Saturday, April 20, 2013

Starting Seed Indoors

In hopes that spring is indeed coming to North Dakota eventually, today's post is about gardening.  Oddly enough, on Monday the school that I teach at had a 2 hour late start because of a snow storm on Sunday.  Yes it snows a lot in North Dakota but it is not a usual occurrence to get 10 inches of snow in mid-April.  I know that the Minnesotans are feeling our pain as well since many of my teacher friends in our neighbor state had 2 hour late starts or no school yesterday (the 19th of April!!).  We all have to believe that spring will indeed come and eventually summer as well.  With that in mind, I have started my vegetable plants indoors.

This is the 3rd year that I have done this and it has been quite successful.  My set-up is fairly inexpensive and anyone can do it. I have it set up in my basement.
The supplies necessary are:
  1. A wire shelving unit-the one I have is from Target-wait for a sale and you can get one for around $30
  2. 2 shop lights-about $25-30 a piece
  3. Bulbs for shop lights-you don't need special plant bulbs, I just use regular old fluorescent ones.
  4. A couple of s-hooks-really cheap at any hardware store
  5. 2 jiffy pot kits with plant warmers-They are usually about $35 a piece but I got the second one for $25 because it was on clearance.  The plant warmers are necessary for our cold unfinished basement but you may not need them if you are setting yours up in a heated area.
  6. A power strip for plugging in the lights and warmers

The s-hooks are essential because they allow you to adjust the shop lights.  You want them to be as close to the seedlings as possible without touching them.  For planting the seeds follow the instructions on the jiffy pot units and the seed packets to see how many weeks they need to be planted before moving outside.  I don't turn the lights on until I have a lot of seedlings popping up.  While the seeds are germinating I keep the lids on and then prop them open a little bit once the first seedlings start to appear.  Here is a look at my tomato seedlings.  Notice how low I have the lights.

Once the plants grow too large for the jiffy pots, I transplant them to larger pots.  Here are is a look at the various peppers and tomatoes from 2 years ago

My first year I only had one seed flat and no warmer.  I only grew perennials and herbs that year and the success was not great.  The black-eyed susans were a product of my first year of starting seeds indoors. 

When it is time to plant them outdoors, you need to expose them gradually.  This is called hardening them off.  I start by putting mine on the porch for a few hours, then eventually outside for parts of days.  The biggest adjustments for my little plants in North Dakota is the wind.  My second year I decided to grow tomatoes and peppers and since our rental house had hardly any yard, I decided to grow them in containers.  The first year they did really well and I had so many banana peppers that I ended up canning a banana pepper mustard (we still have 3 or 4 jars left).  Last year I had some problems with end rot on the tomatoes.  They also had to suffer the trauma of having their containers moved since we moved mid-summer last year.

This year I am excited to have a backyard and plan to plant them in a raised vegetable garden.  The peppers will be planted in the containers still.  I also decided to grow squash, green beans, and cucumbers this year.  I cannot wait to get outside and start gardening.  Come on North Dakota, bring me some spring!

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