So I thought it may be useful to do an official series on all the times I screw up. I think I did a pretty good job laughing at my own yoghurt mistakes. My husband thinks I wasn’t entirely forthcoming about my gingerbread urban homestead collapse (it was Christmas! Think of the children!).
The first in what will probably be a long, fruitful and popular series is my to-date messups with seeds. Here is my list of “learn from my mistakes” moments with starting plants from seeds:
1. Don’t go bonkers and buy 4000 packages of seeds
I don’t *really* regret this, because I know that in my first year I am probably not going to be that successful with the seeding, then the transplanting, and then the maintenance. I am trying to be realistic about survival rates here. That said, I ordered WAY more seeds than I have room for plants in my garden. It has been an interesting balance of not wanting to waste the money I paid for the seeds, not wanting to waste the seeds, and not wanting to entirely kill myself building more space to plant stuff.
2. You don’t have to plant all the seeds in a package
Um yeah. The 21 spaghetti squash plants were overkill. It never occurred to me that they would all do SO well. Also, I’m trying out so many varieties of tomatoes that I don’t need 20 seedlings of each. I guess I was worried the seeds wouldn’t last, but really I should have used half and saved the other half of the package. I ended up putting some of my squash in ridiculous places just to see if they would survive. With the mesclun it almost worked out because the seedlings are dying off like crazy! If the cauliflower and cabbages survive though – well I’ll be looking to make sauerkraut, that’s for sure. And kimchi. And soup. Also, I should be able to barter with veggies this summer. HA!
3. Don’t plant your seeds too deep
RIP strawberries. These were my first attempt at seeding, and they failed. Never came up. I *know* it’s because I planted them way too deep. They are TINY seeds. Tiny seeds (I think) should be just put on the top of the dirt and have more dirt lightly sprinkled over them. I planted my peppers at the same time and they didn’t come up either. I went down 4 weeks later and just mussed up the soil and now three pepper seeds sprouted – since they were closer up.
4. Keep your seeds organised by planting dates
I am finding it really stressful keeping track of what needs to be planted by when and prioritising my messy shoebox full of seed packets. You could use something like this, which organises them by month. I would prefer to make something, but something more visual. I was thinking plastic sleeves that broke the months down into 4 (1 week per month) so that I could be super on top of things. I really should be starting something almost every week. Also, it would be nice to have some sort of identifier for those starting indoors versus direct-sown. When I make it I’ll post instructions with photos… Some day!
5. Set up lights before getting started
My seedlings get leggy, and stop growing. I now know that I definitely need lights. It’s harder to get up above them and deal with that with them all in the way. Just assume you will need lights. I’m going to try just regular lights first, work lights, and see if they do the job.
6. Just because they don’t seem to be drinking that much water day to day doesn’t mean you should leave them for two days.
Because all of a sudden they will drink themselves dry and you will kill them. I think that’s fairly basic. Check them every day in case this is the day when in fact they become greedy and somewhat suicidal.
7. Seedlings take a lot of room
You will need a good place to put them. Don’t just think light, think will I need to get into this corner to rip out the insulation and do some plumbing? Will I be putting a 5′ tall pile of lumber, nail guns and caulking right in front of them making it impossible to check on them easily? Will the cat think this is an awesome place to wreak havoc?
8. Don’t get attached. Or cocky.
Even if your seeds sprout beautifully, and don’t become too leggy, and get watered perfectly, and are well protected from your cats – you may still loose the little buggers when they go outside. Yes, harden them off. Yes, watch their water outside. Know you are doing a good job, but don’t be surprised when they still turn into a pile of lifeless mesclun. Glad I started with mesclun, because I don’t even really love it that much. Still pretty bummed they’re not thriving. They may still make it, but I would probably convert if they did. A miracle!
Tell me about your seeding mistakes, please. Please. Make me feel better about myself.