As you can see, the cucumbers are getting a bit crowded in the starter pot and it’s time to move them to individual pots. All you need are pots, a rich, loose potting soil like Thunderhead Potting Soil from Geo Growers or Vortex Potting Soil from The Natural Gardener, and something to pull the soil back to make room for the plant. Fill the pots to about a quarter of an inch from the top.
If this is your first visit to my seed starting experience this Spring, you might want to start at the beginning. This is a quick progress report. I started cucumber and basil seeds on January 3rd and the cucumbers sprouted a few days later on the 7th. I started tomatoes and jalapeños on the 10th and they started sprouting a week later on the 17th. The cucs grew really well and could have been (read, should have been) transplanted into individual pots on the 15th or 16th once the 2nd set of leaves emerged. Being the lazy gardener I am, I transplanted them today. I’ll document the transplant procedure in a few days, but here’s a photo of how they looked a couple of days ago.
The cucumbers on the front right are getting pretty crowded in their little pot. The basil in the back right is growing pretty slow and the tomatoes on the back left have just started sprouting.
The first post spells out the basics for starting seeds. Now I’d to share a few pictures to show the process in action.
The pots are filled to about half an inch to an inch from the top with a moistened seed starting mix. Then I sprinkle seeds on top of the soil – about 20 can be started in a 4 in. pot.
Now cover the seeds with soil to the depth specified on the seed packet. Water gently until the soil is thoroughly moist.
This is my setup using a 5×5 plastic greenhouse available at several places around town. The seeds can be started just as easily indoors or in a garage, but the soil temperature has to be at least 70 degrees for most Spring veggies. Rubber seed starting mats can raise the soil temp 10 – 20 degrees above ambient. The lights need to hang 2 or 3 inches above the plants. One of our members puts the seed trays on the floor under his kitchen table and hangs the lights from the table.
Here’s the greenhouse from the outside. I don’t know why someone didn’t think of these sooner – they setup like a tent.
Here are the cucs sprouting a few days later.
Come back to follow the progress. These plants should be ready to move to individual pots in 2 to 3 weeks.
It’s a great time to start Spring vegetable seeds for our own gardens and for the annual AOG fundraiser plant sale. Transplants from seeds started now for Spring crops like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant will be ready for our plant sale in early March and planting in our gardens in mid-March after the average last frost date for central Texas. Start a flat of your favorite veggies, keep a few for yourself and donate the rest to the club.
Check back here for more details and updates over the coming days and weeks, but I wanted to provide a quick guide for getting started.
There’s a bunch of information in books and on the web for starting seeds and almost as many different methods. I’m not going to attempt to recreate all of that detail or say that this is the best method – this is just a diary of my experiences based on a method I learned from one of our long time club members.
Space is one thing to keep in mind from the start. Starting seeds in 4 in pots as we’re doing here doesn’t require much room, but you will need additional room when the plants are transplanted to individual pots. For example, 3, 4 in pots are needed to start seeds for tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, but you’ll need space for 3 trays when you transplant them to individual pots in a few weeks. I’ll discuss options for handling this in future posts.
All you need to get started are:
- 4 inch pots
- Good planting medium
Optional equipment includes:
- Seed starting flats
- Seedling heat mats
The basic equipment is easy to find and relatively inexpensive. For lights, we use 3 or 4 ft hanging, florescent shop lights with 1 cool bulb and 1 warm bulb. For soil, I’ve had good luck with Lady Bug Seed Starting Mix. There are other good mixes from local suppliers like Geo Growers or The Natural Gardener. You can even mix your own based on recipes available on the web. 4 inch pots are generally available from local nurseries either to purchase new or free reuse of used pots.
Here are the steps:
- Fill a 4 inch pot to 1 inch from the top with a loose seed starting soil – it’s best if the soil is slightly moist. Tamp the pot lightly on a hard surface, but don’t pack the soil.
- Sprinkle seeds on the surface
- Top with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil depending on the planting instructions for your seeds
- Sprinkle with water
Moisten the soil daily to avoid letting it dry out. Light will be needed as soon as the seeds start sprouting – this is usually within a few day. The lights need to hang within 2-3 inches from the top of the plants and remain on for 12 hours/day.
The plants should be ready to transplant into individual 4 inch pots in about 3 weeks and then ready to go in the ground in mid-March. I hope this helps you get started and I’ll fill in more details in future posts.