Seed Starting Part 3: Starting your seeds indoors

After a long winter there’s nothing more hopeful than pushing seeds into fresh potting mix.

For many years I have been starting my seeds indoors under lights before transitioning them to an outdoor unheated hoophouse.

I want to share with you how easy seed starting can be!

I’ll start by outlining what you’ll need to get started:

  • Pots and domes

  • Seeds

  • Potting mix or growing medium

  • Lights

  • Heat mats

  • Shelves

Now I’ll walk you through each of the above items in more detail…

Pots and Domes

I use 11x21 inch trays and fill them with soil blocks. Interested in soil blocking? Read more HERE!

You can also use 4 pack or 6 pack plastic containers. Or plant straight into 3-4” pots. You can find all these options at your local garden store.

So should you choose a larger pot or smaller pot? If you plant into larger containers you won’t have to worry about transplanting later when your plants are getting big. But if you’re growing a lot of plants you’ll get more plants in less space if you use the 4 or 6 packs.

Also invest in a few plastic domes! These will help keep the humidity perfect for seed germination.

Seeds

Read Part 1 of my series on seed starting HERE. It’s all about ordering seeds.

Potting Mix

There are a few products that I really like. If you’re in Anchorage, you can find them at Southside Garden Supply or Alaska Mill and Feed.

1) Pro-mix MP Mycorrhizae Organik. This is a great all-round potting mix and it’s organic! I’m using this for all my seed starting needs this year. It is also working great for soil blocking! Find this in cubes at Southside Garden Supply.

2) Fishy Peat or Alaska Earth - made in Alaska! I’ve had success with both products. They are not organic but are made with wholesome natural ingredients. Both can be found at Alaska Mill and Feed.

3) Fox Farm Light Warrior or Ocean Forest- this company has a variety of potting mixes and seed starting mixes. They use natural products and they work great! Southside Garden Supply and Alaska Mill and Feed carry these.

Note, that if you’re growing a lot of starts, buying a cube will be more cost effective than buying individual bags. Ask your local garden store if they offer these products in cubes!

Lights

To be honest, I tend to be opportunistic when it comes to lighting. I look for free stuff and cheap stuff. And what’s great is that they’ve all worked just fine. So here’s what I’ve used: LED shop lights from Costco, florescent shop lights as found in any hardware store, grow-specific LED lights. All these will do the job! I say buy whatever fits your budget best.

The most important steps when it comes to lighting is 1) to keep the lights just a few inches from the plant to prevent “leggyness” and 2) to give your plants 16 hours of light (an inexpensive outlet timer works great for making this happen).

Heat Mats and Thermostats

For the BEST germination, invest in a a seed starting heat mat AND thermostat made specifically for this. This will cost you around $70.00-$80.00 If you can’t afford this your first season, don’t sweat! But even soil heat at around 75-80 degrees will give you the best seedling germination.

Soil temperatures are roughly 10 degrees cooler that ambient room temperature, so often your soil may be cooler than you think without a heat heat mat.

Shelves

I use simple metal wire shelving so I can stack my seedlings. But get creative here! You’ll just need a place to hang the lights and a place underneath to set your trays.

NOW you’re READY TO PLANT!

1) Fill your pots with damp soil

2) Put 1-2 seeds on top. Your seed packet will give you a germination rate for each seed. If its less than 80% put 2 seeds in each pot.

3) Lightly cover with soil. Just barely cover as light aids the germination of most flower seeds. I like to cover just so there is a bit of soil contact on top of seed.

4) Cover with a plastic dome and place under lights and on heat mats.

Happy planting out there!

Seed Starting Part 1 (a 3 part series): 4 Great Sources for Ordering Garden Seeds

I’m putting together a 3 part series on seed starting for all you home gardeners out there!

This first one will give you a look at my favorite places to buy seeds for my home garden and commercial cut flower, salad mix and herb garden.

The second one will cover how to plan your dream garden (STAY TUNED).

The third will walk you through how to start your seeds indoors (STAY TUNED).

So here’s a quick breakdown of where I order my seeds.

I prefer to order all my seeds online. The variety is endless and it’s easy to source organic and heirloom or open pollinated varieties if that’s what you’re looking for.

1) Johnnys Selected Seeds. Johnny’s is a comprehensive seed company out of Maine. They carry almost everything you would want to grow AND have tons of growing guides and resources. They carry organic, heirloom, open pollinated and conventional seeds.

I usually order the bulk of my seeds from Johnny’s as the quality and webpage functionality is outstanding.

They offer free shipping for orders over $200.00.

2) High Mowing. This is a company that sells exclusively organic seed out of Vermont. I love this company because I know everything is organic and extremely high quality. Most of my salad greens seeds come from High Mowing.

They offer free shipping on orders over $10.00! This is a screaming deal.

3) Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds. A company out of California that sells heirloom and old fashioned varieties. Their prices are VERY reasonable. Their print catalog is also SUPER fun to look through.

I usually only order some rare and unusual veggies or flowers that I can’t find anywhere else. Even though I don;t order much from them each year, what I have ordered has had great germination and good quality. And their packets of seeds usually have way more seeds than other seed companies.

4) Foundroot. I will admit that I haven’t ordered from these guys yet. BUT they are an Alaskan company that I would like to support. They have hand picked varieties that do great in Alaska and cater to home gardeners - which means their packet quantities won’t overwhelm you.

Their webpage and buying options are a bit clunky but I hope to stay tuned as their business grows.

So there it is! Page through some of these online catalogs or request a print catalog. Curl up in your cozy chair and dream about your spring garden.

Oh, and when do I do this?? I start putting together my seed orders in January. If I have any last minute purchases, I’ll do another order in February or March. Don’t wait too long as specific seed varieties do sell out! And, before you know it, you’ll be starting your seeds.

Stay tuned for the next Seed Starting Series on Planning Your Dream Garden!

10 Must-grows! My absolute favorite varieties from the 2018 flower cutting garden

The end of the growing season is a good time to reflect on what went well and what needs improvement for next year. There is simply nothing that compares to learning things from experience, sometimes the lessons are hard and other times they are joyous.

I’m going to focus on the latter and share with you my ABSOLUTE FAVORITES from my 2018 cutting garden. These flowers stunned me every time I entered the garden with their productivity, abundance and beauty!

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