When I first started out as a new gardener the concept of growing my own transplants was somewhat intimidating. I’d seen Martha Stewart do it, but I wasn’t Martha. I also didn’t see the need. In my opinion it was a bit like making your own crackers. Is it rrrreally that necessary to start completely from scratch?
I don’t exactly recall the first season I started a tray of transplants, but I do recall that the first time I was successful ~ I was hooked (and I’ve since started to consider making my own crackers; so I think there is something to starting completely from scratch).
*Growing your own transplants gives you much more control over what goes into your garden. Unless the nursery or sales representative is able to vouch for them, you have no idea where those transplants have been raised or what sort of diseases or pests you may potentially be introducing to your garden.
*Growing your own transplants gives you more variety. Seed catalogs offer so much more than what you can purchase at a nursery. While some merchants may be starting to offer heirloom varieties they are more than likely just a small sample of what is available. And vegetables are just the start. You can grow your own herb, annual, and perennial transplants as well.
*Growing your own transplants is much less expensive. A packet of 100 seeds can cost as much as a single store bought transplant or less. If you grow heirlooms and learn to save the seed, it will eventually cost you nothing at all.
*Growing your own transplants gives you greater flexibility. You can start what you want when you want it without having to rely on what the store may or may not have and you can be prepared to set them out on your own time.
Here then is a very basic list of supplies and a just a few tips to get you started.
1. Pellets or peat pots ~ I really liked the Jiffy Pellets when I first started. They were small and easy to store, and they came with their own lidded containers. The pellets are simply immersed in water until they grow to full size. Once the seedling reaches the proper size the pellets or pots can be set directly into the soil. Both of these items can be purchased at a general hardware or home improvement store. If you prefer to shop Amazon like me, I’ve also included them in the resources below.
2. Growing medium ~ If using the pots. This will come in a large plastic sack in the same area of the hardware store as the pellets. If you want to mix your own, you can and there are several tutorials out there telling you how. I would suggest you buy the medium ready prepared. If you are a new gardener some of the required ingredients can be a bit intimidating. A decent growing medium really isn’t that expensive or hard to find. I personally found it to be messy and for that reason preferred the pellets.
3. A heat mat ~ For such crops as tomatoes and peppers that need warm soil in order to germinate. These can be purchased through any gardening supply but do not use a heating pad. The temperature gauge is different. These are not expensive but I personally don’t think you need one right away. My pepper and tomato seeds germinated just fine when they were set on top of my water heater.
4. A good south facing window ~ seedlings need up to a good 12 hours of light in order to germinate. If you aren’t sure your windows get enough light, my advice is to try anyway. You’ve really nothing to lose. One year I managed to start several tomato seedlings, lettuces, and annuals for my flower beds just by setting my Jiffy pots in sunny windows throughout the house. They grew just fine.
5. Grow lights ~ This would be what I would consider a splurge item. My husband got me a very lovely set one year for our anniversary (only a farm wife would ask for grow lights for an anniversary gift).
6. Seeds ~ Obviously. This post gives more information about what to buy and where.
7. A good resource ~ When I first started out I found Square Foot Gardening to have a lot of helpful information. I also found several fact sheets through my County Extension Office and used their hotline from time to time.
8. Patience ~ Consider your first few tries a learning experience. You may end up with a great harvest ~ wonderful! You may end up having to purchase your transplants from the hardware store ~ wonderful! Take all sorts of notes on what worked and what didn’t and don’t give up. You will get the hang of it eventually.
Tips and things to remember
*Start with seeds that are easy to germinate such as lettuces, kale, zinnias, parsley, etc.
*Vegetables such as beets, carrots, and peas don’t take well to being transplanted and are best sown directly in the soil.
*The general rule of thumb is to plant your seeds at a depth equal to 4x the size of the seed more or less.
*Keep the pellets, medium, or soil covered until the seeds germinate. This creates a humid, greenhouse like environment that is friendly for germination. I use the clear plastic lids that come with the pellets or plastic wrap. Check on them every day, and remove the lid when the seedlings start to peek up through the soil.
*Keep the soil consistently moist. If the soil dries out it will interrupt the germinating process.
*Keep in mind that seeds such as tomatoes, peppers, Swiss chard, and spinach take a long time to germinate. In my personal experience these took anywhere from two weeks and sometimes even four before I saw any sprouts.
*Always sow 2 seeds to make sure you will get a sprout.
*A gentle fan on young transplants will help develop strong stems.
Do you enjoy growing your own transplants?
Resources (I apologize for the wonky alignment but wordpress and our rural interweb connection aren’t cooperating with one another at the moment):
Seedling heat mat ~ To use for such seeds as tomatoes and peppers that prefer a warm soil for germinating. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend one of these unless you plan to grow a lot of transplants. I was able to germinate my tomatoes and peppers just fine by setting them on top of the hot water heater.
Grow Lights ~ Again, because of the expense, I would only recommend these if you are planning to grow a lot of transplants. I have a large two ~ tier system on wheels that I absolutely love and use often.
Find this post and others like it linked to: Homestead Barn Hop, Homemade Mondays, The Backyard Farming Connection Hop, Wildcrafting Wednesday, The Homeacre Hop, Simple Lives Thursday, Farm Girl Blog Fest