You know how you get an unreasonable amount of seeds in each little packet? And you look at the packet and think, “Hmm, yeah, I could have 30 early tomato plants since supposedly you little seeds are only good for a year, but I really want a bunch of different varieties to grow in succession so I can be rolling in tomatoes in their prime…” And then you end up with seeds saved for next year, which is fine, but the germination rate is a bit lower, and you still really didn’t want 30 of one variety.
This is where the seed starting party comes in. My mom, my bestie, my sister, and myself all collaborated this year with our seeds and our niece to have a wider variety of tomatoes, peppers, and mystery vegetables. While I’m sure I could have had the 150 ground cherry plants all to myself, with deciding to share our seeds we could have 4xs the variety of plants without having to spend 4xs as much on seeds and wasting what we didn’t use. For my friend who is allergic to cooked tomatoes and thus storing them is very unlikely to go well, this was a particularly good idea.
This week (and, well, the last couple weeks) are when it’s time to start your tomatoes and peppers in the Pacific Northwest indoors. I’ve never actually started from seed before, though the idea of spending $3 for a packet of seeds instead of $3-5 per tomato plant seemed pretty appealing. Of course, given I live in the Pacific Northwest and all my windows and skylights in my house face the north (great planning, home designers! Then again, I guess there’s nothing but giant trees on the south side…), seed starting is a little more complicated than throwing some seeds in the dirt and calling it good.
TL;DR Version: Fungus fuzz sucks, line light better than square light, online had better prices for seed starter trays, plant trays without holes, grow lights and such for starters, local hardware stores (Lowes, Home Depot, McDaniel’s Do-It-Center, etc) had better prices for seed starter mix.
- Weather forecast keeps calling for snow every week (VERY unusual here – thankfully my Egyptian Walking Onions didn’t have a problem continuing to thrive despite the extra snow)
- It’s humid here. If it’s not snowing, it’s raining! Bring on the mold/fungus!
- While we get crazy amounts of sun in the summer, the winter is crazy amounts of darkness. Not like Alaska or Russia crazy, but still able to be inhabited by humans crazy. Currently we’re approaching nearly 12 hours, but again, rain, gloom, doom.
So, the above called for a few things. Namely, seed starting indoors. The safe date for the last freeze in Washington is around the middle of April, so…
With my buddy from Shady Side Farm, our first task was to find the best prices on seed starting equipment since we’re delusional about how many garden beds and how much space we’ll have ready. The internet seemed pretty determined that you needed grow lights or else you’d end up with leggy, floppy seedlings. Fair enough, but which one?!
I ended up getting this grow light with a stand for about $45.99, and my dear friend decided to get this square grow light which was about half the price of mine when she got it, figuring she could buy two if needed. I mainly went for the stand light since I was planning on setting my operation up in a closet upstairs since my house is still in renovation mode with fancy cabinets blocking every window in sight. While I could plop it under the skylight in the kitchen, it’s a bit far from the light source and very dusty from all the sanding.
After I realized the light could get even closer to the plants (as close as about a foot away), I think we ended up deciding mine was probably better just for ease of use and set up without having to attach it to anything to give the plants light, but really varies.
After reading about peat moss pots, compostable pots, and other non-reusable pots, we decided to go with good ol’ plastic. The price really couldn’t be justified, especially since reviews generally said planting them in the ground restricted the root systems of the plants.
We ended up with these 720 starter cell trays at Amazon, splitting them between 3 homes and letting my niece do one set of trays. They priced out cheaper than anywhere else we checked, though the five labels for seeds is pretty funny. We also got a 10 pack of plant trays to put the starter cell trays on top of for watering and general not making my house a mess. At the time, the link was the cheapest, but prices fluctuate so maybe something else would be less expensive! All the offerings are pretty similar online, and it was much cheaper than what we found in store.
For transferring our tomatoes/peppers when they (hopefully) grow up enough, we got circular 4″ pots, but we are definitely not there yet!
Seed Starter Mix
This was all my friend’s doing! She ended up buying the generic organic seed starter mix at Home Depot I believe since it had a better price than our local Flower World, Sky Nursery, Lowes, and online. One thing I will say though, we wet it per the instructions we saw online and ended up getting the white fungus growing all over. We’ve both let it dry out a few times and it still persists across everyone’s settings. Not sure if it wasn’t sterilized, if fungus loves the Pacific Northwest (this is very, very true!), if we got it too wet, or what. Usually people say to take off humidity tents if you get mold, but we haven’t been using them since…well, we live in humidity. So far things seem to be growing regardless, but I’m not sure if we’ll be able to save the plants from damage if it keeps up!
We ended up passing our seed packets around, labeling the outside of our plant trays with painter’s tape and writing what we were planting where (who needs those 6 silly little sticks?!), and taking photographs of any weird seed packets we were worried we’d forget the directions for. It ended up being pretty fun, with my little niece getting in on the planting party too! Here’s hoping her pre-maturely planted pumpkin survives!