Sunday, April 14, 2013

Starting Seeds to get my Garden Fix

The view out my kitchen window is unusually white for mid April. A foot or more of snow still covers my raised garden beds. The tops of the compost bins are peaking out, the black plastic trying to melt the snow around them but nowhere near efficient enough to cook compost right now. I imagine it to be one solid block of the winters veggie scraps sitting on top of autumn's leaves. I can't help but check daily, noting how the sun is now high enough for full sun in my beds. My house is a two story on a postage stamp of a lot. In the fall, the angle of the sun turns my whole backyard into "where the sun don't shine", literally. I've toyed with the idea of cold frames only to realize after hours of planning that no cold frame will work if the sun doesn't shine on it. So while I wait for the slow melt, I'm turning to indoor seed starting to get my fix.

First I needed to make sure my handsome assistant was available. His brother Emmett had just gone down for the AM nap so I knew we had a good hour.

I ordered all my seeds in January from Heritage Harvest Seeds, a Manitoba business that only sells open polinated and heirloom varieties. I like that these seeds came from my area and that I could save them for next year if I wanted. I couldn't wait to start gardening so I had already planted some red onions (Tropeana Lunga) back in February.  I then decided to add a heat mat to my collection. I failed at starting my melons last year and had heard that lack of heat could have been the problem. I really really want melons and Jason asked for peppers so I made leap and bought a heat map. Other than the florescent light set up, the heat lamp was the most expensive part of my indoor equipment. It was about $30.

 Wyatt and I had another garden morning April 6th and planted basil, lettuce, 3 different tomatoes, sweet peppers, spinach, beets and swiss chard. We used the peat pellets that came with the heat mat kit to plant 2-3 seeds per pellet and put them on the heat to germinate. The difference was awesome, seeds were popping up in 3 days. Unfortunately I made some beginner mistakes. I should have taken out the plants that had germinated and moved them under the lights. Instead, I just popped open the lid and waited for the rest of the seeds. After a week, the tomatoes were already leggy and the chard and beets were hitting the lid. I also think it was too hot for the spinach and lettuce. Only a few plants had bothered to germinate. I know it is still early and hopefully in their new non-heated home, the rest will pop up soon.


We transplanted the tomatoes, burying the stem deep so that new roots will grow and hopefully making them hardier. Only 1 of the 3 peppers had sprouted so it stayed on the heat mat for now along with the basil (I read that both will benefit from a little longer with the extra temperature).


So under the basement lights they go. Now if only the weather would start co-operating. My official last frost date is the end of May. I was hoping to put out cold weather plants (onions, lettuce, chard, beets) at the end of April. We'll see.

Do you like to garden? Have you ever considered growing backyard vegetables?


  1. Could you tell me more about your grow light system? I am thinking about doing that next spring, so I am fact finding and want to have all my supplies on hand so I am ready for starting seeds next year.

    1. Hi Cindy,

      I started with a four foot long shop light and two "plant bulbs". Soon after I bought a plug in timer so the light would turn on for 16 hours, off for eight. This system worked great except that the plants on the edges would grow toward the center to reach the light and I was constantly rotating them around.

      This year, I added another 4 foot shelf and light so that I could start more seeds. I went with a 4 foot long shop light that holds 4 bulbs instead of two (the width is now the same as those black planting trays). In the new light I used two "warm" and two "cool" bulbs (much cheaper than the "plant" bulbs). The plants grew straight and tall without needing to be rotated. I also bought additional chain link so that I could adjust the height of the light fixture as plants grew.

      I bought everything at home depot but if you're not in a hurry you could probably find one second hand too.

      Hope this help! Let me know how it goes.


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