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    • Starting Seeds in February

      Start Seedlings Frugally, How to Garden CheaplyThere is nothing more exciting for this gardener than seeing the first bits of green as shoots force their way up through the soil. As gardeners in the northern climates know, ya gotta start early. While February is still bringing us an occasional ice storm, this Michigan gardener is planting seeds.

      There are many cheap ways to start seeds. I use whatever I have on hand, egg shells, egg cartons, ice cream containers, dixie cups, really anything that will hold dirt, is biodegradable, and won't melt when water is applied will do. (See the article in Frugal Gardening about making plantable paper seed starters.)

      Caring for the seedlings is very simple, I cover the sprouting plants with clear plastic to keep the moisture in. Once they are an inch high the plastic is removed and I have a small oscillating fan or two blowing for a few hours each day. This circulates the air preventing mold, and the intermittent breeze strengthens the stems of the plants. Now that the seedlings are uncovered they will require more frequent watering. Misting is helpful for the tender young plants.

      Some of the plants will require transplanting into larger pots. I usually hang on to a few 2 quart ice cream boxes. Plastic milk jugs are good too and you can use them as mini green houses when you are putting smaller seedlings into the ground. Just flip them upside down and plop a rock on top to keep the wind from blowing them off.

      When it is time to harden off the young plants I have found taking two or three weeks gives the highest survival rates. Here are my general rules:
      1. Set out under a cold frame on a wet, overcast day - no high temperatures in the afternoon and low chance of hard frost at night.
      2. Limit direct sunlight at first. As you harden them place them where there is afternoon shade.
      3. Once in the ground keep an eye on the weather in case there is a late frost.
      4. Keep extra seedlings available in case you need to replace failed plants.




      Can Stock Photo Inc. / Griffin024
      Comments 8 Comments
      1. rott440's Avatar
        what a great idea, i'm gonna start saving those eggshells and try this... thanks!
      1. angelsvn24's Avatar
        Getting a spring in my step too, any recommendations for good starting soil? Most of the time my seedlings die before I can get them outside. (they get moldy, no matter how dry I try to keep them)
      1. HerbLady's Avatar
        I just use whatever is on sale. Anything from MiracleGrow to peat pots. I'm too lazy to do it but you can even bake some dirt from the garden in the oven to kill off weeds and such. Between an osculating fan and only watering when they get a little droopy I haven't run into serious mold issues. By watering I mean squirting with mist.

        I have read that 9 parts water to 1 part hydrogen peroxide clears up mold very effectively. Anyone tried that?
      1. bahay2475's Avatar
        great idea on egg carton. I should have several ready to use for sprouting seeds by late February and the months ahead. Thanks!!


        Today is a new beginning, another day to give thanks and praise.
      1. angelsvn24's Avatar
        Quote Originally Posted by HerbLady View Post
        I just use whatever is on sale. Anything from MiracleGrow to peat pots. I'm too lazy to do it but you can even bake some dirt from the garden in the oven to kill off weeds and such. Between an osculating fan and only watering when they get a little droopy I haven't run into serious mold issues. By watering I mean squirting with mist.

        I have read that 9 parts water to 1 part hydrogen peroxide clears up mold very effectively. Anyone tried that?
        Nope, but I'm willing to try the experiment. I think I read something here too about chamomile tea working too.
      1. mdbkids's Avatar
        I never thought of egg cartons or knew about the peroxide. i do have problems with mold. Thanks for the tip.
      1. kaecha's Avatar
        You need to be careful about purchasing your dirt, I was planting my flowers on the deck and bought the first stuff that was on sale. It wasn't until I was filling the pots that I noticed that it said on the bag "Not for consumable plants, vegetables and fruits, etc",! I was putting the dirt in flower pots, but sometimes if a pot gets broken or whatever, I empty the dirt into the garden! I have no idea if I've used this dirt before for starting seeds, etc. I am MUCH BETTER at reading the packages now.
      1. MsDebbie's Avatar
        Quote Originally Posted by kaecha View Post
        You need to be careful about purchasing your dirt, I was planting my flowers on the deck and bought the first stuff that was on sale. It wasn't until I was filling the pots that I noticed that it said on the bag "Not for consumable plants, vegetables and fruits, etc",! I was putting the dirt in flower pots, but sometimes if a pot gets broken or whatever, I empty the dirt into the garden! I have no idea if I've used this dirt before for starting seeds, etc. I am MUCH BETTER at reading the packages now.

        Thats good to know I didnt realize there was that much of a difference. This year I'm keeping my efforts on edible plants.

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