely, you will most likely be disappointed with the results.
Soaking is the key. One key element in using peat pots and dry mix that comes in a bag is water! My dad always started out by soaking the plant mix with plenty of water before using it. I grabbed my handy dandy mixing bowl, dumped some of the starting mix in, and stirred in a cup of water. Once the mix absorbs the cup of water, you may need to adjust the “ingredients”. You don’t want mud, and you don’t want dust! You want the mix to be crumbly and moist – just right!
Soak those peat pots thoroughly before filling them with mix. Otherwise, they will steal all the water that you mixed into the mix, and that was intended for the seedlings. Once you fill the peat pots with your prepared mix, don’t smash it down. You want those seeds and seedlings to be able to breath. Just tamp it lightly. I take a pencil and poke slight holes (the package says 1/8 inch, so these holes are VERY slight) in the mix. This year, I decided to place 3 holes in each pot, dropping one seed in each hole. The thinning will be easier if the seeds aren’t planted directly together.
Oh how I hate thinning as it always feels counter productive. Those seeds actually had the ability to sprout, how dare I decide which ones survive!
Once those seeds are in the holes, cover gently with more of the mix, and tamp lightly.
Now water gently – I use a spray bottle at this point as the watering can is a bit too much and will disturb the location of those seeds. Cover the peat pots with plastic, then I place them on top of the fridge. It’s nice and warm up there, and I’m not tempted to keep opening the plastic to peak in on the progress! I will check on them in a week.
Working in the soil, even if it is only seed starting mix, feels so good!