Thursday, March 6, 2014

March is Seeds Time at Gardeners with Kids

It is March 6 and I feel that I am behind with starting seeds.
Last year's seeds starting set-up in my mud room.

Alexis, my 12 year old has been pushing me for three weeks to have her start seeds with me and she already started some Chamomile, some Leeks and some Basil two weeks ago and has seedlings that emerged.  Of course I helped her but somehow I don't have the motivation that I had last year when I wanted to do seeds under an indoor lamp for the first time.  I have everything ready and I am dragging my feet.

So the first thing I did this week is getting it together. I bought a new 72 plugs tray with cover for onion and leeks and washed with light bleach solution some old trays and 3" pots.  I bought  some soil free Seed Starting Mix which is very important to have no soil in.  You can find it in bags anywhere where you can buy seeds. This year I bought an organic version at a very good price.

I do not start using the mix until I sterilize it. I split it in two batches and placed it in a large aluminum pan (left from the parties) and baked the mix in a layer of 1-2 inches for 2 hours at 200F.  Trust me! You want to do it! The process will kill some of the fungal diseases sleeping in the mix.  Last year I had lots of issues with flower seedlings die off so when I started my Romanian Tomatoes seeds I also cooked my seed starting medium as described above and I no longer had issues.

I have saved tomato, peppers and two varieties of bean seeds from last year's garden and bought new Basil and Cucumber varieties, Dill, Chard and Purple beans. I also bought Leeks and Onion seed (new to me) which need to be started indoor NOW.
So now that I have all my materials I can get organized. This is the hardest thing I feel when it comes with seeds.  I made one pile with all vegetables and herbs that I will start directly in the garden and tied the envelopes with a rubber band and placed a note on.

 and one with the ones that need to be started indoor.

I do the same with flower seeds. Sunflowers, Zinnias,Cosmos, Love-in-a-Mist can be successfully started directly outside after the last frost date together with other easy to grow annuals

Next I check-up several calendars on line with the Last frost day for Northeast Ohio and decide what date to target.  I chose Mother's day or May 11 because it easy to remember and provides a 90% frost free based on my research. Last year, I already planted my veggies by that date and there was one frost night right on May 13. No worry! I covered the pants with some buckets and cut milk jugs and nothing happened.  Today is March until May 12 we have about 9 weeks left.
Next I organize the seeds that I want to start indoor by germination time in weeks and by growing conditions. Some seeds need a period of stratification or cooling before being planted under lights (aka Meconopsis). Some need covered in the dark until germination starts (aka Oriental Poppies) or the easy ones get started directly under lights.
In the 10-12 weeks category to start now, I have the Onion and the Leek seeds which Alexis was so helpful with and started for me yesterday.  We are late by 2-4 weeks but better late than sorry.

I also have some seed of new to me perennials and grasses from Hayefield gardens, PA. Garden geek , blogger and book author Nancy J. Ondra held a Fall Seed Giveaway and I can't let her down but try to start some of the beauties I requested from her  because some require a period of cooling before starting the seed. So I will have to start those today. I place the pots with the seed outside the house for the next 4 weeks then bring them in.
The next milestone for seed starting indoor is the 6-8 weeks to last frost date milestone which is the time to start the tomatoes and peppers. So is you live in zone 5b and agree with my Frost Free Date, mark your calendars: March 22 to April 12 : Time for starting Tomatoes and Peppers from seed.

The last milestone for indoor seed starting for me is 2-4 weeks before last frost date for Cucumbers, Zucchini, Squash and Pumpkins. So mark your calendar with April 19 to May 3: Time for starting Cucumbers from seed.

After checking out over 20 catalogs (paper and online) I managed to only buy Meconopsis or Blue Himalayan Poppy which I plan to experiment with this spring.   But where is spring? I hope that is somewhere close because I am loosing my mind in here.

How many catalogs do you look at in the winter? I feel that my list is growing.  I will dedicate a post just for my favorite catalogs sometimes in the future. Until then, happy seed starting.


  1. Sounds like your daughter is a Daniela mini-me...kicking right into gear with starting her seeds. Pretty remarkable! Lots of great info in this post and i will take to heart your STRONG recommendation to sterilize the soil if I do some indoor seed planting. I often have good intentions but then the outdoor chores and projects demand all my gardener's attention.

    1. Have you started the outdoor chores yet Michaele? How si you garden survive this crazy winter?