Week 1 of the 2017 Season
Hi all and thank you for checking out my post! My name is Luke and this is the first in a series of posts meant to show the progress of my family’s garden in 2017. This week primarily covers starting seed.
One of the main purposes of our garden is to save money on food we would otherwise buy from the grocery store. We try to eat healthily, and that means a lot of fresh produce. Buying it all year long can definitely add up.
It is important for us to save money as our family grows. It is also important that we are consuming nutritious food on a regular basis. Doing so plays a major role in overall health and is something we want to continue as our family grows.
As I’m writing this it is my daughter’s first birthday (March 9). She is our first and we have another bundle of joy on the way. Making sure our children eat well and stay healthy is one of our top priorities as parents.
This post covers the starting date of the seeds on 3/1/2017 through the first week on 3/7/2017.
Starting Seed – 3/1/2017
In a recent post, I talked about how to grow peppers from seeds. The strategy is pretty much the same for most plants when starting seed. It is early March here in South East Michigan and Spring has been teasing us with short bouts of glorious warm weather. If you’ve got the garden bug like I do, you’re probably itching to get outside after being cooped up all winter.
When buying seed packets from the store you can read the back to see when the recommended time to plant is depending on the zone you live in. For us, cold tolerant plants will be the only thing we can start with this early in the season.
The seeds being started in the left half of the pod tray, as you can see, include Kale, Collard Greens and Swiss Chard. All of these are able to be planted in April in our zone (zone 6). To see what Growing Zone you are located in, go here and enter your zip code.
It may not look like it, but there are seeds in all of these pods. Most of them are just very small. I wanted to get these started and growing for about a month before transplanting.
The seeds in the right half of the tray all said they could be planted in May (except the peppers). Perhaps it is a little too early to begin these seeds, but I wanted to take my chances. I believe the peas will probably do ok if a cold snap comes through. As you can see, I’ve started Sugar Snap Peas, Spinach and Hatch Green Chili Peppers.
If you are following along and doing this yourself, then you need to push your seeds down roughly 1/2 inch into the soil. I used the flat end of a trusty wooden BBQ skewer. Then cover your seeds again with more soil.
I bought this 20″ x 20″ seedling heat mat from eBay for starting seed. They are being started in my basement on a concrete floor and definitely need a little extra warmth. I set the mat on a folded sheet as you can see. The instructions said to do so as it should give some insulation for the mat against the cold concrete floor.
I got the 20″ x 20″ size because I intend to be starting more seeds later this year and the common 10″ x 20″ size won’t allow me to fit two trays on one mat. The company claims it warms the root area 10 – 20 degrees over the ambient temperature. However, water is not a great conductor of heat. Chances are the roots may not receive the full benefit of the mat. But I definitely think it helps.
I filled the bottom tray about one knuckle deep with water. Before pouring I mixed in a small amount of Miracle Grow All Purpose Plant Food to my water jug. That should give the plants a little nutrient boost and support growth. The bottom of each pod has a small slit through which water will wick up into the soil.
The last thing was to add the plastic cover to the tray and setup the lights. They are OxyLED Grow Lights I found on Amazon. The LED’s come in 9 red and 3 blue per bulb. They are on a spectrum that is beneficial for plants. But be warned, it isn’t good to look at them for a long period of time. They can hurt your eyes. Being LED’s they don’t produce much heat, which can be good.
Many people set their lights very close to their grow trays. I don’t think that’s entirely necessary in my case. Especially with 2 bulbs set up like flood lights. As you can see, I have a couple of small trees (Moringa Oleifera) I’m trying to keep alive as well. They are the only two survivors of about 2 dozen trees I attempted to start last year. They also benefit from the lights with this setup.
If you are not familiar with Moringa Oleifera, it is a super food that abounds in nutrients. Knowing this, I’d love to grow it to feed my family with. However, it is a tropical tree and we are far from a tropical climate. More on that another time…
My Current Setup
Above is my setup in its entirety. No, it’s not gorgeous. In fact it’s kind of ghetto. But it will get the job done. I simply used what I had available. Please excuse the stuff, this is our basement afterall. The lamps are supported in place by twine that goes over the circular seat and ties onto the 2nd foot rest on the opposite side. I set the bag and bucket on top of either stool for a reason. They help hold the twine in place on the rounded seats so it doesn’t slip off.
The lights are set on a 12 hour timer. They currently come on at around 8:30 PM. The plants don’t get any natural light in the basement. It shouldn’t matter if they are getting light overnight. The transition to natural daylight should be easy. Being LEDs, not only do they run cool, they’re only 12 Watts each. So our power bill shouldn’t see a durastic change.
Pretty soon those trees will go in a South facing window. Eventually the current tray will be moved and two more full of other seeds to be started will be put in place. Once those seedlings are ready to go in the garden, this little operation will close down. More on that later.
Week One Update – 3/7/2017
As you can see, the seeds in the left tray have all germinated pretty well. Hopefully over the next few weeks they’ll grow strong and be hearty enough to transplant. I check on these every night and they’re already so tall that the plastic cover had to be removed (3/8/17). I’m hoping that won’t negatively effect the seeds on the right side…
Because they haven’t germinated yet. A few of the Sugar Snap peas have started to sprout okay. But nothing else has come up yet. And that’s totally okay because they are all intended to be transplanted at later date anyways. Again, it’s all about your planting zone.
I’m originally from the South and have spent most of my life between North Texas and Central Florida (zone’s 8 and 9 respectively). Sometimes I really miss being down there because the opportunity to grow presents itself earlier and later throughout the year. However, I’m not too fond of the heat and Michigan summers are pretty mild. Plus pests aren’t horrible up here in zone 6.
Hopefully you enjoyed this post. It is longer than planned for because it included both my setup and the week 1 update. The following weeks will simply show progress. Be sure stick around as I’ll continue to update throughout the season. Please share if you learned something!