Newbie with a penchant for overthinking

AnawazorJanuary 21, 2013

Hi all!

If there is a link that will answer my question, I will gladly accept it, but I am not pulling much up in a search.

I am new to this zone and new to starting seeds indoors. (Moved my way up the coast from 9b to 6a, it is a little different up here!)

I keep trying to remind myself that seeds *want* to grow, and to keep it simple, but just can't stop over thinking what should be a straightforward process! I will be starting in a basement that has so far been hovering around the same temperature as my home (55-65*) with similar humidity (50-60%).
We will be using standard plastic cell trays (32 cell/tray) with cover, shop lights suspended from pulleys, and a fan for air movement.
We are undecided on starting medium- currently perusing the availability locally. (Will still take brand suggestions, we are finding a lot of unsterilized and heavy medium out there!)

My question lies in indoor starting vs. direct seeding. I would much rather start everything indoors so as to have a more accurate count of plants before preparing my soil. We have a decent amount of land, but it is rocky by nature and it would save both mine and my fiance's backs and bank accounts if we don't over-clear, over-prepare and over-amend. One less row in a 45'-50' garden saves a decent amount of deer fencing, posts, and compost- not to mention sweat-equity.

I also am spending too much time over-thinking germination. I will be planting a mixture of plants per tray, and surely they will germinate at different rates; how do you guys handle this when it comes to uncovering the flat and letting the excess humidity escape? Am I over doing it by thinking I will need to cover sections as needed to continue retaining moisture for slow germinators?

Please excuse me if I sound like an obsessive freak. Just be thankful you aren't the fiance who lives with me and is dealing with this entire process ;). Also be proud, for I am no longer "gardening by Darwin" as I used to in Florida- throw the seed and see what happens!

Thanks so much!

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A list of seeds would help, huh?

Pole Beans
Brussels Sprouts
Cucumber (slicing and pickle)
Leaf lettuces
Bell Peppers
Ring-o-fire pepper
Pie Pumpkin
Butternut Sq.
Spaghetti Sq.
Herbs and such: chamomile, coneflower, basil, dill, catnip, etc

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 2:29PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Hi Ann - and welcome.

First suggestion is to read through the FAQs here. I linked them below. They will answer many of you growing from seed questions.

Second thing that jumps out at me is that is an awfully lot of produce to try to fit into a 45x50 garden unless you want to plant only a few of each. If so then it isn't worth the time and effort to grow from seed as buying a few transplants and direct seeding the rest would easily work.

If not, if you want more than just a meal or 2 from all of the above, then consider eliminating some of the list or increasing the garden size substantially. One of my garden beds is 50 X 80 and I couldn't fit all of that into it.

Many experienced gardeners will tell you that you can never have a big enough garden and you sure can't ever over-amend it. So this first year I'd suggest you adjust your produce expectations on down a bit and focus on really amending and improving that plot. But fence it in such a way the later garden expansion will be possible inside the fencing. Many of us learned that the hard way and riping out and moving fencing is a task to be avoided at all costs.

I would much rather start everything indoors

Sure you can but radishes, leaf lettuces won't tolerate it at all well and cucumbers would much prefer you didn't. The squash and pole beans - they will do but you will lose some of them when transplanted. They much prefer direct seeding. You can still stake out and measure all the space for them and mark off those areas.

I will be planting a mixture of plants per tray, and surely they will germinate at different rates; how do you guys handle this

Never recommended for the reasons you list and more. But it depends on what you are using for germination. Germinate in individual small containers works best, not those kit things. Once germinated the seedlings need to come off the heat, out from under cover (if you insist on using those) and under the lights. So the trays are usually divided or can be cut into 4-6 packs or such that can be removed from the kit tray as needed.

Hope this is a start on helping you. Read the FAQs and then come back with more questions.


Here is a link that might be useful: Growing from Seed FAQs

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 3:00PM
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It does, thank you much!

I am not limited to the 45'x50' plot. We are lucky to have a lot of land, and last year's garden space available. This is our newer, bigger garden. I should have mentioned that (sorry!). Plus the flowering plants are going to end up accenting outbuildings and not using garden space.
There are a few types that we will only be planting a few of, as we had a very strong small garden last year and want to brach out a smidge but w/o wasting too much money in the process. If it fails, it fails within reason. If it works and we don't have room then extra seedlings will become a composting opportunity or I'll get to start another space :)

And I like the suggestion of splitting the trays. I totally missed the forest for the trees on that one! That will be SO easy to do. Also, I am very comfortable DS 5 varieties and starting the rest indoors. Many seed packs gave either-or instructions and I started working myself into a panic. I take this far too seriously.

Thanks for your help! I'm on to the links right now!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 3:24PM
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Something that Dave doesnt mention is timing. You dont say when you are planning on starting your seeds, but it is way to early for most of them. 4-10 weeks before planting out, depending on the vegetable, is what you should be thinking. The seed packs should give you the information you need. Pushing it a little is possible, but if you start things to early, they will end up stunted and unhappy . Peppers and eggplants are slow growers, and you may be able to get away with beginning those soon. Also, starting things early will mean potting them up in to larger and larger pots, which takes up more and more space, so you need to take into account how much room under the lights you have. My first time with seeds I started my tomatoes 12 weeks before I could put them out and ended up with 3-4 ft high spindly plants that needed constant staking and didnt produce very well.

I am surprised to see lettuce listed as a "dont start indoors", I have been doing it for the past 3 years and havent had problems. Carrots and radish are the only things I direct sow, but in WI we have a really short season.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 7:19AM
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I am only planning right now, not actually starting. I have a calendar marked out with weeks from LFD and am working on a spreadsheet for start dates/sow dates, spacing, soil requirements, etc.
I won't be able to send off soil samples for a while and my LFD is the middle(ish) of May, so I have time.

The planning is helping me not hate winter so much.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2013 at 12:43PM
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What helps me is having two lists of seeds. One list is an alphabetical listing of seed plants with the weeks before frost date to start the seed (2, 4, 6, 7, 8, etc.)You can find that info online and on seed packets (and later, by your own experience for your area).

The other is a booklet with each page having the seedname and seed starting conditions for each seed, to start that week (Page one has all the seeds/info to start 2 weeks before the last frost, etc.) Then I have the seed packets arranged by week also, in a glass canister. It makes it very easy to start seeds. I even have a container for seeds that need to be started outdoors. You can further separate that into whatever categories you like.

I cover each cell-pak with loose plastic wrap to keep in moisture, and remove it the minute the plants emerge. That's a happy time for me!

Just know that it takes a lot of experience and note-taking to get to the place where you have it all down. That's the fun with overthinking, getting it to the fun and relaxing stage. In the meantime, keep a notepad handy at all times.

I want to add that I fit a lot in my small garden by planting closely in small beds with pathways between. That was known as Square Foot Gardening years ago.

I prefer Pro-mix for starting seeds indoors and also for container plants. I have no problems with it and it holds more water than other mixes I've tried.

This post was edited by susanzone5 on Wed, Jan 23, 13 at 18:04

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 5:57PM
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Ah, list-making. You just won me over!
Thank you for all the suggestions.

I have been looking at sqft gardening recently, since the garden has gone from feeding just me to feeding me and a vegetarian fiance' with a love of peppers. I am thinking of incorporating that this year in the larger space as well as REALLY putting vertical space to use. (We failed miserably at using vertical space last year, but had just moved here, got a little of a late start to the garden, and then had to concentrate on the house more than expected) This year, we have time to plan ahead!

We over-purchased transplants last year and ran out of room; poor, poor planning mixed with over-exuberance taught us a lesson. Although I will admit the winter squash and sweet potato we tossed over the fence did wonderfully and tasted delicious, even if they were cultivated using cruel, Darwinian methods. :)

Live and learn, right?

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 2:05PM
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