Starting Seedlings, Part Two Get Set!

Seedlings under the lights

So, that said, let’s get our hands dirty!  You can start seedlings in a sunny window (and by sunny I mean a southern or southwestern exposure), but they tend to get tall and skinny with weak stalks before you can get them in the ground.  Also, If you are going to raise a lot of seedlings, you will need more space than a window sill can provide.  It might be time to invest in a plant starting rack.

Invest?  Wasn’t I just saying that starting your own seeds will save you money?  Yep, but as with most things involving self-sufficiency, some up-front investment is necessary.  I found a portable greenhouse a few years back that works well for starting plants.  It has four wire shelves and it came with a plastic cover, which I have never used.  I guess it is considered portable, because it is on casters.  I don’t move mine.  For starting seedlings, I hang regular shop lights from the shelves and now I have a lighted plant stand.  You can use those metal kitchen racks or you can construct something from 2 X 2s and hardware cloth, but whatever you do, it will cost you a few bucks in the beginning.  However, you will have it for years afterward and it will save you lots in the long run! (Note of caution:  be careful not to fill up your plant rack in the off season with things you will have to find a home for come spring.  I use mine to dry wool, so nothing makes a permanent home there, but I know how attractive open horizontal surfaces can be.)

Okay, you’ve got a place to raise your seedlings, now what do you put them in?  Some people like those little expandable peat pellets or the pots, and those are okay, as long as you remember to open the bottom of the pot when you plant it.  It is tough for little roots to break through those and you can stunt the growth of the plant if you don’t.  Some people use all kinds of repurposed containers, such as egg cartons, yogurt cups, and even egg shells.  You can get really creative with it!  I tend not to use those, but if that appeals to you, go for it.  You can also buy a little wooden thing that allows you to make pots from newspaper.  They decompose over the season.  Market gardeners are fond of the soil blocking system.  There are many options available!

I use plastic pots.  If you treat them gently, as in don’t leave them lying about all summer to be exposed to sunlight and stepped on, (yes, I am guilty of that sometimes) they will hold up for years.  They are also designed to fit inside planting trays, which yogurt containers and egg cartons are not, so you can get more seedlings into the same space.  You can buy them new at garden centers.  It’s been a while since I’ve had to purchase any, but they aren’t too expensive.  Don’t get sucked into the “mini greenhouse” scam.  You don’t need the plastic top.  It will just make your seedlings rot anyway.

You can get all the plastic pots you want for free by going to cemeteries. In the spring, people buy flowers and plant them on their family graves and most people throw away the pots at the cemetery instead of taking them home.  Don’t feel weird about dumpster-diving in a cemetery; you are doing Mother Earth a favor by keeping those pots out of the landfill, and saving yourself a lot of cash in the process.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: