We kicked-off our 2010 Fall season with our Seeds to Start (STS) workshop. Thirty volunteers participated in the event to learn about starting seeds and help us create about 40% of the transplants we’ll need for the Fall dig-ins. We planted 10 flats of broccoli, cabbage, mustard greens, kale, and cherry tomatoes.
Our board president, Mitch Mills, led the workshop and started with a discussion of the benefits of starting your own seeds including more varieties, better transplants, and more efficient use of your garden space. For Green Corn Project, starting our own transplants is also a big cost savings.
We then divided into teams and filled the flats with soil. Home gardeners can start seeds directly in 4″ pots, but with the number of plants we need, flats work best for us. A variety of soil types will work, but a light, fluffy mixture is best – high nutrient content isn’t essential at this stage. We used Thunderhead Soil graciously donated by Geo Growers.
Your containers should be evenly full, just under the top, but not packed or rounded. You can lightly moisten the soil before filling the containers if it’s dry, but don’t over water.
Tweezers make handling seeds much easier. When planting in flats, chicken wire screens help keep the seeds evenly spaced. You can use your pinkie (or a friend’s) to help keep track of where you are. When all of the seeds are in place, gently cover with a thin layer of soil.
Along with controlling the moisture, controlling light and temperature is also important – steady light and moderate temperatures are essential. You can use grow lights, standard fluorescent lights like shop lights, or natural light. If using fluorescent fixtures, grow lights work well but can be expensive. I’ve had success with standard fluorescent tubes using 1 cool-white and 1 warm-white tube in the fixture. Keep the fixture within a few inches of the containers.
If using natural lighting for Fall transplants, a sunny window indoors is best. If one isn’t available, make sure the containers are in an area outside that gets good morning light but are protected from the hot afternoon sun.
We’ll transplant the starts from the flats to 4″ pots in our second workshop in two weeks. Registration is already full, but our fall dig-ins and our dig-in leader training workshops are coming up. Registration will open in mid-August.