It’s early February, and that means it’s time for 2013 seed starting activities to begin. I’m off to a modest start so far, sowing seeds for parsley, cilantro, lettuce, arugula and Swiss chard. The first arugula to emerge was up in less than 72 hours, with the lettuce not far behind it. No doubt the parsley will be the last to show signs of life, since it can take two or three weeks to germinate.
My favorite seed starting medium is Pro-Mix BX, which is a blend of sphagnum peat, vermiculite and perlite. I’m also experimenting this year with using coco coir. This won’t be a controlled experiment by any means, but I am going to use it for germinating some selected seeds and then as a transplant mix for growing on the seedlings. Coco coir is made from the fibrous outer husks of coconuts, and is considered to be an earth-friendly alternative to sphagnum peat moss. I got this particular mix from Gardener’s Supply Company, and it is made from finely ground coir that is compressed into bricks. Each of these bricks expands to make 10 quarts of planting mix when rehydrated.
The coco coir can be used as-is for seed starting, or mixed with other ingredients like perlite and vermiculite. Like peat moss, the coco coir doesn’t have any nutrients itself, but does offer a lightweight, porous and disease resistant medium that holds moisture and allows air to penetrate to plant roots. Both can be mixed with compost, humus, worm castings or other organic materials to make a soil mix suitable for transplanting and general potting use.
For this first round of seed starting, I used a 200 cell plug tray, and filled some of the cells with coco coir and some with Pro-Mix BX. I used moistened coco coir with no amendments this time, but I will also experiment with mixing it with other ingredients in the future.
Next in line for vegetable seed starting will be the early cole crops like broccoli, cabbage and kohlrabi, plus some Asian greens and green onions. I have ordered plants for regular onions, instead of growing them from seed myself. And it’s also time to get some petunia seeds going, since they take a fairly long time from sowing to blooming. It looks like I will be busy with seed activities in the next week or so.
March will also see a lot of seed starting going on, because that’s when it’s time to start tomatoes, eggplants and peppers here, along with a few other things. You can see my general seed starting and planting schedule at any time from the main menu, or by clicking here. Even though it’s still winter time, spring is right around the corner and it won’t be long before gardening activities are going full-blast around here!