I’ve been getting the itch to blog again, since I don’t do instagram or facebook anymore. For me blogging is like a public digital scrapbook I can look at instead of flipping through our 1000’s of flickr pics. I’ll be helping out with the The Garden Bloggers Fling here in Madison this weekend, which I’m hoping will inspire more posts. I still take tons of pictures of plants and gardens.
So I’ve been starting seeds in a lazy manner for years in San Francisco as pictured above. I’d buy trays and domes at the local cannabis grow shop, use regular potting soil and mostly start stuff that’s really easy. Considering I did it outside with varying conditions and would sometimes forget about them it was pretty successful. Not everything worked, but lots of it did. I also started propagating cuttings of my cool fuchsias, salvias, heck all kinds of weird things to share with people.
I was so lazy back then I put sphagnum moss in the bottom of cell packs, so they wouldn’t dry out as fast. It helped with survival rates with my inconsistent watering. It looks like more sphag than is really in there. I used to put a pinch in the bottom.
Way way back before iphones even existed I started a bunch of stuff in a Wisconsin basement closet under florescent shop lights and learned the hard way about properly hardening off plant babies. A few luffas survived and proceeded to eat our back deck. It was amazing, I’m really sad I don’t have pictures of it all. I’m hoping to get one to eat the side of our porch this summer and have hortonova trellis ready if it decides to take off.
Wisconsin winters are cold and don’t include hot pink blooming Salvia iodanthas as pictured on DECEMBER 30th behind the seedling. I was watching TikTok videos and saw a guy using LED shop lights to start plants. I googled around and it seemed legit. Matti set this up for me with a basic wire shelf and six 4′ LED shop lights from Harbor Freight (they were only $18 a each if you bought three only a couple months ago). We have a big power strip that’s on a timer back by the junk in the corner. I bought a heat mat for some of the seeds that like it a little warmer.
It worked! We had a greens farm going within a month. I now grow them differently than pictured above for a bunch of reasons. I also stopped bottom watering everything in the bathtub and switched to bottom watering them in trays like a civilized person. It’s also much easier to feed plant babies properly that way than the tub. All my seed starting supplies came from Jung’s including their wonderful seed starting mix. They’re the ones who threw in a free luffa seed packet years ago that I’ll never forget.
So I went a little overboard with seeds. The ones pictured are only the ones with pretty pictures on the front (shout out to Select Seeds, I love you guys). I tried to keep it as simple as possible even if it doesn’t look like it from that picture. I went a little overboard with zinnias, basil and pickling cucumbers buying seven different varieties of each, but how can you choose just two or three? I spent hours and hours and hours putting way too many seeds in my cart, then taking some out and adding different ones. I ended up ordering from Johnny’s, Territorial and Select Seeds. I picked up some fun extras at Jung’s as well. As much as I would like to buy from Baker Creek, their whole deal with supporting racist militia members leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
While waiting for the seeds I dorked out and made a Google doc with copied and pasted pictures and info about everything I planned to start. If you’re curious you can check out my flower seed choices here. It’s really handy when you don’t have everything memorized and want to pull up info about stuff quickly. I busted it out on my phone when I forget spacing for stuff. I have one for veggies, too. It’s really cold and dark in January here in Wisconsin, there’s lots of time to stare at pictures of future plants.
After messing around with growing greens, herbs and even a couple cucumelons (the vines on the top right shelf that are now living their best life on the upstairs neighbor’s balcony) I got more serious. Not serious enough to use something other than our box fan on the dining room table for airflow, but it works. The lights are so powerful on the shelf that they have given new life to my abused Sansevieria collection and little monster.
Remember simplicity? I have four types of marigolds and three types of cornflowers growing in these two flats. For starting seeds I pretty much follow the directions on the packet. I have a big plastic tub where I mix up seed starting mix with water and a spatula like a cake. You don’t want it to be too soggy. Sometimes I mix it a little drier than I should, but I just bottom water it in a tray a little. I bottom water everything until the very end. Seed starting mix is like a sponge. I use how much a flat weighs to determine if it needs to be watered or not. That’s probably the trickiest part of the whole operation. That and making sure to label and date everything. I use painters tape and a sharpie.
I expected to have planted everything up there in the ground by April 22nd, but thanks to a wintery spring had to wait longer than expected. Look at how cute everything was back then. Our place looked like a mini garden center for a few weeks. I was convinced a band of drunken raccoons was going to come through and rip everything apart, but it never happened. No squirrels or birds either.
This wire shelf was great for hardening off plants since it faces south east and close to the front door, so heaving them in and out was easy. That’s Lake Monona across the street. It froze over with no snow in January, so we were able to skate on it for two weeks! It’s pretty fun to walk around on covered in snow, too. I’m not a big fan of winter in Wisconsin, but Zoe LOVES it!
I’ve grown Dahlias before, but never from seed. I had heard it was easy, and it’s true. I started a cactus flowered mix and ‘Bishop’s Children’ mix to keep it simple and pinched them back a few times. We’ll see what happens in the garden bloom wise later this summer.
Yep, I started seven different basil and pickling cucumbers. I would recommend going for even number of varieties if only for the sake of being able to plant flats of the same thing easier. One of the more cut flowery type basils is not pictured. My favorite basil is the cutie little green Finissimo Verde A Palla in the back rows that’s easy to snip over anything.
Hardening off the cucurbits on the porch stairs. It’s all been in the ground for awhile now, but it looked like a plant shop pop up out front for a couple weeks. I’m trying out a bunch of fun squash and even two types of little melons. We have a plot at Eagle Heights Community Garden for the super big stuff. I went a little crazy one day and planted a ton of cucumbers on our back chain link fence, and even a few summer squash at the front of the backyard border.
Quite a few things I started from seed are blooming now including all the marigolds, but the winner for first flower and possibly sexiest marigold there is goes to Select Seeds ‘Burning Embers’. The celosias were the biggest pain in the ass to start out of everything. I’m down to only one shelf of plants now including a flat of lettuce for sandwiches and have switched over to propagating cool stuff via cuttings to change it up a little and to take a little seed starting break. I unexpectedly got full creative garden control of our front and back yard at our rental in May (long story), so I went to town jamming as much fun stuff as possible in to every nook and cranny like I do with all my gardens. It’s all a fun science experiment that hopefully attracts some bees, birds and butterflies along the way.