April 20, 2009
So it begins...
Early Saturday morning, I got up and planted my seedlings.
As you may recall, I've been talking about doing this for a while, but it took longer than I expected to pull together all the necessary materials and then find the time to do it. Here's the play by play of the plan.
Step 1 - Potting Medium
First I had to take the coir and add 1 and 1/4 gallons of water to it to turn it from a rock hard brick to something resembling a potting medium. I had purchased 2 bricks because I didn't know how much it would turn into once I added water and the bricks looked pretty small. I definitely only needed one, I now have a plastic grocery bag full of the stuff sitting on my porch, plus the unopened brick that I didn't even use. Anyone in the Boston area need this?
Step 2 - Something to plant in
Next, I prepared the plastic egg cartons. I'd been holding onto plastic soda bottles and plastic egg containers for a while, with the intention of making some seedling trays and mini-greenhouses so I had a ton on hand. The ones I have include a ton of excess packaging: bottom egg cups, top egg cups and top flat lid, all made of clear plastic. I used some scissors to cut off the top egg cup part and used those for a water tray at the bottom. I used a steak knife to puncture the bottom egg cups so that water from the bottom tray could get to the potting soil to keep the seedlings and soil moist.
Step 3 - Assembly
I pressed the coir (which was thoroughly water soaked at this point) into the egg cups and then used a pencil to create a small indentation in each "cup." I decided to devote each tray to a different type of seed: shallot, marigold, arugula, parsley and basil. This is not the most ambitious assortment of seeds, but given the fact that I have yet to do this successfully I wanted to start small.
I tried to drop 3 seeds into each indentation (though I am sure I ended up with 4 or 5 in a few.) I marked each tray with some coffee stirrers and then filled the bottom (formerly top) egg cups 1/2 way with water and placed the covered coir-filled cups on top.
Step 4 - Location and lighting
I borrowed a small table and set it up with 2 grow lights by the window. The grow lights are REALLY close to the seedlings which I think is how you're supposed to do it. For now, they're mostly keeping the soil a bit warm, but soon they'll provide the light the seedlings need to grow. The grow lights don't cover every single seedling in light evenly, but I'm hoping it'll work out. If anyone out there with more experience than me looking at these photos sees a problem with how I'm doing this PLEASE let me know. I really really really want this to work!
Step 5 - Care and Maintenance
My plan is to turn the lights on when I leave in the morning and off when I get home from work each day. I'm sure I'll need to thin the seedlings eventually and maybe turn the trays around if it seems like the light is hitting some more than others. I'm also planning to check the water in the bottom tray every day and just refill those when they seem lower. I think this should be the right amount of water, but who knows?
List of Worries:
1) Is the light enough, too much, too close, too uneven?
2) Is turning the lights on and off bad in terms of the temperature during germination?
3) Is it too much water? They're basically sitting in water all the time right now.
4) Everything is covered up greenhouse style right now. I assume that at some point I'll want to uncover them. When should I do this and how do I keep my cats from eating them?
5) If this works, how do I harden them off and get them ready for the garden? Do I need to transplant to something larger first? I've kept a bunch of soda bottles with the idea that I might transplant some of the seedlings to these at some point.
As suggested, I did create one larger soda bottle greenhouse with basil seeds and stuck it on my porch. It seems way too cold outside for this to work, but I'm hopeful.
Believe it or not, this was only the FIRST major garden related project of the day. More to come shortly.....