Seed starting

I think this is the official start to the 2004 Gardening Season. The only way to indulge my gardening obsession while living in Zone 4 is to start my plants from seed, under lights.

Adding pansy seeds to the potting soil I started four flats of pansies today. Well, to be perfectly accurate, three of pansies, one of violas. After much angst and gardenporn catalog browsing, I decided that my color theme for all of my window boxes is going to be hot colors: red, orange and yellow. I know, I know, I said last year that I missed purples and pinks when I did my red, white and blue theme. But I love red, orange and yellow lantana, and basically decided to build my color theme around my favorite flower. How strange is that?

Cover the seedtray with the clear domeI’m trying the seed starters from Gardener’s Supply Company.. They were pretty easy to set up and use, and I’m going to watch carefully to see how well they do. Last year I had to travel a lot and lost some of my seedlings because I couldn’t water them twice a day, so I’m hoping these work out well.

Pansies supposedly like cool temps to germinate, so I’m not using my seed starting heating mat yet. (I grew up in the desert! This cold weather gardening stuff is alien to me.) I’m hoping that they get going pretty quickly, so that I can re-use them to start some more seeds on the mats later on in the month. We are hoping that having the water reservoir on top of the heating mats will keep the plants at a more even temperature because the water will hold onto the heat.

I didn’t have any “seed starting” planting mix, so I basically made my own from stuff I had left in the basement. I took some potting mix, mixed it with peat moss and some sand, wet it all really well, and just used that. I’m hoping it will be fine.

Four seedtrays under grow lights in the basement on specially made shelvesI didn’t put them under lights yet, because both of these seeds want darkness to germinate. I’ll watch them closely and turn on the lights as soon as I see signs of sprouting, though. It’s sort of weird, though, when seeds germinate at different rates, because the ones that go quicker need light yet there are often still seeds that haven’t done anything, that supposedly still need darkness.

So what I actually started today are three varieties, all from Burpee: Viola Eye of the Tiger Hybrid, Atlas Yellow Blotch, and a black pansy because Frank loves them, Zorro Hybrid.

They all say they will be ready to plant out in 12 weeks, that gives me all of February, March and April to grow them on. Surely by May first, the snow will be gone and I’ll be able to put them out. What I’m hoping to avoid is my mad rush for color and I usually buy 20 flats or more of pansies because I’m just dying for color and the stuff I’ve started from seed is usually not ready yet.

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