Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Seed growing

I finally found time to start some seeds.
Usually I start all my seeds in my small sun room adjacent to my living room with mixed results. The sun room is not heated and is built with old, drafty, big, single pane, sliding doors, which lets all the cold air in. It can get very cold in there, I measured temperatures in the upper mid 30s F in there when it is freezing outside. Not exactly the best seed starting environment.
In fact the first year I moved in this house I was so overjoyed of finally having a sun room that I went out and bought a lot of houseplants, put them in the sun room, which then all expired over the first winter because of the cold. Eventually I hope to remodel this room to make it more useful.
The coolness in this room is not so much a problem at this time of the year for starting some lettuce and other cool season crops, but forget about Tomatoes and Peppers. So I usually had to wait until it warmed up outside before I could even think of trying to start these warm season plants. This meant not until late March to May. Even then the room was too cool for them to grow well, the seeds taking a long time to sprout and then growing slowly. Tomatoes usually did better, but for Peppers and Eggplants it is important to have a warm growing condition, they experience a big set back in growing, which will hinder fruit development for the rest of the season, they just don't produce well with such a bad start at life.

So this year I decided to start the plants on my sowing table in my office. They do not get as much light as in the sun room, but I used the upper part of my homemade PVC-Pipe growing shelf in the sun room, hooked up some florescent lighting above and hopefully they will grow better then the last years.

In the last years I used a seed starting system called 'APS' which stands for 'Accelerated Propagation System' I got at 'Gardeners Supply Company' . They are Styrofoam seedling trays, which sit on top of an Styrofoam insert, between them a capillary mat, all sitting inside a plastic reservoir with a clear cover on top. The capillary fleece mat between wicks moisture from the reservoir to feed just the right amount of water to the growing medium and come in different sizes.
Instead I decided to use my dear old 'Newspaper pot maker' again
and a new growing system, I found at 'Jung Seed' made in Sweden by 'Agralan' called 'Compact Plant Trainer System'.
It looks real sturdy and they say you can wash the trays in the dishwasher.

It is not that the APS system did not work well. It did provide a good growing environment for the seedlings, but I did not like that it is made with Styrofoam, a material which is pretty low on the list of environmental good materials, but it also was hard to clean without breaking the material and the plastic parts were a bit flimsy and I knew I would soon have to replace them.
So in my opinion not very sustainable.
The Plant trainer has 49 spaces for small plug trained plants, so I will have to transplant them to larger pots at some point, but it also is self watering, has the same features then the 'APS' system, but sturdier. They really look like they will last many years, which again fits in my viewpoint of trying to be more sustainable.

I filled the seedlings trays with one of the Seedling dirt mixes from the Lane County 'Master Gardener Association' using Coconut Fibers, Garden Compost, Vermiculite, Perlite and Sand and will see how well my plants will grow in this mixture.


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