Jessica Walliser
February 24, 2011

Photo by Jessica Walliser
These seedlings from last spring were ready to be planted.

I know that spring is just around the corner because the chickens have started to lay again. That’s always a good sign. There are, of course, other indications that spring is nearly here. The days are longer, the birds are chirping their heads off, the snowdrops are beginning to peek out of the soil and the seed starting has begun. 

Last week, I cleaned up my new-to-me used grow light stand and got it all set up. I sorted through the seed box I keep in the basement refrigerator and pulled all the seeds I’ll start over the coming weeks: onions, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, basil and Brussels sprouts. I have been saving some clear, clamshell-type take out containers to start seeds in and gathering my seed-starting trays and seedling heat mats (I have four of them somewhere but can only manage to find two). 

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I’ll be headed to a few local nurseries over the coming days in search of some capillary matting—a favorite seed-starting, time-saving helper. I put the fibrous matting under the trays of seedlings and keep it saturated with water. The soil and roots then wick moisture out of the matting as its needed. As long as water is in the matting tray, I don’t have to water from the top, saving me time and preventing the tiny seeds from washing away or drowning. 

I also got the timers out and set up for the lights. I usually run them for 16 to 18 hours per day once the seeds have germinated, though the top tier will only be on for 11. I’m starting onions there and don’t want them to bulb up too early in the season. (The varieties we grow here in the North will begin to set bulbs when the days reach 12 hours in length, so I don’t want to mimic that with my grow lights.) 

I’m not sure yet how many other seeds I’ll be starting this year, but I also plan to sow some perennials and annuals to share with friends and family. My seed order from Renee’s has already arrived, and I look forward to more arrivals from Seed Savers Exchange and High Mowing Seeds.    

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