Miracle of seed starting

It never ceases to amaze me when I see the first green poke through the soil in a seed tray.

I ordered my tomato plants from Stout Oak Farm, a local organic farm. They are grown in their heated greenhouses, and at $3 a piece, it is a bargain to swing by and pick up several healthy 2′ plants ready to take off as soon as they are planted.

HerbertBut, I also wanted to start some annuals, lettuce for Herbert Menninger, the grands’ pet rabbit, and see if I could get some Schwartzbeeren seeds started so the berry picking season would last longer. These berries make what my husband would tell you is the best pie in the world especially since he grew up with his Mom making all things sweet with these tiny black berries.

Normally, I use a four-shelf metal rack on wheels, two lights on each shelf with everything covered in emergency silver blankets to keep the light and heat in. I didn’t want to go to that much trouble this year for a couple of trays, so I bought two plant brackets with clamps from my local Walmart for $7.95 each, attached them to a table on my porch, hung one set of lights, covered it with a blanket, and I was done.


I planted up my two trays last Wednesday and on Sunday I had some seeds already sprouted. Happy dancing here.

This summer I’m going to recycle those plant brackets and use them for hanging baskets on a picnic table.

So, is seed starting a spring project for you, do you prefer to buy plants, or do you frequent your local farmers’ markets?

Happy Monday from cold, gray, rainy New Hampshire. The only gardening being done here is under those lights and in my dreams. 🙂

About Judy @ NewEnglandGardenAndThread

Master Gardener who enjoys gardening, quilting, photography, and traveling.
This entry was posted in Gardening, New England and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to Miracle of seed starting

  1. This is really interesting Judy. On Gardener’s Question Time (a popular BBC radio show here) they were advocating the use of LED grow lights to get seedlings going. I had always assumed these would be very expensive and were only for professionals. Obviously the latter must be true if you are using them (!) so I’d be interested if you have any more tips and pointers for buying and using them. Are they on a timer or lit all day?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Dan. These are shop lights I bought several years ago at a local hardware box store with one warm and one cool light. I do have them on a timer which makes it very easy. The biggest tip I have was from a local tomato grower, Dr. Tomato. He built boxes out of foil backed styrofoam insulation. He would put his trays in these huge boxes and put the lights on top. This kept all the light and all the heat inside. I had no interest in building and storing boxes so tried these $4 emergency blankets they sell to carry in cars or give to runners to warm up. They do exactly the same thing by reflecting the light inside and keeping everything warm so you don’t need a heating pad underneath. I have one blanket laid over the top of the table and one laid over the top of the brackets with the sides enclosed with a clip. Makes a perfect little incubator and goes up and comes down quickly.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. joey says:

    With food gardening I start with seeds, but I do tend to buy plants as well. (Like marigolds for the borders.)
    This year I am attempting my first flower seedlings, having always bought plants. I’m pretty excited!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. pagedogs says:

    I am starting just about everything from seeds this year–veggies, flowers, and herbs. They all are thriving, even without grow lights or a heat mat. I’ve been able to move the earliest crew out to the cold frame to make room for planting more indoors. Nevertheless, we are overrun with seedlings!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How fun to start everything from seeds. I’ve had a little luck with this, but not much. We use egg cartons and a light in our garage, but we’re just not attentive enough, I think. Best wishes. Wish I lived next door to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Does Herbert ever play outside in a “bunny coop” or get to visit the garden? How kind of you to grow his food! I wondered if you had a “lettuce bed” that he could just get out and munch and crunch in. My grandkids were doing a series on botany in their home-school program and built a lighted grow box with cardboard, foil etc. It was very successful. Best of luck with the berries.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I grow lettuce and carrots for Herbert. He loves them both especially the tops of the carrots. 🙂 I have a small mesh pen that folds up that was intended for a puppy, but it works perfectly for him. So, when I’m working outside in decent weather, I bring him out with me. He just stretches out and sniffs. He loves it. 🙂 Your grandkids sound like they have all the skills to become good gardeners.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Mary says:

    Herbert is very cute. Best wishes with your seedlings – I have a feeling your garden will be flush this year from all your hard work. Wish the weather would clear up for you and starting warming the ground.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dan Antion says:

    We’re mostly limited to veggies here, although my wife starts some flowers from seed in her garden to attract pollinators. She runs a mix of plants and seed, and further mixes between mail-order and local growers. It sounds complicated, but she’s been perfecting it over time. Please don’t ask the price of an average tomato – I don’t want to know, because they are so good.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Laurie Graves says:

    This made me laugh:”The only gardening being done here is under those lights and in my dreams.:-)” Same here in gray, chilly, wet central Maine. But, Judy, it smells like spring out there. Soon, soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mother Hen says:

    We do both..not always sucessful, but keep trying.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. joannesisco says:

    Sadly, I don’t have very much space to attempt anything like plants from seeds. I rely entirely on nursery plants. Even then, my gardening talent is very limited and I’m just excited if most of it survives the summer 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Joyce says:

    Well, you resourceful gardeners always find a way to make things grow – even in the gloom of an April winter! I saw it called “sprinter” on FB a few days ago!
    And Kc found your picture online too! That was so cute!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Joyce says:

    and PS….
    LOVE the picture of Herbert M! Don’t worry little guy! Great-grandma’s coming with fresh, non-toxic herbs and greens!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Karen says:

    I was always amazed at how quickly my tomato seeds would sprout with just a little warmth. I can’t believe that we lived so close to Stout Oak Farm and I never knew about it. Good luck with your plantings this year, may you have a bountiful crop.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Julie says:

    I was going to ask the same as Dan, having listened to the same radio programme, we tend to use more bottom heat here but the resulting moisture needs a lot of monitoring. I’ve read your answer Judy, thats very helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Eliza Waters says:

    It is thrilling to see seeds germinating. The little kid in us says, “I did that!” and the adult says, “It’s going to look/taste wonderful!”
    I haven’t started seeds in quite a few years, as I use so little and we are CSA members. We have a great local source that does a beautiful job with annuals at bargain prices and it is a pleasure to patronize his gorgeous efforts.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Dawn says:

    What fun to see your seeds germinating, Judy! I always do some traveling during March/April, so I have never tried starting seeds indoors. I buy small plants in May and love to sow seeds directly in the garden in mid-May. Here in Zone 5b, we have been having nights in the 20s and several light snowfalls. This week will be sunny, so I will be raking and mowing for the first time this season. Springtime in the yard is always filled with surprises! ♡

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m going to be gone a week myself but thought with two trays I won’t impose too much when I look for a sitter. 🙂 I put a few of your seeds in there to see if they come up, and if I can successfully transplant them. Here’s hoping I get lucky. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dawn says:

        A few of my houseplants will be ‘vacationing’ elsewhere, so that we can get away. I’m just always worried about leaving tender seedlings. Great idea to start a few flower seeds inside! Hope they will grow happily in New England! I have chosen a spot in the garden to plant your seeds. Such fun to share, Judy! ♡

        Liked by 1 person

  17. germac4 says:

    We want to start growing from seeds, maybe next year, as this year is so busy. …it is interesting to see how it is done in your part of the world. I think gardeners in cold climates are immensely patient, but then the rewards are great!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. KerryCan says:

    In my fantasy world, I grow things from seed. In reality, I am lazy and disorganized and I buy everything at the nursery and plant it when the weather is nice enough. I do agree that starting seeds seems like magic . . . I’m just no magician!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. pbmgarden says:

    Bet Herbert Menninger is excited about your plans.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I feel like I missed the boat this year and will probably buy plants, though I’d prefer to start with seeds where possible. I’m a beginner, so very glad to read about this topic on your site. It didn’t occur to me to go to an organic farm to get plants, rather than at the local Home Depot which I don’t really like to do. I will have to check out the local farmers once our farmer’s market starts back up in May.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We all have to shop at stores that are available, but be aware that the box stores in most cases probably treat their plants systemically. As you are looking at a plant, you will notice that it will have a label stuck in the soil telling you the name of the plant and whether it needs sun or shade. Some may also have a label that says: “Treated with Neonicotinoids” which means when the bees take the pollen back to the hive, they are taking poison back which will result in loss of native pollinators. I would avoid any plants with those labels both for our pollinators and most importantly for yourself. A clerk at a box store won’t have any knowledge about whether the plants have been sprayed but at a nursery you could also ask if any pesticides (to kill living things), Insecticides (to kill insects), or herbicides (to kill weeds) have been applied to the plants. They will know the answer and you can make an informed purchase. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Nancy says:

    I am loving Herbert!!❤️
    I start with plants but who knows… maybe one fine day I will start some seeds!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I buy plants. My excuse is that I travel a lot in March, April, and May, and it’s difficult to grow seeds when I’m away from home so much during that crucial period.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. One year I started everything from seeds ; last year I just bought the tomato plants at Home Depot but did the flowers from seeds….directly in the ground, though. HELLO HERBERT you cutie ! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Grandma Kc says:

    Herbert is really going to appreciate those fresh greens! Watching plants grow is so good for the soul. Really makes you appreciate nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. milkymender says:

    I love the idea of recycling the trays. I also think starting seeds like this, indoors, makes it more certain that you will get production. If your seeds are’t starting, you can try some more or switch gears and get some different seeds. Also, our climates are so unpredictable in the north east!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. reocochran says:

    I am a good pot planting apartment dweller but am happy to say, as a young mother I planted rather large gardens of vegetables Later as a mother of teens, my ex and I created oases under trees with hostas and bird baths, houses and lake rocks in small groupings among the mulch. This meant late night takks and occasional kisses were out in the dark back yard and not at make our parties. 😉


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s