Saturday, April 2, 2011

It's Time to Start Tomato, Pepper, and Eggplant Seeds

We woke to a winter wonderland early Friday morning with a few inches of snow clinging to the trees and covering the ground. It snowed most of the day with an accumulation of about 10-inches of heavy, wet, and sticky snow.

Even though it looks like winter outside, the calendar and my seed-starting schedule says it is time for starting my tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants seeds.

A recycled a mini-muffin baking container will serve as my seed germinating station this year. Each cell is layered with a bit of damp paper towel, labeled, and seeded.

The container is placed in a warm area and will be checked each day for seed germination and to be sure the paper towels are still wet.

I mixed up some soil and prepared a tray full of soil blocks. Once seeds show signs of sprouting, I will carefully place them into the depressions in the waiting soil blocks.

We were making such progress with the remaining winter snow melt. Now the garden beds are blanketed again with another layer of snow.

It is disheartening and I have to keep reminding myself that spring snows never last long and the stronger sun and warmer weather will dissolve this new snow soon. I really hope this is our last snow of the season.


  1. I really like your seed germinating station. Great idea!!

    With the extended day light hours and warmer temperatures, the snow won't last long. I am just hoping that we have enough spring weather and we don't go straight into summer!

  2. I have to start my peppers this week. I'm weird with my tomatoes and only like them about 4 weeks old when planting so I'm going to wait a while more for them.

    Your seeds starting looks like an experiment. They almost look like petri dishes.

  3. I like your method of germination. I've never tried that before. I think I will this spring! Your soil blocks are awesome. Where did you purchase the soil blocker?

  4. Your blocks look incredible. I have a new blocker but feel a little intimidated by the whole endeavor. Daphne's Dandelion posts a couple weeks ago were encouraging. Now I see your blocks and am feeling even bolder about trying it. What soil combination do you use?

  5. First off, wow! You're star ting your summer crops from seed now?! That's way different from wet wet Seattle even. I started my earliest in January! We need it to get a jump on the cool summer. Can't wait to track your growth.

    As for your seed starting system. I LOVE IT!!!! Great repurposing of one of those mini muffin or should I say mini-frosting trays! Then to only plant the germinated seeds in soil blocks. Brilliant!

  6. Robin: I like to reuse lettuce and bakery containers as little greenhouses for soil blocks, but I was excited to see this one had divided sections for seed germination. I too hope we have some spring instead of jumping into summer. All my spring crops bolted early last year.

    Daphne: I notice you only grow your tomatoes 4 weeks before planting out. I like the benefits of less crowding under the lights and less time to allow the roots to become compacted in the pots. Maybe when I have more experience, I will give that a try. Right now, I feel more secure with the 8-week cushion. If something doesn’t germinate, or the seedlings fail, I have time to try again.

    Meemsnyc: EG of Our Engineered Garden posted a similar germination method last year. I tried it with great success.

    My soil blocker was purchased last year from Johnny's Selected Seeds. I love it.

    Jody: Don’t be intimidated with soil blocking. I don’t follow the typical soil recipe and still have great results. The best advice I can give you is to just mix up a batch of soil and make a few blocks for fun. Then test them to see if they will hold up. Try to water them and move them around every few days. You can read more about my soil block method here: “Using Soil Blocks for Growing Seedlings.” Please feel free to drop me an email (grafixmuse “at” yahoo “dot” com) if you have any questions.

    Sinfonian: I know! I've been waiting to start my summer crops what seems like forever! My last frost date is around May 20th, and we typically plan on having the garden in by Memorial Day in my area. So this gives me 8-weeks of seedling growing for the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant before they are planted in the garden.

    This seed starting germination system is a variation of EG's method. I tried it last year and it worked really well. You are correct; I think the tray was originally used for mini-muffins with frosting! When I saw it I thought it would be perfect for seed starting.

  7. Great post. I also love the repurposing of the muffin container. I live in 5b climate and started many of my seeds late Feb. However, I keep them under a light in my basement which is about 58 degrees so they grow slowly. They will be ready to go into the ground when I plant them though.

  8. Love the mini muffin container! Although I would normally stay away from such store-bought baked temptations, I almost feel compelled to buy some, you know, "for the garden."

  9. Cohoctonrivertockminifarm: Your tomatoes must produce much quicker once planted out. If I had more room under the lights, I may have considered starting a few super early tomatoes.

    Thyme2garden: I take absolutely no responsibility for the store bought container. I don't purchase such things and bake only occasionally to avoid temptation. K does a lot of the groceries and often comes home with some bakery goodness. I just had to eat some of them. It's all his fault :)

  10. Great seed sprouting technique! Having seeds going inside helps compensate for a reluctant spring.

  11. It's so wonderful to see garden seeds. Yes, the snow must be over by now!

  12. Thanks I hope that the tomatoes produce earlier. I am afraid with the Spring being so cold I am afraid they will need all the help they can get when I put them into the ground.

  13. I'm glad you have your seed starts to remind you that the gardening season really is coming! My first year living in Maine (1982), we had almost 2' of snow the first week in April -- but spring really did come. I hope the melting is coming along. I'm going to be home in 2 weeks; I was hoping to miss mud season, but I'm beginning to think I might get the worst of it instead. -Jean

  14. I love your idea of the paper towel method much better way to check for germination and then to add sprouting seeds with roots to have just made me rethink the whole process...thx

  15. I used to think that the paper towel method was "cheating" but I love how it eliminates the problem of dud seeds! Thanks for visiting my blog. Yours is beautiful.

  16. I love the use of google docs for your seed starting schedule. I'm totally stealing that idea (I already started, in fact!)

  17. Laura: Tending to the seedlings under the lights does help compensate for winter that doesn’t seem to want to let go.

    El: I am looking forward to eating fresh veggies again.

    Cohoctonriverrockminifarm: Hopefully spring will become more spring like soon.

    Jean: We had a lot of melting the past few days, but there is still snow in the more shaded parts of the yard. Hopefully it will be gone by the time you come home. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like you will miss mud season.

    Donna: Give it a try. I bet you will be as surprised as I was at how quickly the seeds sprout.

    Bel Mills: Cheating? Naw, just using creative methods to get growing :)

    Kristy: I started using google docs after loosing my macbook hard drive last year. All my gardening notes, schedules, and spreadsheets were gone. Now it is safely online and can be accessed from any computer.