Seed-Starting Class

Yesterday’s seed-starting and gardening workshop was a huge success. I love learning with other gardeners. A little more than 20 of us gathered at a beautiful home in Fallbrook, eager to get our warm-season seeds planted.

As I write this, the weather forecast shows that we’ll have a high of 50 tomorrow and a low of 37. What? That’s unseasonably cold. So, for the warm-season seeds I started in January and February, I’m going to wait to transplant seedlings until mid-week, well past the freezing rain predicted for tomorrow.

What we learned

Here’s a summary of what Brijette Pena, founder of San Diego Seed Company, taught at the workshop. I appreciated her adding educational material about tomato growing and also sharing tons of packets of seeds for us to plant. Across the group we planted five or six varieties of tomatoes, two varieties of squash, two varieties of melon and some corn. People left with a 50-cell tray (from Bootstrap Farmer) of soon-to-be seedlings and I can’t wait for people to share how their seedlings are faring!


ImportanceProcedure (Italics are Brijette’s exact words.)
!!! Critically Important !!!SOIL. Use quality seed-starting soil for transplants and starter pots. Imitate quality seed-starting mix when transplanting. The key takeaway here is that quality seed-starting soil, like SunGro’s propagation mix, offers important attributes. These include the absence of big chunks of wood chips, perlite or other materials that small seeds, like carrots or basil, may have trouble pushing through as seedlings. SunGro, which is available at Grangetto’s, also holds moisture well although the peat moss within it is hydrophobic and initially needs some soaking.
!!! Critically Important !!!MOISTURE. Bottom water for complete saturation of soil in transplants and starter pots. Garden soil must be thoroughly moist. Deep water. Seeds need water to germinate, and they must remain consistently moist. Using seed-starting trays makes this a lot easier, as it’s easy to tell just by touching the soil or even lifting and gauging the weight of the tray whether the seeds have enough water to germinate.
ImportantPLANTING DEPTH. Small seed = close to surface. Large seed = deeper. Unless you’re planting a bean seed, don’t just stick your finger in the soil and drop in the seed. Only the mightiest of tiny basil seeds can make their way through an inch of soil to sprout. Seeds need to be planted at a depth half the width of the seed. For a tomato seed, that’s a teeny tiny bit deep. A better way is to lay the seed on top of the seed-starting mix in your tray and then dust some propagation mix over the seed using a strainer or colander.
Room for ErrorTEMPERATURE. Ideal temperature offers quicker and more even germination. Most seeds like 60-80 degrees; good airflow helps prevent disease among seedlings. At this point in the year, we can start seeds outside, though we may get quicker germination using a heat mat tuned to the seed’s ideal temp.
AftercareThe goal of aftercare is to create healthy, strong plants. Remember to fertilize, thin and pot up or relocate your seedlings. We also discussed fertilizing or fertigation, where you’re irrigating/watering and offering diluted fertilizer. When I start seedlings, when the first true leaves appear I provide the seedlings a high-nitrogen fertilizer (diluted) such as fish emulsion. When I transplant the seedlings to a 3.5-inch pots, they get a more balanced organic fertilizer.
A corner of Melissa’s garden. These are some of the plants she started from seed at last Fall’s seed-starting workshop.

A garden tour

Toward the end of the workshop, several of us took a tour of Melissa’s garden, which featured something really remarkable–mature vegetables that she had started as seeds during our Fall seed-starting workshop!

Peas climbing a bamboo teepee in Melissa’s garden. In the background, the borage was covered in happy bees.
Nasturtiums peaking through the fence in Melissa’s garden. Both nasturtium and borage flowers are edible and make salads very pretty (and fancy!).

I also had the chance to sell some seedlings, the first time I’ve ever done so. Last year I probably gave away 1,000 seedlings–another one of my strategies to rope my friends into gardening. This year, I’ll continue to donate some seedlings but am offsetting some of my costs by selling seedlings using high-quality seeds that I’ve hand-picked from the best seed companies, like San Diego Seed Company (whose seeds are localized to our climate and conditions) and Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I hope these seedlings give people a positive experience of gardening as well as fresh delicious food.

If you’d like to see what seedlings I’ll be offering this year (including photos, descriptions and the origin of the seeds), scroll through the box below. Leave a comment if you’d like me to send you my contact info for ordering seedlings. Our eldest son will be making deliveries to North County San Diego. And, subscribe to this blog (enter your email on the home page) if you’d like to be notified of future gardening workshops. Currently, we’re tentatively planning an evening gardening workshop in August, exact date TBD.