Seed Starting Day…Yay!

Start Your Own Seeds for Your Garden

I admit it. I do not do well during the short, dark, cold days of winter. I so look forward to the spring every year. That’s why seed starting day is a day I relish in. To me it is the first sign that spring is just around the corner. The dark days of winter will soon be gone. Here is the way we start our seeds.

1. Gather your necessary items
Those would include:
Seeds, soil, a shallow tray or bucket to moisten your soil. a tray to place your plants in, a propagation mat, jiffy pots, plant stakes and a permanent marker, vented humidity dome, and a lamp if you are starting indoors.

Seed Starting Kit

Seed Starting Kit

Seeds – should be for this year, although I store my seeds in the refrigerator in a baggie, and I have used seeds as old as 10 years and gotten germination (sprouting). Of course the germination rate may not be as high as with fresh seeds, but I don’t like to throw anything away. I just plant extra seeds when planting. You should also make sure that you are planting the proper seeds for the season you are planting.

Soil- I use a good grade of potting soil. The one I have been using for the past couple of years is a natural and organic seed starting mix. You will need a bucket to work the soil with some water before planting. If you don’t do this the water will just sit on the top of the soil and not penetrate it at all.

Tray – You should have some sort of shallow tray to place your seeds in for watering.

Propagation mat – I suppose if one thing on this list would be desirable rather than completely necessary, this would be it. I always use a propagation mat under my seeds. It will warm the soil and assist the germination rate (how many seeds sprout) and also give you healthier seedlings.

Jiffy Pots – These are available at just about any garden center. These are made from compressed peat. They are biodegradable, so you plant the entire pot. I remove the bottom of the pot when planting. I usually just throw it in the hole since it is biodegradable. The great part about these is that you are not disturbing your roots.

Plant Stakes and a Permanent Marker – There is nothing more frustrating than planting a seed, watching it grow, picking your vegetables and saying “What variety of tomato is this? I would really like to plant it again.” Be sure to mark your plants and be sure to use a permanent marker.

Vented Humidity Dome – This also assists in the germination of the seeds. It will help to keep the humidity higher. This can be removed once all of the seeds have germinated.

Lamp or Lighting – We use fluorescent lighting with wide spectrum lamps. They don’t produce any heat, so they can be close to your seedlings without damaging them. As a rule of thumb these should be placed 2 – 6″ above your plants. You can start out as low as an inch. Monitor your plants to make sure they are not getting burned. If you find they are too warm, move your lamps up slightly. This is where a stand with an adjustable height is really nice. Also, as your plants grow, you are going to want to be able to raise your lights to meet the height of the plants.




2. Make sure that all of your items are clean and ready to use. If you are reusing soil, it should be sterilized before use. For the homeowner, most will start with new soil. You will probably be reusing some of the items such as your tray and your bucket. Just make sure that everything is good and clean. This will help to cut down on disease. You may even want to use a really dilute bleach solution to rinse the items before use.

3. Moisten your soil – You should take the amount of soil you think you will need and place it in a clean bucket or container of some type. Mix in water in small amounts until you come up with a crumbly consistency. Place your moistened soil in your jiffy pots up to the rim of the pot.

4. Plant your seeds – I like to place 2 to 3 seeds in each pot. Some recommend only placing one seed per pot. I think that the cost of the seeds is so low that I would rather not take a chance on that being the one seed that will not germinate.

5. Mark your seeds – Do this as you are going, pot by pot. We have not bought any markers for years. We have an old mini blind that we use. We just take the slats apart, clean them good and cut them into marker sizes. There is nothing wrong with recycling here.

6. Place your heat mat in your tray and place your jiffy pots on the heat mat. I use a simple basic heat mat without a thermostat. There are heat mats available with a thermostat if you want to be able to set your heat to a specific temperature. Plug in your mat.

7. Place the humidity dome over the tray. Keep an eye on this. You don’t want to get too damp of conditions. A dome with an adjustable vent is preferred. This will be removed once the seedlings have germinated.

8. Turn on your lights – Now is the time to turn on your lights. I have mine on a timer. I set them to come on at 5 AM and go off at 8PM. Be sure to monitor the height of the lamps as your seedlings grow.

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Finally, for the best seedlings you should follow these rules.

1. Plant at the proper time. Plant about 6 weeks before your last frost date. If you are not sure of this you make be able to get a vegetable guide from your local extension office. If you are not sure where your local extension office is just search for extension office, my town.

2. Don’t over or under water your plants. If you are not sure of this, watch your plants. If they start to shrivel, they probably need more water. The soil just be damp to the touch only. I like to water from the bottom. I find that it is gentler on these young plants. I just fill up the bottom of my tray and watch to see that the water is taken up at a reasonable rate. If I see that the water is sitting in the bottom of the tray I will dump it out.

3. Watch your lights. Make sure that you are moving them up with your plants.

4. Harden your seedlings off. Your plants have been inside and not exposed to wind or the harsh sunlight. You will want to take the tray outside for about 7 – 10 days before you plant them. Place them in a well protected, semi shady location at first for a brief period of time. I start with about an hour. Then, gradually move them to a less protected spot for a longer period of time. This will help strengthen them and get them used to being in a wind. Make sure to keep them watered well at this point. Once you are done with the hardening off, you are ready to plant.




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Double Polyfilm Greenhouse

Greenhouse With Inflated Double Polyfilm Glazing

Double Polyfilm Greenhouse

There are many benefits to polyfilm greenhouses. One thing is that some municipalities will consider this a temporary structure and will not require permits, wind and snow load ratings, etc. They are also less expensive than a rigid polycarbonate covered greenhouse. One disadvantage to this is that most of the greenhouse polyfilm found today has a 4 year UV protection, so you will have to figure on replacing the covering every so often. Double polyfilm greenhouses consist of 2 layers of polyfilm with an air inflation system for greenhouse film blowing air between the 2 layers. This will give you a much better R rating than just a single layer of film. Manufacturers claim that it can save you up to 40% of your energy costs. That is quite a considerable savings. I find that the inflated film is more rigid and less susceptible to damage than a single layer of film. This all happens without lowering the light transmission properties of the polyfilm. This is an excellent choice that has been used by many commercial growers through the years and is totally acceptable for a backyard greenhouse operation. Be sure to use greenhouse polyfilm that is UV protected and has an anti condensate coating on it. If the film is not UV protected you should not expect to get any more than one years use out of it, sometimes even less. The anti condensate coating keeps droplets from forming on the film. This will contribute to the overall health of your plants. Any condensation that does form on the roof will come off in sheets rather than in droplets. If you have water dripping on your plants you will have damage to your leaves, fruits, flowers and overall less healthy plants. So, when considering your first or next greenhouse, take a look at a double polyfilm greenhouse and see what benefits it will give you.

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Do It Yourself Hydroponic Systems

Deep Water Culture Hydroponic System

DWC Hydroponic System

This one is for all of you d-i-yers out there. This article is from our friends at Garden and Greenhouse Magazine. It discusses the different types of hydroponic systems and how to set up your own hydroponics in your hobby greenhouse. I have owned a greenhouse full of hydroponic systems, experimenting with the different types to see which I liked the best. I think I preferred the NFT system. We used it to grow basil. It was as simple as could be.

Do-It-Yourself Hydroponics

Experimenting with hydroponic gardening is a fun and productive way for greenhouse hobbyists to expand their horticultural knowledge. The term “hydroponics” is a general name that encompasses all methods of soilless gardening. In other words, there is a multitude of ways to garden hydroponically. However, don’t let the seemingly infinite amount of hydroponic systems deter you from giving hydroponics a try. One of the best ways for greenhouse hobbyists to break into hydroponic gardening is by making a homemade hydroponic system.

 

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Want to Extend Your Harvest Season This Fall?

Slitted Garden Low Tunnel

Garden Row Cover

The low tunnels or garden row covers are perfect to extend your season at the beginning and the end of the cycle. They come with a slitted cover as shown above, or with a perforated cover. They extend your harvest season by offering frost protection of 2 to 4 degrees F. To harvest, you simply need to pull the cover up and gather your crop. Then, just stretch the cover taught again and refasten the side. In the spring they will assist you in planting early, even up to 10 days before suggested planting dates. They will help to warm the soil and protect young seedlings from harsh spring winds. The perforated covers will offer the most warmth, with the slitted covers offering the best ventilation. These covers are only meant to be left on your garden for 3 – 4 weeks. But, I have personally used these in a different manner. In the South, we plant our strawberries in the fall. We usually have to apply and remove frost protection for brief periods of time. Last year I put the low tunnel cover over my strawberries for the entire winter. I used the slitted. The biggest problem was in the spring. No bees or wind could get in to pollinate the plants. I ended up using a small paint brush and pollinating them myself. The strawberries were yummy. Actually, the covers turned out to be much sturdier than I originally thought. We have some serious winds in the winter. So, get a head start, harvest longer, or experiment with your own system with these covers.

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Advance Greenhouses Turns 15 on August 14, 2017

Greenhouse with Polycoolite glazing in the snow

Advance Greenhouses Personal Greenhouse

Yep, That is Tom and my greenhouse. We really do practice what we preach. We think everyone in America should own a greenhouse! This was a rare snow storm in SE Louisiana. I don’t think the neighbors could even believe that we were outside in this mess. Today I just wanted to take a minute to reflect on the beginning and growth of Advance Greenhouses. Fifteen years ago Tom and I were studying how to get on the internet. We knew the product we were interested in, as we had been selling and installing greenhouses for a while. Our first adventure with polycarbonate was in 1993. We got a book about 4 inches thick on how to set up a website and dove into it. What in the world language were those people using? Something I had never heard of before. I am sure we fought and cussed our way through it and came up with what was an absolutely horrible website. But, people started to find us. We also did a lot of local garden shows to put the word out. Fifteen years later, here we are. Through the years we have had the pleasure of speaking and working with many like minded people. We love flowers, but we also love fresh food that we have grown for ourselves. Our greenhouse has been multi faceted. We have stored my cherished hibiscus plants, started seeds for the garden, started annuals and perennials for the flower gardens and even grown some food hydroponically in our greenhouse. As I tell people, it is a learning curve to figure out exactly what will work in your greenhouse. There are some hard, fast rules, but we are all growing different plants under different circumstances. We all have to do a little bit of experimenting to figure out what works exactly for us. In closing, we are running some sales this month as a customer appreciation (also an appreciation for what we have thanks to all of you). Visit our website to see the specials. Our business is very personal and very rewarding for both of us. Thank You! Tammy and Tom

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