Getting a jump start on the season is always a good idea. I have had my trials and errors with seed starting over the years and have often ended up purchasing large tomato and pepper plants to put in the ground. This year I am going back to the way I used to start seeds a long time ago and that always worked well for me. I had given it up because of my lack of success transplanting them (that was before I knew you were supposed to water more than once a week!) and went on to more professional ways of seed starting, none of which worked for me.
I bought peat pots (good bye $100), I bought seed starting kits with mini green house lids, I bought grow lights (which mysteriously disappeared from my garage and is probably being used to grow pot by one of the neighborhood kids). I bought seed starting medium, I took classes, I watched each seedling meet its untimely and sad little death. And after all that money was spent, I had to find more money to go buy grown plants. I should have stuck with the tried and true for me. And that was creating little mini green houses on the cheap.
You will need organic potting soil, some Styrofoam cups, rubber bands, and sandwich bags. So far I am fourteen dollars into this venture. Yesterday I planted eighty-nine tomato, pepper, and eggplant seeds and still have plenty left to start more.
Organic potting mix is a must! You don’t need extra chemicals in there promising twice the growth when you may end up accidentally poisoning wildlife and bees. Everything needs more water here in Colorado so I have found that the seed starting mediums don’t hold enough water.
I know, I know, Styrofoam? How unsustainable. But they don’t fall apart like newspaper, peat, or paper cups. You need several weeks to get these started and I have had pots positively decompose before I could even plant them! I reuse the cups year after year. If one breaks it can be added to the cold frame or between two boards in the chicken coop for added insulation. It can be crushed up and added to the bottom of a pot before adding soil to make it lighter. And the plastic one-time use trays don’t seem to be much better from an environmental standpoint. We’ll just keep giving them new lives.
Fill cup with soil and mark outside of cup with variety name with a permanent marker. Believe me, you think you will remember, but you will not!
Water soil, don’t make a lagoon, just make sure it is uniformly wet, about a quarter cup in a twelve ounce cup.
Add two seeds. One to grow, and one for insurance, but no more than that or you will have to cut a lot of little seedlings out and waste seeds. And organic seeds cost a bit!
Add just a bit of soil to cover the seeds and add about a teaspoon of water.
Place the opening of a sandwich bag around the rim of the cup and secure with a rubber band to create a mini greenhouse.
These can be placed in a very sunny window sill. This year I put mine in the green house. Seeds need sun and warmth to germinate along with humidity and water. That is what we are creating in this environment.
This will self water for about a week. You will see the condensation rise and fall off the sandwich bag. Once it is not as humid in the bag, remove the bag and water with a spray bottle until seedlings are well established. You can replace the bag as long as the seedlings are not too tall. Don’t let the cups dry out (it is harder to without drainage holes) but don’t make it too wet either. Just moist.
This makes a great homeschool project and is an excellent way to provide your family with more food security by starting your own vegetable seeds. This will be a tasty summer!