Thursday, January 10, 2013

Seed Starting Adventure 2013

This year, I'm starting almost everything from seeds.  This isn't new for me as I've started almost everything from seed for the past two years.  This year, however, I'm trying something different with just my tomato and pepper seeds.  I'm using a roaster oven to start them.  Just so you don't think I'm completely off my rocker, I got my idea from a post on All Things Plants . Thankfully, when my oven died the week of Thanksgiving and my turkey was sitting in my fridge waiting to be cooked, we purchased an 18 qt roaster oven.  If you'd like to give this seed starting method a go and don't have a roaster oven, check out flea markets, thrift stores, Goodwill, and garage sales for a good deal on a used oven.

The first thing I did was line the bottom with heavy duty aluminum foil.  I then place a baking rack on the bottom and placed a mostly filled cup of water in the pan.  I turned the dial just until I heard it click on and saw the light come on.  I left the oven to warm for a couple of hours.  I tested the water temp and it wasn't quite warm enough, so I increased the heat a bit (as seen by black line on the dial) and left the water to heat up again.  This time when I checked it, it was just a touch too warm (92ºF), so I adjusted the temp down a bit.  This time, when I checked it, the temp was perfect (89ºF)!  You want your temp to be 80º-90ºF. 

This year, I'm using 6 oz yogurt cups the hubby and I have been saving all year.  I've never eaten so much yogurt in my life!  I can fit 27 cups in my roaster.  Once the seeds germinate, I'll move them to the middle bedroom where the light system will be set up.  Please note the future tense "will be" because it's not ready yet!  I told the hubby we have 3 days to get it together, which means lots of de-cluttering and straightening of that room. 

For my seed starting medium, I'm doing something a bit different.  I'm using an actual seed starter and adding a few other things to it.  In the past, I've used potting soil, but that's really too heavy for seeds.  This is what I've got going for this go 'round of seeds.  To LadyBug Brand's The Germinator mix I'm adding a small handful of horticultural cornmeal (an antifungal to help deter fungal growth), Texas green sand and lava sand to help with drainage.  I also added a dash of tomato and pepper food. That hospital pan comes in quite handy in the garden, so don't throw those things out if you have the pleasure of bringing one home.

Today, I planted the following tomato varieties:
Homestead 24
Large Red Cherry
Pantano Romanesco

I am planting 6 cups of each variety with 2 seeds per cup.  Since my roaster only holds 27 cups, I planted 6 of each of the first 4 varieties and only 3 of the Rutgers.  When I start the second batch of seeds, I'll start with the Rutgers and move on to the rest of the tomatoes and peppers.  I'm not sure I'll plant as many peppers as tomatoes, though.

I filled each cup about half-way with planting medium then watered well with warm water.  Seeds  need warmth to germinate and I've found this helps.  I then put my seeds on, sprinkled on a bit more planting medium and watered with warm water again.  (Please note the use of the old cat litter tray!  Again, good way to reuse and recycle.  Perfect for carrying plants)

Once watered and everything, I put them in the roaster oven.  I can fit 15 cups on the bottom of the roaster pan.  I put a cooling rack on top of these cups and can fit an additional 12 cups, maximizing the space in my oven.  If this works well this year, I might look for a 2nd oven to use next year. 

Now the lid is on the cups and they are nice and warm, hopefully doing their seed thing and beginning the sprouting process.  I'll check on them in 3 days to see if we have any sprouts!  Stay tuned for updates!

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