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STARTING SEEDS INDOORS in EARLY SPRING

Welcome to the third step in scratching that Winter Gardening Itch. Here in Manitoba, the GREAT THAW has begun. It is time to start sowing some seeds indoors.

Finally!

Since I began my Manitoba gardening adventure, a number of years ago now, I’ve been harvesting seeds from our summer yield to save for the following growing season.

STORING SEEDS in RECYCLED CONTAINERS

We store each variety of seed in old pill bottles that I’ve collected. I like them because they are clear yet tinted so you can see how many seeds you have on hand. They’re also somewhat protected from light and heat by the tinted  plastic. Just store them in a cool, dark, dry place in winter. This will ensure they stay fresh and viable for spring planting. You can then print out labels that fit the bottle with the name and picture of the plant. 

But, there are many other upcycled items that can be effectively used to store seeds and keep them fresh. Like small baggies, mason jars. Even old breath mint boxes!

DO SEEDS ACTUALLY EXPIRE?

Considering that horticulturists have gotten seeds found in ancient Egyptian dig sites to germinate…technically, no. But, the fresher they are, the faster they germinate.

GROWING SEEDS in RECYCLED CONTAINERS

Using upcycled items to actually grow these seeds in, is another great, sustainable idea. One such item, is the trusty egg carton. For those of you who do a lot of baking, these will be easy to come by. But, there are lots of other options for growing as well. Like empty toilet paper rolls that can then be lined with old black and white newspaper. 

Like toilet paper and paper towel rolls, egg cartons are versatility enough to grow just about any size seed. And easy to transplant into bigger pots without distressing the roots. To prepare egg cartons for growing, just make a small hole in the bottom of each cup for drainage and fill each one with quality garden soil.  

Other recycled items, like popsicle sticks make excellent additions to your seed-growing arsenal.  These can be put in the dishwasher after initial use to be sterilized for this purpose. Here, I use them as both seed markers and to make a “greenhouse” structure. 

HOW TO START SEEDS INDOORS

Once you have your egg trays prepared, choose your seeds and place in one seed per cup. For those tiny seeds, 3-5 per cup would increase your germinations odds. 

When starting seeds indoors, you don’t necessarily have to use heating pads or even grow lights, if you have nice-sized windows in your home that get adequate light. For long stretches of cloudy days though, grow lights do come in handy.   

Once your seeds are in, and covered with a light layer of soil, place them on a large, baking sheet and fill the tray with roughly 1/4″ of water. The soil and the cartons will absorb all this moisture and begin to soften the outer shell of your seeds. 

HOW TO MAKE A MINI GREENHOUSE

I wrap each egg tray in plastic wrap, poking several tiny holes in the wrap with a push-pin. I then set the egg trays, with those tiny bits of a future harvest, in a sunny windowsill….and wait.

Every other day or so, I unwrap the trays and water them, again in the baking sheets, and wrap them up again. The moment I see a speck of green, I unwrap the trays and let them breathe in the sunshine. At this point, there is no longer a need for the plastic wrap. I just let nature do its thing.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE for SEEDS to GERMINATE

Each variety of seeds has its own germination time. New seeds will have this listed on the packet. If you keep your egg cartons, or other recycled option, in warm , direct sunlight, your seeds to pop within the number of days listed. Before long, healthy seedlings will begin to emerge, full of possibilities for a bountiful harvest. And dreams of recipes to come.

When a second set of leaves appear, its time to move them into small pots. Around 3″ in diameter. This size pot will encourage healthy root formation. A pot any larger than this will have too much room. Resulting in water and nutrients flowing right past the roots without ever touching them. 

Each egg cup can be separated from the rest with scissors and the whole thing can be put into that larger pot. The paper material just biodegrades and becomes a part of the new root ball when transplanted outside. Think of it as instant gratification composting!

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Interacting with the Earth is one of our most primal instincts. In this age of  technology and industry, its critical that we nurture that instinct for our own health and well-being. The more you grow, the more YOU grow. 

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