February 21, 2010
Starting Seeds in the Shed (again)
The ground may still be covered with snow here at Ranchero Indebto (with more rumored to be on the way this week), but the earliest days of planting season are just weeks away. While hauling the rototiller out of the shed is always one of the first rights of Spring, starting the seed flats predates that event ... but only in those years when I'm ambitious enough to get them started in time.
Mother's Day weekend is often toted as the freeze-safe planting date around these parts, so I always work backwards from that. The earlier you get the seedlings in the ground, the better ... as long as they don't freeze.
Weighing the cost/benefits of seed starting vs buying ready-to-go flats can be tough with a small greenhouse shed. Buying seeds in small quantities often runs up the price per seedling to the point where you have to question whether it might be less expensive to go for the no fuss, no muss strategy of buying flats of seedlings.
The biggest advantage to starting your own seedlings is the variety of plants. How many times have you left the nursery disappointed because they'd run out (or never had) a favorite variety? When starting from scratch in your shed, you have complete flexibility. If you can't find a specific variety locally, the Internet provides an endless bounty. Johnny's Seeds, for example, offers dozens upon dozens of different varieties of tomatoes and peppers, although the mini packets of seeds can be a tad pricey.
While I tend to save the trays from year-to-year, I try to buy new plug flats and always buy new starting medium. Once again, purchasing these items in small quantities can run up the costs. Rather than be overly ambitious with home propagation this year, I'm planning on a modest approach this year, with just two or three flats of unique varieties.