How To: Start Seedlings for the Garden

Hello Readers,  

It's that time of year again!  (Actually, that time of year came a bit early here as we never had a proper winter at all in South Texas, come to think of it.)  I don't have a garden in this spring since we're getting ready to move, but wanted to share with you some of the seed starting methods we've tried, and how they worked.  Starting your own plants from seed is really fun and economical, and allows you to grow a HUGE variety of plants, far more so than the stock of pretty much any local nursery.  At the same time, however, the results can be less predictable than buying seedlings from your local nursery or garden center. I think doing a bit of both is totally fine.  Here are a few methods we've tried out over the past two years:  

1.  Using random containers

Pros: Using repurposed or recycled containers is free.  
Cons: Using large-ish containers like these made it hard come transplanting time...the potting dirt fell apart when we tried to transfer the seedlings to the garden, resulting in traumatized baby plant roots.  Some of the seedlings simply didn't make it, which was sad.


2. Using recycled seedling containers from the nursery

Better.  Pros: recycled containers from the nursery were also free. Uniform size of the seedling pots made it easier to position them under our grow light.  Transitioning from the little pots to the garden went more smoothly.
Cons: The dirt still crumbled when we went to turn the seedlings out of the pots, resulting in some root trauma.  Plant survival was much better.


3.  Lining recycled nursery containers with newspaper (skipping the shiny inserts)

Best!  Pros: recycled pots were free, and lining them with a layer of newsprint (with small holes poked in the bottom of the paper liner for drainage) and then filling with dirt/sowing seeds allowed the transplanting process to go seamlessly.  When we were ready to transplant, we simply lifted the baby plants, dirt and all, out by the corners of the newspaper and then dropped them in the garden.  No root trauma, no crumbling dirt. The newsprint naturally biodegraded in the garden. 
Cons: Lining the individual cartons took awhile and the newsprint gets all over your hands.  I felt like this was a small price to pay!


We used seeds from a variety of our favorite seed companies, and experimented with a variety of organic potting soils, earthworm castings, and finished compost. Tongue depressors and Sharpies made great labeling tools initially, although they didn't hold up to the elements that well and eventually the print on the sticks faded.  As long as you keep track of what's been planted where (by sketching a simple garden chart, for example) it won't be too much of an issue.  


Happy transplants in the garden!  


The real joy of starting your own plants from seed is the wonder of it all: how this...



...amazingly, slowly, beautifully, turns into this.  Has to be the best kind of magic!



Yours Truly,