Thursday, March 22, 2012

How I'm Learning to Start a Garden From Seed

Starting from seed is the cheap way to garden.
Image by Master isolated images

Tonight I had the opportunity to attend a Seed Saving Workshop (free!).   The people giving the workshop were fantastic.  I’m such a gardening novice, and I confess to having forgotten nearly everything I learned in Biology 101 (let alone Microbiology).  I tend to be of the “stick a seed in a pot and cross your fingers” variety of gardener.  This, of course, means that my garden generally doesn’t produce much.

After this workshop, I’m really excited to get some seeds started this weekend!  I got to take home some beans in potting soil, so hopefully they will get going.  I also want to get started on my radishes and lettuces.  Apparently, it’s getting to be prime time and they grow pretty good in cool spring.  I could be having my first homegrown salad in about a month’s time!   Looks like I need to pick up some potting soil and fertilizer this weekend too. 

This is how big a novice I am when it comes to gardening:  I was under the mistaken impression that fertilizer was fertilizer.  Bzzzzzt!  Wrong!  I wasn’t even aware of the nitrogen/phosphorous/potassium ratio.  I have a pretty good idea now why my tomatoes last year went insane with the greenery but only produced about three tomatoes.  Apparently my fertilizer was too heavy on the nitrogen side.  For tomatoes, I should have been using a low nitrogen, high potassium blend.  (Don’t laugh—I’m aware of my gardening ignorance!)  But I’m betting that what I used last year will be great for my lettuces.

One of the speakers at the workshop was a local gardener named Caitlin Moore, aka the Urban Food Warrior.  I highly recommend you check out her blog, since it’s just loaded with great information.  I plan on making it a regular resource.  She also works at a place called Cascadian Edible Landscapes, which is apparently not too far from me.  I fully intend to check it out, maybe this weekend.

I wanted to share with you some of the cool things I learned at the workshop.  If this isn’t news to you, I apologize.  Once again, gardening idiot in the house!  I fully intend to grow a decent garden this year!

  • If you want to save seeds, don’t buy hybrid.  You don’t know what you will get.  Open pollenated seeds are the best for seed saving.
  • You can store seeds for ages as long as you keep them in a cool, dry place, like a jar in the refrigerator.
  • Don’t fertilize seeds.  Fertilize seedlings about once a week.  Use liquid fertilizer if you are using sterile seed starting soil, pellets if you are using potting soil.
  • Plastic strawberry containers make great miniature greenhouses!
  • You can reuse your gardening containers as long as you sterilize them with a vinegar/water solution.
  • When thinning seedlings, you should cut, not pull, to avoid disturbing the surrounding roots.
  • Seedlings need 16 – 18 hours of light per day!
  • You should “pet” your seedlings to encourage them to develop strong stems that will help them survive once they are planted outdoors.
  • Soil temperature should be about 50 degrees before you plant seeds outdoors.  Containers (like I use) tend to keep soil slightly warmer (so what they heck am I waiting for??). 

I’m looking forward to getting the garden growing this year!  What other great seed starting tips do you have that aren’t commonly known?  


  1. Thank you for stopping by today! I have enjoyed reading and can't wait to read more! Please always feel welcome to stop in and share anytime!

    1. Glad you like the blog! Thanks so much for stopping by!