The New Home Economics

And so it begins…

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Seed starting time! Let’s start with a public service announcement. How many of you have seen this idea floating around Pinterest? Well, I am here to tell you several things, including this:

Guidelines for using toilet paper rolls for starting seeds

This was likely a staged picture. Tiny seedlings placed in rolls, picture snapped, water added later (hopefully). You can tell by the little bits of dried soil on the edges of the container. Here are what my toilet paper seed starters looked like, only a few hours after filling with damp soil and seeds:

Toilet paper seed starters.

Unrolling all over the place! A few actually fell apart. HOWEVER! That’s not to say that this idea is all wrong, because it still has merits. And all the rolls in the middle of my tray are still fine, due to being packed in tightly. Here’s how my setup looks this year:

Seed starting setup

I’ve had mixed success with starting seeds in the past, so here’s what I’m doing differently this year.

  1. I chose cool-season crops that I can plant out in (hopefully) mid-to-late March in my hoop house, including lettuce, chard, kale, arugula and spinach. I’ll also direct-sow snow peas with them. (Don’t start tomatoes, peppers, etc. until mid-March.)
  2. I started the seeds directly on the surface of the refrigerator top, which is nice and warm. As soon as most of them had sprouted, I put these trivets under them to increase airflow and hopefully reduce the temperature a bit.  They’re cool-season plants, after all.
  3. Last year, my spinach never did sprout in this set-up, so this year I kept my spinach seeds in a damp paper towel in the refrigerator until they sprouted (6 days). I planted them yesterday; crossing my fingers that they’ll turn into baby plants.
  4. As you can see, I added some tin foil around the edges to bounce the light around a bit; in the past I’ve had pretty leggy plants so I’m hoping this helps.
  5. As soon as everything is sprouted, I’m going to train a very small fan on this area to increase airflow even more. This is also supposed to help in building strong stems.
  6. Note: toilet paper rolls should be packed in very tightly or they will fall apart.

Winter seed startingI’m also trying winter seed sowing again. It didn’t work for me three years ago, but so many people are doing this now that I can’t help but be tempted.

seedstarting5

I’m sticking to native perennial plants (except calendula), all of which prefer to be cold-stratified before sprouting. If this works, these are going into my boulevard. Last summer, we laid cardboard and woodchips over our entire boulevard, so the prep work is done. We’re trying to keep this project simple. In addition to these natives, we’ll divide and add some of our existing front-yard perennials. I’m hoping to not have to buy more than a handful of plants. TRYING to keep things a bit simpler than last year!

I can feel it: spring is coming! And it’s not just me… we’re getting a well-deserved thaw in Minnesota this weekend too, and it is glorious. Speaking of that, time to shut down the computer and GET. OUT. THERE!

 

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One thought on “And so it begins…

  1. I stumbled across your blog by searching for woodchips in the backyard, and I’m so glad that I did! My “mission statement” for my twin cities yard is very similar to yours, so I look forward to walking in your (probably muddy) footprints.

    Also just in case you didn’t know- the Kelley farm in Elk River is having a seed exchange this Sunday. There is more information about it in this gardenweb post http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/mngard/msg0115100332564.html?5

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