Friday, February 17, 2012

We've Started Growing, Again!

It may be a little snowy outside, it may be freezing cold but in our sun room little seeds are going into warm soil.  Hopefully, soon we'll have baby plants - lots of them!  Here in Manitoba we have a very short growing season.  Our last frost date is officially June 6 and first frost is September 10!  Any seed that required ninety days to maturity or more needs to be started inside the house early and plants, not seeds, set outside.  For us, that includes tomatoes, peppers, many herbs, broccoli, cabbage, melons and some of our favorite winter squash.  We have a small, homemade, lean-to greenhouse against the barn, but it's not even slightly energy efficient; our first year here we started seeds in the greenhouse and saw our electricity bill increase about $300 - not affordable.  So now we start our seeds in the sun room, attached to the house.

Farmer Man built us a seed starting unit.  It's a three tier wooden stand, with common, two bulb fluorescent lights attached on all three levels.  We use one warm and one cool bulb in each light fixture, for a full spectrum light.  We have acquired a few table top and hanging grow lights in the last few years; the sun room will be filled with folding tables with light stands on top and hanging under a table for extra space!  There will end up being plantlets everywhere before it is warm enough to move to the greenhouse!  The bottom shelf on the grow stand has heat mats and the whole thing will be surrounded with heavy weight plastic left over from making the hoop house.  Quite a nice little hot house is created.  During the summer we store the lights and heat mats and the stand is in our prep area holding our bags and berry boxes and such accessories as we need to get our veggies to market.

Many of the heat loving plants will go into the stand as soon as they are seeded.  Tomatoes and peppers often get a plastic cover over the tray, to keep in heat and moisture.  Some seeds like lettuce, a cool weather crop, will never go in the seed stand because it's too much heat for them!  And we will start some lettuce soon for us to eat as micro-greens!  We start with any seeds left over from last year and we seed thickly in case germination is not good.  We do five rows in a common tray, so with the peppers already done that's probably over a hundred plants per tray, if they all germinate!  As seeds sprout, the tray gets moved up a level, away from the heat pads.  They will get potted up into small pots once they have two sets of leaves.

Many seed packets contain all the information you need to get going.  Each type of seed is different in what they want: the depth the seed should be at, whether they need light or heat or not, time to germination.  We also have a couple of great reference books, in case we need more information.  We have Lois Hole's 'Vegetable Book'  (a great all-around reference for cold climate gardeners) and Suzanne Ashworth's Seed to Seed - a great book on saving as well as starting seeds!  Starting seeds on such a volume will keep us busy: monitoring, watering, starting more, potting up, checking humidity and keeping Doodles the kitten out of the dirt will consume some time in the next few months!  We love the work - it's so exciting, even now, when new little bits of life have popped up through the soil overnight!  And I love to check the mail these days; a little parcel that rattles is so exciting!  Are you starting seeds? 


  1. I'll have to find a copy of Seed to Seed, sounds like I could definitely get some use out of it. You have no idea how badly I want to dig in the dirt right now and your post is just making me want it even more!

    1. Hi, Adele; Do you start any seeds indoors?

  2. Unfortunately, my two cats have an appetite for fresh greens. I have a plan this year to try at least a handful of plantings in a covered container. I'll probably be starting that in about a week and the rest will have to wait for the weather to warm up enough for me to use my uninsulated plastic greenhouse.

  3. Starting seeds is one of my favourite gardening chores. A great way to start the season early and a little miracle all in one. This year though I'm starting much later. I started mid-March last year and my living room was full of gigantic tomatoes by the time I was able to get them outdoors in June.

  4. Wow, thats an amazing short time frame. In England we usually have at least 6 months. I guess that really limits the type of crops that can be planted.