This morning I was talking to APlourde on the Container Gardening forum on Ravelry about getting the garden up and running for the year. While I’m delighted to be seeing shoots already, she was complaining bitterly because it’s SNOWING in Maine. They won’t be able to get out into the garden until May! That rather blows my mind. Even in Toronto, March meant Garden Time when I was growing up.
I don’t have an outdoor space for a proper garden and I reckon I’d be far too impatient to wait until May (though I admire the restraint of anyone who does!), which might be why I’ve been tinkering with sowing seeds since January. I don’t have a lamp but I’ve got some very sunny windows! I should think that so long as you’ve got a patch of window and the right tools, you should be able to get your garden started indoors and ready to be planted outdoors as soon as the outdoors catches up.
Lou put up an awesome post about using cut-up scraps of old plastic bottle and other recycled containers, so I figure as I’ve got some seedlings popping up, I’d add my own two cents on what to do with them once they’ve started to grow.
Like Lou, I prep my seeds and soil then cover them with old jam jars or clear plastic yogurt pots. (More recently I’ve become a huge convert of the shredded old plastic file — it’s a perfect cover because it’s so light it won’t weight the soil down and cause the seeds any undue duress.) I actually rarely water them other than a couple of stingy dribble until shoots start peeping through because the make-shift cloche creates its own little ecosystem. Inside it’s hot and a bit steamy as it is, so much more water than that can cause the seeds to breakdown rather than germinate.
Once they have become established as seedlings, they need watering a couple of times a day. Never heaps, just a small amount. I’ve recently learned that you should ‘pre-water’ your container plants because often the roots don’t catch it the first time, the way they would if they were in the ground or in raised beds. If you water all at once, you risk massive root damage because they aren’t ready to drink it up and it all goes spilling out the drainage holes and this can lead to them starting to dry out because they aren’t able to absorb the water. Or the soil becomes overmoist and the roots start to rot because they can’t absorb it fast enough. I think that’s the science of it, but I have noticed a big difference having switched over to this method.
I couldn’t catch it quick enough, but in the picture above I’m watering my zucchini seedling by hand rather than just sloshing it on there. A wee palmful is about as much as that first watering should be. I’ll potter about dampening things quickly while my tea/coffee is brewing and then go back around cup-in-hand.
It’s so cool to watch the water settle briefly on the surface before sinking down into the soil. You can just see the plants perk up!