Ladies & Gentlemen, Start Your Seeds!


The thing about a vacation is that you have to come home.  One day, I was enjoying the warmth of south Florida sun, and the next I was bundled up against the wind chill on Long Island — and there’s no better day to start seeds.  Like many of you, my hands were itching to get dirty and to begin the new growing season.  Since the potting shed was built, this has been my tradition — a step-by-step homecoming.

Step 1:  I start with a pre-mixed bag of seed starting mix — mostly out of laziness and lack of space and time.  I dump it into a pail and add warm water — to make my hands happy as I mix it all together.

Step 2:  I don’t want to make it soggy — but moist enough that it will hold together.  The moisture not only helps the seeds to get started, but it also eases the amount of dust from the seed starting mix.

Step 3:   Then, soil is added to a smaller pot.  I do not tamp down this soil.  I want to keep it airy so that the newly forming roots will be able to grow without having to battle compressed soil.

Step 4:  Geranium seeds are planted here.  I place several seeds in one pot and then cover them lightly.  Once the seeds sprout and have their first set of true leaves, they will be moved to individual pots.

Step 5:  Now planted and labeled, each pot is placed in a tray of water so they can be watered from the bottom — again to prevent soil compression.  Also, I keep water in the tray and keep the tray on the heating mat in an attempt to create some humidity.  I’m not sure if it really works — but I like to think that it does.

Step 6:  After soaking up some water, the potted seeds are placed on a heating mat so the soil can receive even warmth.  At this stage, the seeds do not need sunlight — they’re underground.  They do, however, need heat to help with germination.  Once sprouted, then sunlight will play a role.

Since this is my first seed starting season with a blog, I thought I would create a page of regular updates.  If you’d like check in on the seeds, please visit the new page tab above, “The Seed Monologues.”  Here, I will keep brief notes on the seeds that are planted and what’s happening in the pots.

In the meantime, best of luck with all of your seed starting endeavors.

33 thoughts on “Ladies & Gentlemen, Start Your Seeds!

  1. We had a few inches of snow today. I started some seeds but must excercise self control and wait a little longer to start the others. What zone are you in? I was 5 but now I am 6 according to the new zone map.

    • I am in a sort of Twilight Zone. On the new map, I’m in 7. On older maps, it’s 6. Personally, I feel like a 6 because as I drive to work (which is a true 7), the seasons happen at different speeds. Like you, I will be pacing myself — there are some seeds that don’t require such an early start. Thanks for commenting.

  2. My son was complaining that his pepper seeds weren’t sprouting. i will ask if he has them on a heat mat! Thanks for the step by step instructions. By the way, I also enjoyed your previous post with all the tropical plants on your wish list for Florida!

  3. I have been so slow to get started, but I have finally assembled my supplies. And now you’ve inspired me! Your assemblage looks so orderly! I will enjoy your chronicles of progress—what a great idea. Debra

    • I think what grows me off is that at the start of winter, seed starting time seems so far away. But with each year — and every jam-packed day — time seems to fly and it’s time to get the seeds in the ground. Great to know that you’re ready. Happy planting!

  4. Very nice & tidy looking seed starting Kevin. May you enjoy very high germination!! I’m slightly ahead of you with 165 winter sown milk jugs with 115 different seed types already sown and lined up outside like soldiers. Japanese maple, beauty bush, crocosmia, hardy geranium, Shasta daisy, stokesia, columbine, rose campion, cardinal flower and oodles of others. I expect to see the first sprouts on or about March 15. One advantage (of many) with winter sowing is getting my hands dirty starting on the winter solstice and having dirt under my fingernails right through the whole cold season.

    • I am jealous. Actually, I’ve only learned about winter gardening recently — and I don’t mean to rush through the next three seasons, but it kind of makes me look forward to next winter.

      • You don’t have to wait until next winter. The method is the same year-round. It’s called winter sowing from 12/21 – 3/20. After that it’s spring sowing until June 20 when it becomes summer sowing. As of September 22 it’s fall sowing. Starting on 12/21 allows the seeds that need cold, moist stratification in order to germinate to get a sufficient chill period. Many seeds don’t need it and can be sown whenever it’s convenient. Grab a milk jug and just go for it!

    • I like to think that as it evaporates it adds moisture into the air. The humidity probably isn’t as high as it should be, but — every little bit helps. Happy planting!

  5. Kevin, Just stumbled upon your blog. Love you attitude and title! Will be following your Blog to see what you are up to. It is very different here on the shores of Lake Michigan, maybe you can teach me something different and new! Jack

  6. Kevin – Do you always sow seeds in that size pot (they look like 4″ pots) or do you sow them in cells then transplant to larger pots?

    • Great question — and it all depends on my mood and the size of the seeds. Usually, I plant them in one pot — especially the smaller seeds. When they have their first set of true leaves, then I’ll pot them into individual pots. I also start some seeds, like Dahlia, in individual cells. When they’re large enough, I’ll transfer them to a larger pot. Actually, I plan to post this process very shortly — the seedlings are developing their leaves. Stay tuned and thanks for visiting.

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