On February 11th I started some seeds: tomatoes (the most important!), peppers, flowers, broccoli, kale and chard. I used a cardboard box and a yogurt heater to keep the soil around 70°F. At that temperature, the broccoli sprouted just 3 days later. However, if I were to do this again, I would make sure to only start seeds with similar heat requirements and sprouting times. Trying to coordinate 5 different types of seeds in 1 starting setup wasn’t ideal.
After two weeks, I built another box to be a cold frame. I lined it with bubble wrap for insulation, thinking perhaps I’d leave it outside on warm nights with the heater in it.
I picked up some used acrylic sheets from Seattle’s recycled building supply place, the RE Store, for $4. When the sun came out, temperature in the box got up to 100°F, so I would leave a gap in the acrylic sheets to vent it. On cold nights I move the box indoors.The whole set up is more fussy than I like, but it’s what I could pull together right now with my budget.
Three weeks later, the second set of leaves are appearing – so exciting! However, most of the seedlings are leggy; their stems are too long and spindly. That’s because they didn’t get enough light in front of the window and I waited too long to start moving them outside during the day. I read a bit about how to fix leggy seedlings and the general idea is to bury them up to their leaves when you transplant them. Some folks say that will cause the stems to rot, some folks say they do it all the time with no problem. Once again I’m reminded of something that surprised me when I started: gardening is an art and no one really knows the definitive best thing to do. You just have to figure out what works for your soil, your beds, your plants and your microclimate.
This week I’ll put all my kale and broccoli out and hope for the best.
Red Winter Kale
The next challenge: hardening off. If I’ve been putting the seedlings out in a coldframe, how ready are they to be planted outside for real? Probably not so much yet.
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