Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's Seed Time!

I got very excited last week as the outside temperatures became increasingly warmer and the snow began to recede.  Although I wasn't intending to start seeds indoors just yet the next thing you know I was elbow deep in seed packets and peat.  I just couldn't resist.

Last year was our first gardening season in this house and I wasn't sure what to expect in the yard so I didn't bother starting any seeds indoors.  This year though I know what plants are in the yard and what beds are available so I decided to drag out my seed equipment and dive in.

The first issue was sorting out my equipment.  My heat mat had died in the cross country move and I also sold my lighting fixture back in British Columbia.  The first thing I did was purchase a 20 x 20 inch heating mat from Lee Valley and a lighting fixture was put together by hubby.  Two fluorescent plant lights were purchased at the hardware store along with various wires and a music stand.  I'm not sure about the particulars but I'm thrilled with the results.  The light is attached to a music stand that moves up and down so I can adjust the light as the plants grow.  Very cool.

Looking up at the light fixture
With those pieces in place I was able to pull my self watering seed tray out of a box and set it up.  The deep tray is filled with water and sits on top of the heat mat.  A second plastic tray sits overtop the water and holds a watering mat which soaks up the warm water transporting it to the small propators sitting on top.  The idea is that there is a vast quantity of warm water always being provided to your seeds and less chance of them drying out and expiring.  I'm not really doing justice to the mechanics of it here but it really is a marvelous invention.  

This is a photo of the whole contraption below.

The big piece of white cardboard was a genius idea from Janet at Plantaliscious.  She talked about using a light coloured board to reflect light and make sure your seedlings grow straight and strong.  Well just as I was thinking of seedlings what should show up in the recycling at work.  Somebody was doing a presentation and when it was over they left this great big,  pre-folded board just for me to find!  The world works in mysterious ways.  Thus far it seems to be doing the trick, instead of lighting up the whole room the light hits the board and is reflected back at the seedlings.  Judging from my amaranthus (Love Lies Bleeding) seedlings below I'd say it's working well.

I admit I didn't look at the packages too closely before planting.  Bad choice.  The amaranthus germinated in 2 days and they're now an inch tall.  They will be gigantic before I can plant them out.  Should have waited a few more weeks.  There's nothing like learning through trial and error.  The basil sprouted just a day or two after the amaranthus but has yet to reach any great heights.  Hopefully they will take it slow but I probably should have waited a little longer to plant these as well.

Onions, tomatoes and mystery seeds from MIL (Dianthus?) have also been planted.  A few heirloom pink tomatoes have begun to sprout but everyone else is taking their time to join the party.  In the coming weeks I will plant more flower seeds and bring in the currants that I cold stratified outdoors and see if I can't bring them to life.  I think starting plants from seeds might possibly be my favourite aspect of gardening.  I'm always amazed at how something so tiny with a little water and warmth catches hold of life and turns into a plant.  Having a hand in that process is incredibly amazing and it's a thrill each year to look at a plant that I started from seed. 


  1. This is Skookum and I know, you know, what that means)))). Wow, what an operation...yours looks way way more sophisticated than my old rusty grow lights..but what we both feel deeply about, is that moment when the seeds's pretty awesome.

    Great gardening M. Fingers crossed for both of us in the coming seasons.

  2. Wow, that is an impressive set-up, I need to get in on starting seeds indoors. I can only imagine how rewarding it must feel.

  3. I too think you have a pretty nice set up. Hope your seedlings all spring forth into healthy, vibrant plants. The reflecting board is a very good idea.

  4. I am impressed! Surely your seedlings do well with such a good start on life. I look forward to seeing the results growing in your garden.

  5. Wow, you have quite a set-up there! It will be fun to see your progress over the next couple of months!

  6. How handy is that light and table set-up? Kudos on the design and have fun with the seedlings. :)

  7. Great set up you have! And, isn't it wonderful to see the seedlings growing!

  8. Your contraption is impressive. Now you just need some warm weather and sunshine and little bit of frost free spring. Isn't it amazing what those tiny tiny seeds turn into?

  9. Bren - It really is some kind of miracle isn't it? keeps me coming back every year. and now you've got me thinking about skookumchuk narrows.. I miss that place.

    ONG - I didn't realize it was so fancy! But then my mom used to grow plants in old pots with cellophane wrap so I guess it is pretty fancy. I just know how much easier it makes the process.

    Donna - isn't it great? As soon as I read about it I thought of course! you use light reflection in photos, why not for plants.

    Deb and PlantPostings - me too! Each day I come home and check my little boxes. It's so exciting to ponder what the plants will look like in the coming months.

    Ms.S - I am so fortunate to have a creative and multi-talented husband (who also happens to collect lots of weird thing) to make me a light like this. When I mentioned it he said, yup, I got a music stand in the basement that would work for that. no problem. how awesome is that? He makes gardening so much easier for me.

    Karin - I was shocked to see the seedlings pop up so quick. Talk about instant reward.

    Laurrie - it is quite a contraption! good thing we have lots of empty space in the house. I'm with you on the warm weather, we almost had it but then it snowed again. Must be patient but it's so hard right now.

  10. It was smart of you to wait a year. Now you can plant your garden as you please. Good luck with your seeds. They are like having little babies!

  11. I did the plant way too early thing last year and had full grown nastursiums and others before I could put them outside! This year it got full spring by the second week of Feb so I skipped indoors and just did the operation out on the backsteps.

    On the basil, I actually grow a pot indoors and it does just fine, so I wouldn't worry about it. And it takes forever between 2nd leaf set and 3rd anyhow.

  12. oh ps. your seedlings look like supermodels with that lighting setup you've got going on!

  13. Holley - Waiting a year certainly was a good idea but I'm still far ahead of myself! I didn't create nearly enough beds last year so we'll be digging as fast as we can again this spring to create more room.

    Jess - Thank you! that's great to hear about the basil. It popped up quickly but seems to be stuck at less than a one centimetre. I'm glad to know this is typical, now I just need to create some room for the next bunch of seeds.

  14. I have a rather brown thumb when it comes to seeds. I usually go to the local nursery late May early June and get plants already started.
    I have tried many times to start seeds but usually I either forget to water them or water them too much :)
    I love your set up though and really look forward to seeing your seeds grow.

  15. Fabulous set-up Marguerite - and I'm thrilled you decided to give the white board thing a whirl. So exciting when seedlings begin to emerge.

  16. I love the use of the music stand to be able to adjust the height of your lights - great recycling tip.

  17. Johanna - I used to have the same issue but then I bought this wonderful propagator. Sometimes it's just about having the right equipment for the job. Now I can put water in the plastic tray once or twice a week instead of having to water each and every day.

    Janet - I'm so glad you suggested it. It's a fantastic idea.

    Debbie - The music stand was a fluke. Who keeps an extra music stand hanging around the basement?! But it fit the bill perfectly.