Serious About Seeds-Still Fun
When the wind is howling and the temperatures are diving, the darkness is daunting and the thought of yet more time in the lazyboy with computer on lap makes one want to shriek aloud, solace is found in the sunroom/greenhouse. Seeds. Beautiful encased bits of magic waiting to be unlocked by moisture, warmth and light.Last year we wrote about having fun with seeds. You can read that post by clicking here. We have been having this sort of fun every January since the sunroom/greenhouse was first constructed in the big renovation of 2000. There was a post written about that room that you can read about by clicking here. The fun is still there, oh yes, but this year we are trying for better odds at success rather than just the joy of the journey. First we ordered a heat mat to boost the temperature of the soil more to the liking of little seeds waiting to spring into action than offered by the cool greenhouse temps that the orchids adore.The speed of germination is nothing short of miraculous using this mat. Lettuce arose in two days, as did malva and two types of amaranthus. Sweet little Nicotiana sylvestris, thanks, Tina, took only a few more days to become little spots of green on the vermiculite covered seed starting mix.Even difficult to start seeds like Cobaea scandens and Cobaea scandens ‘Alba’, shown above have come alive under the plastic dome that holds in the heat from the bottom and the moisture droplets atop. Hope these turn out to be as pretty as Chuck’s.After the seedlings are well up, they are repotted into a new tray to grow on. Amaranthus ‘Fat Spike’ is looking a little too leggy even though the tray is on a shelf close to the south facing windows.This has been the downfall of many a seedling in the past. The big if of germination is followed by the doom of stretched stems searching for higher candlepower. Enter the grow light. We went whole hog this year, heat mat and grow light set up. Four 24 inch gro-terrific bulbs on a moveable stand 19 inches wide resting on a table made by the carpenter extraordinaire, offspring Gardoctor. He even used the extra piece of corian kitchen countertop that we have saved for eight years under the guest bed that was cut out for the range as the table top. The seedlings sigh with relief as they are placed under the warming grow lights.Lettuce is nearly ready to eat with nice elliptical leaves of green instead of bleached out grass like blades. Yum, a leaf leapt into my mouth and it was good. These seeds were started in mid November and looked like the aforementioned pale grass before the light was set up.These are the lettuces sown December 30, Dazzler and Revolution, both red leaf varieties. Leaf of green is giving way to maroon with the help of the lights.Saved seeds from the ornamental pepper Black Pearl to the left and Swiss Chard ‘Bright Yellow’ are happy to be soaking up these artificial rays. Do you see the more purple baby in the pepper pot? Chicken grit is used as a topping to anchor the seedlings, keep the foliage cleaner and hold moisture in.Young ‘uns grown from collected seed of our Primula veris have been a pleasant surprise too. They look ready to be repotted. At some point the space under the lights will have to be rationed to only those most needy of that high dose of simulated sunshine. The sunroom/greenhouse cool nights and warmer sunny days will give the shelved seedlings protection indoors until the weather allows for hardening off and planting out. In the past, the seedlings have been too small when this step was taken. The sunroom/greenhouse heats up quickly in early spring and the plants need to be moved outdoors to avoid being steamed. We are hoping to have larger stouter plants with the help of the mat and light to prepare them for joining the inhabitants in our soil.Like the Euphorbia ‘Chameleon’.