When it comes to Springtime garden prep, I’m much like a kid at Christmas. I’m so excited to get going, wondering what surprises this year will bring and whether we’ll have a bounty. With eager anticipation, I’m fast-forwarding to that first tomato, juice dripping down my chin as I sneak a bite while I’m still in the garden.
There’s no guarantee with gardening, but I’ve gotta try.
Since today was the first day of Spring, I thought it fitting to go out and give my new handy-dandy seedling trays (how-to post coming soon) an initiation.
You certainly can just fill your trays with a seed-starting mixture, but thanks to a tip from the great Penn & Cord Parmenter, I’m trying a little money-saving hack using what I have a seemingly endless supply of… pine litter!
Line your seedling tray with newspaper, then fill half-way (or so) with leaf mold or pine needle mold–that’s the soggy, decomposing stuff that fell last fall and is beginning to fall apart. I pulled off most of the dry top layer to get to the good stuff below.
You can see we’re still under a bit of snow here. I’m not exactly sure what our official last frost date is at this altitude and in this canyon, but I know it’s going to be later than down on the plains! I’m guessing early June.
For the seed-starting medium, I’m going with a simple mix of coco coir (coconut fiber) and perlite. Coconut fiber is available in compressed blocks or fluffed up a bit in bags. Here’s a great reason to enjoy living in a grow-state… there’s all sorts of hydroponics shops that carry this stuff year-round!
Perlite may look like styrofoam balls (and blow around on windy days like styrofoam), but really it’s a volcanic rock that is superheated until it pops like popcorn and forms these lightweight, porous chunks that hold water like you wouldn’t believe! Do take caution when you’re getting perlite out of the bag as it’s pretty dusty and can aggravate respiratory issues or cause more serious problems.
Mix the two ingredients together at nearly a 1:1 ratio. I tend to lean a little lighter on the perlite. But then again, I don’t actually measure. I just pour a bunch of one in a bucket, then pour the other the other in at about the same volume, then mix.
It’s helpful to add some water to the mix. There’s no precise amount that’s perfect here. I added enough that the mixture started to hold together. You don’t want it soupy.
Fill up your seedling trays with this perlite/coir mixture. Make sure the newspaper and any leaves/needles are tucked down below this layer. Those things become great wicks to dehydrate your tray, particularly in arid places like Colorado!
As the trays are being filled, break up any coir clumps that you find. Your seedlings will thank you with straight, strong root systems.
A couple hours worth of work and I’m ready to plant my first seeds of 2018!! Happy Spring, everyone!
How about you? Have you started seeds yet? What are your go-to methods for strong seedlings?