RSS Feed

‘Seed Starting’ Category

  1. DIY Friday – How to Grow Your Own Sprouts!

    March 1, 2012 by Jocelyn

    I love sprouts. I eat them on eggs, sandwiches, salads, you name it. I’ve always wanted to grow my own sprouts from seeds, and finally got the chance to do it this winter! While browsing Etsy one day, I happened upon some sprouting seeds. I immediately knew that I had to give them a try!

    I purchased the French Salad Mix, which is a combination of clover, arugula, china rose radish, and fenugreek, from Moonlight Micro Farm, and thus my adventure began!

    I did not buy a fancy sprouting kit, but instead opted to create my own with supplies I had on hand. For this project you will need only 4 items, listed below.

    Supplies:
    Sprouting seeds
    1 or 2 quart jar or container
    Cheese cloth
    A rubber band

    Step 1: One Tablespoon of seeds will completely fill a 1 quart container with sprouts, so I recommend either a 1 or 2 quart container. To start, soak your seeds in water for about 8-10 hours.

    Soaking Sprout Seeds

    Step 2: After the soaking period is over, rinse your seeds with fresh water, then drain. Do this every 12 hours or so for a few days. I rinse them before work in the morning, and once again before heading to bed. I let them drain upside-down in my fancy colander inside of a plastic bowl.
    Rinse and Drain Sprout Seeds

    Around day 4, you’ll see that it’s time to de-hull!
    Hulls in your sprouts

    Step 3: The easiest way to de-hull your sprouts is to remove the cheese cloth from the top of your container and just fill it up with water. Push the sprouts down a bit, and the hulls will float to the top, making it easy to remove them.
    De-hulling your sprouts

    Step 4: Around the same time that you’re de-hulling your sprouts, you should move them to an area with a bit more light. This helps them green up a bit, and boosts their flavor!
    *Special Note-around this time, I also like to swap out the cheese cloth for a fresh piece. All of that upside-down draining makes for a bit of a mess after a few days.
    Place your sprouts in a bright area

    Step 5: Enjoy!! After about 6-7 days your sprouts will be ready to eat! Don’t rinse them before storing in the refrigerator. I like to keep them in a container with a piece of paper towel to discourage moisture build up, which helps them to keep longer! They should last up to a week once you put them in the fridge.
    Yummy Sprouts!

    DIY Fridays have officially begun! Have any DIY projects you’ve been curious about? Let me know, and I’ll see if I can throw a guide together!

    If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my RSS Feed or get updates via email.

    Have questions? Comments? I’d love to hear them!


  2. Seedling Tips and Stories

    April 29, 2008 by Jocelyn

    seedlings1.jpg

    For those of you in colder zones like mine, you’ve probably just recently planted your seeds. I just planted my first couple flats a few weekends ago, and I want to give a few tips on how to make your seed starting successful. First of all, I just want to tell you that I’m not one of those people who create their own specialized soil mixtures. I don’t have that much time or experience- yet. These tips are fast and easy to follow.

    The Mixture:

    You don’t want to use heavy soil to start seeds in. The tiny roots won’t be able to grow very well, if they’re trying to fight their way through really dense soil. I purchased a bag of organic potting soil, and a bag of perlite. I mixed it about half and half. The soil should crumble easily in your hands, not stick together.

    The Temperature:

    I always read the seed packets before planting, but I’ve found that the majority of seeds I’ve sown have preferred warm temperatures, usually between 65-75 degrees. If you keep your house much cooler than this, you may want to consider a heating mat to put your flats on. Otherwise, a bright window may do the trick.

    The Lighting:

    Again, checking the seed packets is important for this. I’ve actually had some seeds that need darkness to germinate, so remember to check out the light preferences. Otherwise, most seedlings prefer bright light. If you’re in an area where you get little bright light, grow lights are definitely a good choice! I haven’t had a space to use grow lights yet, but I may try using one later on this spring.

    The Water:

    I usually dampen the peat pots with a spray bottle of water before I fill them with dirt. This just prevents them from soaking up all the moisture from the dirt. Once I’ve planted all of the seeds, I give all of them a good misting with the spray bottle again.

    Transplanting:

    This part can be kind of tricky. Once your little seedlings become established, you need to get them ready for moving outside. It’s important to harden off your seedlings before leaving them out for good. Start bringing them outside when the weather is fairly mild for an hour or so per day. Over the course of about two weeks, gradually increase the amount of time they spend outside, including breezy or rainy days.

    The day you actually transplant your seedlings outside should be slightly overcast, or lightly rainy. This will help ease the shock for your little plant.

    Remember:

    While these tips make seed starting sound so easy, I know sometimes there are seedlings that don’t seem to grow like they should. I’ve killed about the same amount of seedlings as I’ve been successful with. So don’t get discouraged if some of your seedlings die; it’s part of the learning experience!

    I want to hear from you!

    So, I want to hear from you. What is your seedling story? What seeds are you starting this year? I’d love to hear more about what everyone is doing this spring!

    April showers bring May flowers!

    Photo credit: sa_ku_ra


  3. 2008 Garden Plans Update

    April 21, 2008 by Jocelyn

    Despite the stubborn winter-like weather we’ve been having, I started my seeds last weekend. Here’s what I started:

    Veggies

    • Sweet Orange Peppers *
    • Green Peppers *
    • Early Girl Hybrid Tomatoes *

    Herbs

    • Lavender
    • Basil
    • Lemon Balm *

    Annuals

    • Impatiens
    • Violas
    • Snapdragons
    • Pansies
    • Cleome *
    • Marigolds

    These seeds are taking up 2 large flats that I’ve left with my parents. They get a lot more sunlight at their house, and that way I can pick them up once I’ve moved into my new place. All of the ones with a * indicate new seeds that I’ve never grown before.

    Also, I’m on the list for a 20×20 foot plot at one of the Community Garden sites this summer! I’m going to be planting lettuce, onions, green and yellow beans, along with the seeds I’ve already started. I’m totally pumped for this.

    My perennial plan for the new yard is on hold for now, as I really don’t know what kind of light the house gets. I will probably start working on that shortly after moving in.


  4. Mystery Seedlings

    April 26, 2007 by Jocelyn

    I have discovered some seedlings in one of my pots, and I have no idea how they got there. I got the pot from home, because it had some of my Calla Lily bulbs in it from last summer. Well of course, the pots got left in our cold porch through the entirety of our sub-zero, arctic-like winter; so the bulbs totally died, and aren’t going to be coming up this year.

    mystery-seedling2.jpg

    But, I was watering it anyways just because I was being hopeful, and now I have these little guys coming up. I have no idea how they got in there or what they are, but we will see. I am thinking that they look most like my Snapdragon seedlings I have started in my flats. Whatever they are, I’m sure I will find space for them somewhere in my garden!

    mystery-seedling1.jpg


  5. Plant Babies!

    March 27, 2007 by Jocelyn

    plant-babies.jpgI am in a great mood today; the weather has been awesome (it was over 70 degrees yesterday) and my plant babies are coming up fast! Here’s a picture of my Four O’Clocks- they are the biggest by far. My Impatiens, Violas and Pansies are sprouting too- but are much less exciting to look at. I was feeling so good that I dug right in and planted some more. I got my Pink Sunshine Petunias, Snapdragons, and Royal Carpet Alyssum started as well.

    I’ve been worried that I am going to end up killing some of my precious plant babies, so I decided to study up on how to keep them healthy. I found this article at www.savvygardener.com:

    While purchasing plants at the local nursery or hardware store is convenient there is probably no better and more satisfying way to truly experience the complete growing cycle than starting your own seeds. To get a jump on the season most Savvygardeners will start their seeds indoors so that they have small plants for transplanting after our last frost.

    Like so many gardening practices starting seeds indoors is not terribly difficult but it does require patience and careful attention. The following tips, while not exhaustive, will help you through most of the seed starting issues you may encounter.

    It Starts with Seeds
    The first thing you will need is seeds. Seed catalogues offer a seemingly endless variety of flower, vegetable, and herb seeds. We like to do our “window shopping” in catalogues but reserve our actual purchases for local retailers – especially those who are smart enough to carry only those varieties that will succeed in the Kansas City area. The good news – seeds are cheap.

    A Warm Place to Get Started
    You are going to need an area where the whole process will take place. Keep in mind that the ambient temperature should be between 65 and 70 degrees. You will probably be using artificial light so access to power outlets may be a consideration as well. And if you have small children or curious pets that innocently enjoy upsetting a good project like this you may want to think about keeping your growing seeds out of reach.

    Getting Down to Work
    Remember that different seeds have different germination and growth rates. As you will probably want to transplant your seedlings outdoors after the last frost this means starting seeds at different times. At Savvygardener.com we use the first full weekend in May as our estimated “safe” date to plant outdoors. By this date in Kansas City there is virtually no chance of further frost. Check the directions on your seed packs. You should find instructions indicating the number of weeks before “last frost” to start the particular seeds indoors. Work backward from the first weekend in May.

    Clean Containers & the Right Soil
    It is very important that the containers you start the seeds in be very clean. If you are re-using plastic seed flats from last year or if you are using saved food containers (yogurt cups, salad bar boxes, etc…) it is wise to use a mild bleach solution to disinfect them. All containers must have holes in the bottom to allow drainage – seeds want to be moist not soaking wet. For this reason you may want to use a rimmed tray to set your containers in.

    Fill your containers with dry potting soil. Soil-less mixes are best and can be purchased just about anywhere. If you want to make your own mix simply combine four parts peat moss, four parts vermiculite, and one part perlite. All of these items are available at your local hardware or garden store. Next, and this is important, thoroughly soak the soil in the containers with warm water and gently tamp down the wet soil. This creates the warm, moist environment that seeds need for germination.

    It’s Time to Sow the Seeds
    Place several seeds in each container. Bury the seeds at a depth that is roughly two times the size of the seed itself. For the smallest seeds just cover them with a light sprinkling of dry potting soil. Place the seeds in a spot with moderate light – not in direct sunlight. Normal household light will be sufficient in most cases. (Some seeds require darkness during germination. This will be indicated on the seed pack. In these cases simply cover the container with a piece of cardboard.)

    Your seeds will germinate best if you can maintain a soil temperature of 80 to 85 degrees. This can be achieved by using heat tape or heating mats available through catalogues and some hardware and gardening centers. Cover your containers with plastic wrap or use the domes supplied with seed flats to keep the soil from drying out too quickly. Check your containers once or twice a day and mist them with warm water as necessary. You do not need to use fertilizers during germination as all of the necessary nutrients are already in the seed itself.

    From Seeds to Seedlings
    When your seedlings emerge and the first leaves are opening it is time to remove the heat and give them more light. They need about 16 hours of bright light each day. That means a sunny window is less than ideal. Most Savvygardeners find that placing the plants under 40 watt fluorescent bulbs works best. Bulbs should be placed several inches above the seedlings and raised as the plants grow. Some people use a timer for their lights but we find it just as easy to turn them on when we wake up in the morning and turn them off when we go to bed.

    Now that the seeds have become seedlings they will need some feeding. We still recommend misting as a way to water the plants and at this point we add a balanced plant fertilizer diluted to half strength to our spray bottle.

    Survival of the Strongest
    If you put several seeds in each container you may now notice that some of them are not as strong as their container-mates. The weakest and spindliest seedlings need to be cut so the strongest ones will be stronger. If more than one strong plant is in a single container you may opt to carefully remove and transplant them to their own containers. There is no sense in attempting heroics to rescue weak seedlings as their chance of surviving the move to the garden is slim at best. That’s precisely why you should place more than one seed in each container to begin with.

    As the seedlings get bigger they will need to be moved to bigger pots in order to keep their growth momentum going. We usually use peat pots that can be set directly in the ground after last frost.

    Hardening Off and Heading Outdoors
    Toward the end of April you need to prepare your plants for transplant by “hardening them off”. This is done by gradually introducing them to the outdoors. Start by placing them outdoors for two or three hours, preferably near where they will be planted. Increase their outdoor time a little each day until, by last frost, they are ready to go it alone and can be transplanted to the garden.

    Things to Watch Out For
    Hopefully your seed starting will be trouble-free. There are a couple of problems while not common may pop up to challenge your nurturing skills:

    • Insects – If aphids, spider mites or whiteflies appear simply spray them with insecticidal soap.
    • Disease – Prevention is the best medicine and using sterile soil and containers is very important. “Damping off disease”, which resembles cotton balls that have been stretched across the soil, is a fungus that attacks the plant at the soil line. Damping off is best prevented by not allowing the soil to remain too wet. Good air circulation, aided by a small fan, will help.