Seed Starting in 2021

Giant of Italy Parsley is sprouting and ready to go under the light.

The Singing Squash Farm nursery is in full seed starting mode. I actually started the first seeds in early February. The first seeds to germinate were Black King Pansies. As I understand it the genus Viola has 4 subgroups of which the pansy is listed as B1. I thought this background on the name pansy was interesting so I wanted to include it here, from Wikipedia: The name “pansy” is derived from the French word pensée, “thought”, and was imported into Late Middle English as a name of Viola in the mid-15th century, as the flower was regarded as a symbol of remembrance. The name “love in idleness” was meant to imply the image of a lover who has little or no other employment than to think of his beloved. The name “heart’s-ease” came from St. Euphrasia, whose name in Greek signifies cheerfulness of mind. The woman, who refused marriage and took the veil, was considered a pattern of humility, hence the name “humble violet”. In Italy the pansy is known as flammola (little flame).

Black King Pansies. Seeds and image courtesy of from Baker Creek.
These are my pansy starts as of a few weeks ago.

Pansies were started early since they will tolerate cool temps. I decided this would be a good test for our new grow light and to test my seed starting skills. I have been researching seed starting since last year so I’m just happy to see healthy plants. For the most part we’ve purchased starts because we never had enough light for growing indoors. Early this year I bought a Spider Farmer SF-2000 LED grow light and I love it so far. I’ll share my review much later in the season once I have more experience with it. Here are a few pictures of my basement seed starting setup and PVC grow tent.

You can see through the Mylar from the outside but not from the inside. This pictures doesn’t do the brightness justice. The kids helped me put the PVC frame together. Now get down off the table 😉
Start small

One good thing I can say about this light is it comes with a ratcheting mechanism that allows for easy height adjustment. This is very important to growing success. Right now mine is at about 25″ from the top of the cells. I’ll be experimenting as the season progresses. Too far away and you’ll have leggy seedlings and too close they might burn. I’m tracking everything in a journal so I can see what works and refer back to it in future seasons. I highly suggest starting a journal.

I’m very excited to grow this celery!

Nearly 2 weeks ago I started celery next to my pansies. I love the look of this pink celery but I’m not sure if I’ll like the taste so I started mostly Utah tall celery along with some of this to add some color to the garden and try a new taste. I’m mostly using 50 cell trays with a bottom watering tray underneath because I think it’s a good compromise of cell count with a decent amount of time to up-pot. Is that even a word? One curious thing about celery is it needs light to germinate. I typically cover my soil and seeds with saran wrap and let it sit on a heat mat until the seeds sprout. In this case I just set half of the tray with celery under the heat mat to let my pansies stay cool. Celery is sprouting already!

My research tells me that celery typically takes 2-3 weeks to germinate so it feels good knowing things are going right. I check my plants every day to see if they need more moisture. Letting seeds dry out is a death sentence at this point. If I had the space and the lighting I wouldn’t start different plants in the same tray or even the same plant at different times because it can be difficult to make the conditions perfect for both. I may use 6 cell trays next year so I can isolate for specific needs better. The pansies have already been fertilized with half strength Alaska fish emulsion once before I added celery but next time I can’t bottom water the entire tray with fertilizer because sprouting celery doesn’t need it. This means I will have top top water the pansies and celery. I’m also keeping an eye on how many plants I start because some of these plants will need larger pots before they go outside. I don’t want to run out of room in the tent. I think I have enough room for 6 trays in the tent but I’ll probably limit it to 4 starter trays. Plan ahead. Plan ahead! I’ll share one more crop I started with you before I wrap this up. Look how awesome our little Mary Washington asparagus are doing.

Asparagus is a 3 year commitment before harvest but they can produce for decades which is pretty awesome. I stratified my seeds for a few weeks in the refrigerator before starting them to simulate a cool cycle. Asparagus seem to take a long time to germinate and to get 50 plants I probably planted 100 seeds so I may need to try something else next time. Hopefully there won’t be a next time and these stay alive through the next few winters. Perhaps I buried them too deep or didn’t stratify them long enough or maybe I just need to wait longer. Each day I’m still seeing new spears still.

Quinoa Sprouting

I also started Spanish onions a few weeks back and they’re growing well. Codi and I started Rainbow quinoa and tomatoes over the weekend. Quinoa took less than 48 hours to germinate! I’m excited to see how this goes but not very excited about removing the seeds from the quinoa. We’ll have to figure out the best way before the time comes. I know a few methods already but what is the easiest way? Let me know how your seed starting is going and feel free to ask about the plants I’ve shown in this post. Spring starts this week and March 20th is our 19 year anniversary so I’ll take a break from the garden for her;)

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