Seed Starting: Round 2

If you have read posts from last spring, you know my first foray into seed starting yielded mixed results. I'm trying a different setup this go around and making a few changes:

Moving the operation out of the basement: both times I started seeds last spring, they started out okay, but ended up growing fungus or becoming 'leggy', and just didn't do that well. I think there were a few issues with the basement - I didn't have a warming mat and I think it might have been too cool down there for the seedlings, especially the warm-weather plants. I expected the shop light to give off more heat, but apparently safety standards have improved since I last touched a shop light. I don't know if the fungus had something to do with the basement, it's an old house and an unfinished basement without a lot of air circulation. So, I decided to try a new environment and set up a space in our pantry which is upstairs and next to the laundry area. Our landlord requires a space heater in the pantry because the room is an addition to the back of the house and he worries about pipes freezing. So as long as we have to have that on, I figured we could get double duty out of the heat and put the seedlings above it to keep them warm. I am also hoping having them upstairs will help with the fungus issue (and inconsistent watering issue as seeing them every time I go into the pantry helps me remember to keep them watered :)

The new seedling digs upstairs in the pantry

The new seedling digs upstairs in the pantry

Seed starting mix: I am trying coconut coir as a component in the seed starting mix for the first time. It is supposed to be a more sustainable version of peat moss in addition to having high water-holding capacity. And it is weird! It comes in a solid brick that you soak in water and then crumble. The kind I purchased came in a very large solid 'brick' and I knew I would not need all of it. So as it soaked in water, I chipped and peeled away at the brick until I had enough coir for my seeds. I purchased perlite, vermiculite, and compost at our local gardening center and mixed everything together in our wheelbarrow. I used the following recipe:

  • 4 parts screened compost
  • 1 part perlite
  • 1 part vermiculite
  • 2 parts coir       

(organicgardening.com)

So far, so good! These seeds were started on February 15th, so the pictures below represent 10 days since planting. In the left container you have a few different lettuce varieties, and from left to right in the right container you have herbs (thyme, parsley, basil), leeks (not sprouted), pak choi, and swiss chard on the far right. The environment in the container on the right is quite humid and retains moisture that keeps the pulp pots wet. I opened the vents on the clear lid because, while I want the soil to stay moist, too much moisture can lead to damping-off, which is what I think happened to a lot of my seedlings last spring. I hope the seedlings like their new lodgings, definitely an upgrade from the haphazard PVC arrangement in the basement. I guess we'll have our answer in a few weeks!