Small Packages

It still completely blows my mind that a tiny speck of matter bursts through the soil and produces life in such abundant and varied forms. I get how it happens, I know the science, but that by no means eliminates the sheer wonder of it. This year, I’m growing as many things as possible from seed. Some plants are no brainers and easily sown directly into your garden like beans and squash but I’ve had mixed results with tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Germination and the hardiness of the plants compared to store bought transplants just wasn’t as good. I suspect it is my fickle nature that is to blame. I get all excited about planting from seed and then I manage to forget about those reused six packs with unseen potential sitting in a corner of the garden. My attention is drawn to the visible plants that more obviously beg for attention. In the end they have been undone by uneven watering. Or life gets too busy and I miss the window for starting seeds all together. Each season I vow it will be different next time.

Let me pause to say that if you want to start a garden and the seed thing is a bit much, you should absolutely, positively without a doubt do transplants from the garden store. There is no medal for doing a garden from seed. I’m doing it because I like the challenge but the point of a garden is to grow things you want to eat and if that isn’t going to happen without using transplants then DO IT and don’t look back. I have done it for a long time and the satisfaction of watching transplants grow and magically produce vegetables is no less.

If you want to give the seed thing a whirl, consult a seed starting calendar for your growing zone. I used The Digital Gardener’s Southern California Planting Schedule . The Farmer’s Almanac provides customized schedules for your zone. I also tried Jiffy Peat refills for the cucumber seeds which maintain moisture more consistently and I really liked them. I used a mixture of seed starting mix and compost for the tomatoes and got good results but I think I’ll try them with Jiffy pots next year. I didn’t bother buying the ridiculously overpriced plastic container. I just bought the refills and placed them in used six pack containers and placed the containers on a large container lid. I also bought a grow light and started the seeds indoors since night time temperatures are still too low for the wee little buggers to stay comfortable and keep doing their thing.

Here’s one of my janky ass basement set ups that seems to be working just fine. These are trays of old seeds that I wasn’t expecting much success with and I got a lot more seedlings than I thought. Now that I know it works I will invest in more lights and dedicate a whole shelving unit to house them next year. Or maybe not. I’m just not that dependable when it comes to forecasting my own whimsical motivations or ever changing schedule. But if I were you, I would definitely do it.

UPDATE: After writing this, I got turned on to soil blocks. They are what they sound like. Compacted blocks of soil, no container, that you can plant seeds directly into. The advantages are a) you’re not using peat which is not sustainable as I’ve just learned and b) your seedlings don’t become root bound like they do in pots which hinders them when they are transplanted. Goddamn those roots are smart. Once they reach the edge of the soil block and hit air, they stop growing and go into a holding pattern until they are transplanted into soil. When they get root bound in pots they start growing in circles around the contours of the pot which make it more difficult for the them to start healthy root growth when planted in your garden. So I just bought a contraption to make soil blocks and I’ll post on it soon.