Just when it seems spring will never get here, on a cold and rainy Saturday in March, I started my indoor plantings for this summer’s vegetable garden. Many vegetables benefit from going into the ground as plants rather than directly sowing seeds into the earth. I annually plant peppers, tomatoes, tomatillo, eggplant and basil indoors giving them the longer growing season they need. To do this yourself you will need a solid chunk of time. It took me 4 hours from set up to clean up (it may not take you as long, I plant many trays).
I lay down a tarp (an old sheet or towels will work just as well) in a generous area to be able to spread everything out. Setting up a space to work and establishing a system makes the process very efficient. I recommend getting the seed packets out and considering how many of each type of plant you will want in May to put into the ground. I always increase my amounts to be sure to have back ups for a variety of things that can go wrong along the way.
Write the name of the vegetable variety on the end of a popsicle stick with a fine tip permanent marker. Be specific, don’t simply write tomato if you are planting several varieties. For example, I will be planting Italian Roma, Sweetie Cherry, Brandywine Red and Yellow.
You can purchase small plastic pots (inexpensive and reusable), use peat pots (cheap and must be purchased every year) or make your own from small yogurt cups (free and reusable). If using yogurt cups drainage holes will need to be pierced into the bottom of each cup. I put the cup on a piece of scrap wood, hold a nail and hammer it to pierce the plastic in 3-4 different places.
Fill each planting cup with potting soil (I recommend organic) to just below the rim. Most potting soil is moist in freshly opened bags. If it isn’t, or you are using a bag previously opened water the soil to moisten. If a lot of water drains out into the catch tray, pour it out.
Place the filled cups in a planting tray to catch draining water, make it easier to cover with plastic for the germination period and allow for easy transport of plants outdoors on warm sunny days and back in for the cooler nights. The planting trays I purchased years ago have started to develop holes (defeating their original purpose) but I use them to make carrying easier, I simply line them with large plastic salad bins. Another alternative is to put cups with holes inside a cup without a hole for individual catch trays.
Slide a labeled popsicle stick into the side of each cup.
Put 2-4 like kind seeds in each cup spreading them out evenly. Sprinkle a layer of soil on top of the seeds and gently press the layer of soil down. I usually just push the seeds down 1/8-1/4 inches below the surface with a finger and then gently compress the soil surface down.
Mist with water to soak.
Cover with plastic wrap and monitor daily. If the soil begins to dry out mist with water and recover otherwise leave the plastic intact. I recommend leaving the plastic on until the sprouts touch the plastic then remove the plastic and watch the soil carefully and mist to water as needed.
BE PATIENT, you won’t see the first sprouts for about a week. Peppers can take up to 2 weeks (especially in a space where the temperature is cool) so don’t give up.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT STEPS in an upcoming post.