Feb 3, 2012

Early Spring Seeding

After last year I decided that I need to have tomatoes earlier. I'm such a tomatoaholic in the spring! Now with the addition of a dehydrator this year as well... I'm foaming at the bit. This year I've planted my seeds extra, extra early. Usually it is recommended that tomato seeds be started indoors 6-8 weeks before the last anticipated frost date. Currently I am about 13 weeks before the frost date and I already started my first batch of seeds. I also planted some onion seeds, since I was not happy with the small ones I had by the end of last season.

This year I am also determined to have lots of herbs. My herbs didn't do too well last year or the year before. I had almost given up when I randomly decided to plant some dill and cilantro seeds towards the end of the season. Would you believe they popped out and did great? My mammoth dill sprang up to 4 feet! I didn't do anything special with them either, but I was pretty much in the habit of watering the garden by that point. So I'm thinking Lots of water is the key with herbs here. I've got a step up on last year with my herbs too as I have a couple of containers of cilantro and basil started. In the next couple days I'll plant some rosemary and perhaps some lavender as well.

To start my seeds I put together an easy little styrofoam egg carton starter. Last year I used a similar method but with cardboard egg cartons. Before it was time to plant the seedlings outside the cartons were falling apart. I believe this method will be a bit sturdier, I'll just have to be careful with over-watering since the material won't breathe.

Materials needed:

  • Styrofoam egg carton
  • Pestle from a mortar and pestle set
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Newspaper*
  • Dirt**
  • Plastic spoon

  1. Rip pieces of newspaper to put in the slots of the egg carton, doesn't have to be neat or uniform. I layered mine 4 deep to provide sufficient structure.
  2. Spray the empty egg carton with some water so the newspaper can conform to the shape and ensure that it will stay in place while you're working.
  3. Place the newspapers on top of the egg egg slot, I do mine one slot at a time. Press the newspapers into the form with the handle end of the pestle. My pestle is the perfect size for this job.
  4. Once all the newspapers are in place, scoop the dirt into the hollowed out spaces filling up to the point where you will place the seeds. Some seeds require deeper depths so fill accordingly. Plastic spoons make the perfect little tool for this but mini shovels will work too. 
  5. Place the seeds into their egg spots and cover the remaining space with dirt.

*For the newspaper I try to use only the black and white print parts. After much research I still can't figure out if the colored dye used for pictures is safe for the garden. Some sources say it's fine and harmless, others say it contains chemicals and toxins. Therefore, I just avoid it. 

**I just dig up some regular dirt (organic and free!) and mix it with my compost which is now rich with chicken manure!