|Cosmos sprouts pushing their way toward the light|
I took the opportunity of Tuesday’s nor’easter to start my first seeds of the year. Some of my seed packets were a year old or more, saved in the basement in a plastic box. I didn’t want to waste time and space by planting them in six-packs of potting mix like the newer seeds and then find out they’d lost their ability to germinate. Instead, I’d see whether they’d sprout on the paper towels.
|Were these calendula seeds as dead as they looked?|
I expected that if they were going to germinate, it would take a week or two. I placed the sealed sandwich bags in a tray on the floor to be warmed by sub-floor heating.
I glanced over on Thursday morning and was surprised to see one of the bags pushed upward by sprouting cosmos seeds. By the next day, another cosmos variety was showing green sprouts too, and tiny celosia seeds were pushing out pink roots.
|These celosias will fill a niche in the pollinator garden|
It seemed as if every time I checked, more seeds had sprouted. Two days later, all the bags were showing some signs of life: zinnias, black-eyed Susans, bachelor’s buttons, even calendula, an edible flower I had poor luck with last year.
The next step seemed a bit trickier than I’d expected. I’d read that I should pull the sprouts away from the paper towel with tweezers and plant them in potting mix. I set up my six-packs filled with Organic Mechanics Seed Starting Blend. Then I tried to separate a cosmos seedling from its towel.
I was afraid I was breaking off the growing tip of the root. That seemed like a bad idea, so in stubborn cases, I cut out a small section of paper towel around the little root and stuck the whole thing into the planting medium. I put the six-packs with their newly planted sprouts under the grow light with the seeds I’d planted on Tuesday and replaced the lid to keep the humidity in.
|A humid environment for the young seedlings|
So far the sprouts seem to have survived the transition without trouble. I can see I’ll need to keep planting this week as more seeds germinate. I’m rapidly running out of space under the grow light in the kitchen, which is the brightest I have. March sunlight from the west-facing window isn’t strong enough to give the seedlings a good start.
|Even sunlight on snow doesn't reflect enough lumens to grow stocky seedlings indoors|
The fluorescent tubes set up in the basement aren’t bright enough either. Maybe I can find some inexpensive LED fixtures to expand my options.
Meanwhile, several of the seed varieties I planted in six-packs of homemade potting mix have popped up too. Basil and alyssum were the first.
I’m using a heat mat under the seed flats, which probably helps. It warms the medium by 11 °F. Once the first leaves peek out, it’s time to turn off the heat and start opening the lid. Welcome to reality!
|So far so good|