Seedlings

IMG_0162.JPG

We don’t have a greenhouse. That’s not a problem for the fall gardens–in the summer we can start seeds outside for transplanting later. But spring and summer transplants have to be started in the winter, when it’s too cold to start the seeds outside. That’s when a greenhouse would come in mighty handy.

For a lot of what we need I can buy plants locally. But some of the varieties we grow aren’t available from local sources. We have to start those ourselves, greenhouse or not.

So we set up shelves beside a window and hang growlights over our seed trays. It’s important to suspend the growlights as close to the top of the seedlings as possible. But even then the amount of light the plant gets is far less than natural sunlight. As a result, our seedlings almost always get “leggy.”

IMG_9607.JPG

So this year, like every other year, when we began transplanting it was easy to tell the seedlings we started from those started in commercial greenhouses. Ours were spindly and leggy, theirs were stout and strong.

But, as is the case every year, once in the ground our skinny leggy plants soon catch up. Thanks to an unusually cool and wet May our spring gardens are thriving, and the plants we started in our makeshift amateur set-up look just as good as the ones we bought from nurseries.

I still have a greenhouse on the farm wishlist, but it’s good to know we can manage without one.

 

 

Advertisements

33 comments on “Seedlings

  1. avwalters says:

    This year I didn’t do seedlings. Usually we do, but there’s just no room yet, and we have too much on our plates. Within the last 10 days, we’ve had snow and sleet–so they’re serious here about garden in on Memorial Day.Your longer season looks luxurious from here.

    So we’ll buy our starts from the local food co-op. It’s always wonderful to watch even the most spindly seedling, fill out and catch up with the season.

    Some day, I’ll put in a greenhouse. I have the coolest plan–sunken half way all around and earth bermed, all the way on the north side. I’m hoping that it’ll give us ten months of growing without heat.

    Liked by 4 people

    • A Passive Solar greenhouse, AV? ‘Way to grow!!; ) Back in the 70’s, my parents actually kicked the idea around for a while of building a passive solar, berm house (which came with a built in greenhouse, of course; )

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      We were fortunate to accomplish most of my objectives as we transitioned to the new life, but there are two major things I’d hoped for but didn’t get (while I still had the salary): solar panels and a passive solar greenhouse. I found a design I liked and corresponded with the professor at Appalachian State who designed it. I was going to hire him to design and build it for me, but it never happened.

      I hope you get yours. Maybe I’ll yet have one someday too. I have a lot more time and a few more skills than I did back then, so there’s still hope. 🙂

      Like

      • avwalters says:

        There are a great many plans for bermed and/or semi submerged greenhouses, with rammed earth walls that can be built for very little cash outlay. Here, where we have to deal with frost heave, I think we need to be a little more careful, but the general idea is where I am headed. (After the house and the pole barn–so, maybe next year.)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I miss my gardens. I live in an apartment with a southern exposure so I can’t even grow stuff on my balcony – the sun is way too intense and burns all the plants. 😦
    Diana xo

    Like

    • Bill says:

      A southern exposure is what we need for wintertime window-sill starts. Our house faces south but directly into the woods, which block the sun in the winter. We have a clear view to the north but that doesn’t help us in the winter. So we have to use west-facing windows where we get direct sun only about half a day. But as I mentioned in the post, the plants we started that way have done just fine.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Susan says:

    I’ve noticed my seedling never look as good either, but then I read that they use all kinds of toxic stuff to make them stout like that…….so I guess we need to be happy with leggy!!
    🙂

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I bury the leggy starts deep, and those long skinny legs produce roots. 🙂
      Once again this year is proving that those impressive-looking greenhouse starts don’t seem to have any advantage over our spindly window-sill starts.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dani says:

    Bill – I left you a comment, but I’m not sure wordpress allowed it as I included other links. Basically google “small greenhouse” images, and you’ll see a whole range of potential small greenhouses – from seedling trays surrounded by straw bales and a glass / perspex lid, to a wooden shelved unit made out of window frames, etc.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Dani. The other comment must have been sent to spam.
      We have a couple of small “greenhouses” we bought at a farm supply store and I use cold frames. But I haven’t had good success starting seeds in them. I do use cold frames for overwintered veggies. For starts I’ve found our window-sill growlight method is the best. Of course I’m sure a genuine greenhouse would be better.

      Like

  5. Laurie Graves says:

    So glad your gardens are thriving despite the rain!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      It’s been crazy here. Our April was hot and dry (like May) and our May was cool and wet (like April). I had to irrigate in April, for the first time ever. But once our cool rainy May arrived the cool-weather gardens just exploded!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie Graves says:

        Oh, my! We live in weird weather times, that’s for sure. Hope the weather is kind to you for the rest of the summer and that your gardens thrive.

        Like

  6. Dearest Bill,
    You could create a make shift greenhouse that would work well and very cost efficient. I do recall my Dad used such flat cold frames for seedlings before he started into the greenhouse business. Just google cold frames and there are lots of possibilities and very inexpensive.
    But glad you managed to have some seedlings!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Mariette. We do use cold frames, I’ve just never had luck starting seeds in the winter under them. The cheapo mini-greenhouses we bought never worked well either. For now we’re making do with this method, but I still have a proper greenhouse on my wish list.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Scott says:

    Better than my garden this year. I tilled up a 5×10 area and have planted nothing yet. Oh well. Other fish to fry, right?

    Like

  8. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, every year my seedlings started increase for me. This year is the most seedlings ever. It’s now time to put all those seedlings in the ground as they are out growing the 16oz drinking cups but the weather is not co operating. Rain every night leaves the soil way too wet to plant. I planted sweet corn yesterday in the mud and am hoping that it doesn’t rot. The first round of sweet corn is up but I planted it before the wet weather cycle began. It started off very dry this year and then became a wet year. Then there was the hail storm. My tomatoes were pounded down to sticks. Two seemed to have struggled through it but four are totally devastated. The bush green beans were not up yet and are looking good. The potatoes are indestructible and fully recovered. I really need this rain cycle to lighten up so I can get the plants in the ground soon.

    I have hopes to build a cold frame someday which would be good enough for my small operation. I hope and pray that all goes well in your garden this year.

    Have a great seedling day.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Sorry the weather has been treating you so badly. It’s been crazy here too. The wettest May I can recall. A serious problem for the tobacco farmers around here. Many look like they’ve already lost a lot of their crop. We were fortunate to get our cool weather crops in timely and they love this kind of weather. I didn’t get the summer gardens planted until last week and I had to mud most of them in. The jury is out on whether they’ll make it.

      It’s always something, isn’t it?

      Hoping things dry up for you soon.

      Like

  9. Bill, we purchased a tiny 6×10 greenhouse from Tractor Supply two years ago and it has proven to be well worth the money. It’s big enough to grow all our transplants in, none extra though. We start under grow lights inside just like you then move to the tiny greenhouse.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I’m glad it’s worked out for you. We bought two from Tractor Supply (smaller than yours) but haven’t had any luck with them. We have the materials for a good greenhouse–old windows and reclaimed material we’ve found–and a skilled friend who is going to help us build it. It was on my list of winter projects but we just never got to it. Maybe this year…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. When we first moved into our house in Oregon, I discovered that our pump house was extremely well built and the ceiling was covered with electrical outlets. What the heck, I thought. And then it struck me… it had served as a greenhouse for growing pot! 🙂 –Curt

    Like

  11. Mine are always leggy too. I still don’t know if my brandywine tomatoes are going to make it.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      The leggy tomatoes we started and now in the field beside the ones we bought from a commercial greenhouse and there is no difference in them now. Hopefully yours will do just fine too. One trick (as you probably know) is to bury the plants deep, up to the top leaves. Those legs will grow roots! Good luck with the brandywines–an amazingly delicious tomato.

      Like

  12. I do not know what we would do without our green house.. I also use window sills in my home.. 🙂 Looking good Bill.. 🙂

    Like

  13. Selka says:

    Yes, we fill our windowsills, plus must rely only on the sun, as grow lights are impossible with solar system. Last year they got SO leggy, as winter dragged on. This year I delayed starting, and spring is early. Seedlings without all the advantages don’t win any beauty contests, but yes, they end up just fine. I JUST got all the trays out of the windows, and planted out.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I wonder how folks who live so far north manage to start anything at all. Very impressive that you got it done without using grow lights. I admire how you live.

      Our skinny seedlings soon caught up with the others. And our direct-seeded kale did as well. It’s OK to fret over the seedlings I suppose, but they’re tougher than it appears!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s