There are very few things as rewarding as growing vegetables from seeds you have saved. For the last four years I have been growing and saving sugar snap pea seeds. From my experience, saving sugar snap pea seeds can be a fairly simple process.
It’s been two weeks since I started my seeds and all but a few seem to have germinated really well. The only seeds that have not germinated yet are one of the varieties of bell pepper (maybe old seeds) and the Greek oregano (which seems to be really slow to germinate).
I have been keeping the seedlings under lights for about 14 hours a day. I usually water the seedlings in the early morning and the late afternoon. Several days ago in order to keep the seed starting mix damp all day, I had to switch from just misting the seedlings to watering and misting the seedlings.
In a few days I will thin out some of the seedlings, keeping the plants that seem to be the strongest. I will also have to transplant my tomatoes soon to small pots. I will post more on my tomato transplant process.
I began growing my own plants from seeds several years ago when I became frustrated with the selection of plants that were available at the greenhouses. Over the years I have had good success with starting a wide variety of herbs and vegetables. The following is the process that I use.
Seed Starting Supplies:
– Seed starting tray with cover and tray cells (if cared for, these can be reused for several years)
– Organic seed starting mix
– Standard fluorescent shop lights with some way to adjust the height above the seed starting trays.
– Last but not least the seeds, the following is the list of the seeds that I started this year.
The Seeds for 2012:
– Heirloom Tomatoes: Red Zebra, Cherokee Purple, Hillbilly, Gold Medal, Mortgage Lifter, Amish Paste, Large Cherry, and Cherry Roma
-Peppers: Bull Nose and Fish
-Herbs: Dill, Cilantro, Summer Savory, Genovese Basil, Sweet Basil, Large Leaf Italian Basil, English Thyme, and Greek Oregano.
The first step in my process is to fill a tub with seed starting mix (the approximate amount I need to fill the cells) then I add water to the mix until the mix is really saturated.
The next step in the process is to fill all of the tray cells with the seed starting mix. I fill each cell about 3/4 full with the mix. Then I make plant markers to label what plant is growing in each cell. I put the plant markers in first so that I don’t forget what seeds were planted in each cell when I am all done.
Once all of the plant markers are in place, I begin placing a few seeds of the variety in each cell to ensure germination in each cell. After the seeds sprout, I will go through and thin out the seedlings in each cell. After all the seeds have been placed in the appropriate cells, I take some dry seed starting mix and cover up all the seeds so the seeds are the correct depth. Then I take a spray bottle filled with water and mist the top of all the cells.
The last step in the process is to cover the tray with the clear plastic lid and place it under the lights. I use a standard 4 bulb fluorescent shop light, with standard bulbs. I have used this light system for the last 5 years with great results. My light hangs from a simple stand that gives me the ability to adjust the height of the lights as the plants grow. I usually keep the light only a few inches above the seed trays to start.
I leave the clear plastic cover on until the first seeds start to germinate and push through the mix. Not all the seeds will germinate at the same time, so I make sure the cover is removed once the first seedlings push through. Once the cover is removed it is important to make sure that the seedlings are kept moist. I use a spray bottle filled with water to mist the seedlings.
I will keep you posted on the progress of my plants.
There is no better feeling than growing your own food with seeds that you have saved from the previous season. I am reminded of this joy as I prepare to plant this years crop of sugar snap peas.
For the last 5 years I have been saving open pollinated sugar snap peas and it’s been a joyful experience. While I have only saved sugar snap pea seeds so far, in the near future I would like to try saving other varieties of vegetables as well.
One of the reasons I decided years ago to start growing open pollinated varieties of seeds was the idea of being able to save seeds from season to season. This seemed like a great way to save money and be more self-sufficient.
If you are not already growing open pollinated varieties, I would recommend that you give them a chance and while you’re at it try saving some seeds.
If you are interested in learning more about seed saving, I would recommend reading the book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth. Another great resource is the organization Seed Savers Exchange, which has some great resources available on their website.
I will keep you posted on my progress and experiences with seed saving as the season goes on.
Some may say vegetable gardening is all about the seeds. Every winter as I page through the seed catalogs I can’t help but dream of the perfect harvest. It’s this time of year that I begin laying out my plans for the upcoming gardening seasons. This year seems a little more challenging then the past few years because of my desire to harvest food all year round.
Each year I begin by asking myself three simple questions:
What should I grow? (what seeds do I need)
How much should I grow? (how many seeds do I need)
When should I start it? (what do i do with the seeds)
To answer the question: what should I grow? I start by laying out my growing seasons and then listing what vegetables I would like to grow in each season. Once I have a general list I begin to select various varieties of each vegetable that are best suited for the season in which I would like to grow them. Most seed companies will supply you with some basic information to help make this process easier. When I have an idea of what I would like to grow, I check my inventory of seeds to determine what I may need to purchase.
When trying to determine how much I should grow, I make a basic sketch of my garden layout on a sheet of graph paper. Once my scale and layout is established, I then begin sketching in various vegetables at the recommend spacings. This process is a good reality check, it helps make sure you have room to plant what you want to plant. Once my sketches are complete it is time to start thinking about when to plant.
Each year I keep a detailed spread sheet of all my seed starting information, this is a great reference tool when considering when to start various seeds. With both my growing lists and garden layouts complete, I begin to develop a rough seed starting timeline for the upcoming seasons. It is only a rough timeline, because there are so many events in our lives that can affect our ability to get to the job of seed starting. The biggest challenges sometimes comes from Mother Nature. Once I begin planting I create a new spread sheet to record the data for the upcoming season. Keeping good records makes planning and planting in the future much easier.