Seed starting in newspaper pots

I started starting my seeds in my newspaper pots today. I’d say I’m maybe a few weeks late, but since I don’t plan to transplant anything until the middle to end of May, I’ll be ok.

First, a bit on what to start your seeds in. I’ve had good luck with Miracle Gro potting soil with Moisture Control. It is available at my local stores and it really wicks the moisture up to the plants. Since I am going to be bottom watering, that is important.

I had some left over from last year, so the first thing I had to do was moisten it up. It was bone dry, and some of it was in chunks.

It is surprising how much water it will soak up and still not be sopping wet. I simply transferred to my biggest pot and added water. Using my sauerkraut technique (squeeze the heck out of it), I got the water to incorporate into the dry material and eventually got it to clump up when I squeezed it, but not be soupy. This is the consistency I like.

I like to plant into pots big enough that I won’t have to transplant them. I don’t have time to fuss with it, so I just figure that I will transplant them into the ground before they get root bound. To make my holding trays, I take a pizza box and reinforce it with duct tape as necessary.

I then slip it into a large garbage bag. The point of this is that the cardboard will not get wet, so make sure the garbage bag doesn’t have any holes. Also, it needs to be large enough to cover the entire pizza box, including up the sides. “Watering from the bottom” means that you will eventually fill the plastic covered pizza box with water and let the newspaper and potting mix bring the water up to the roots of the plant, so it must be able to hold water and it needs to go all the way up the side of the box so it won’t spill over. One of the garbage bags tonight was big enough for the whole box to fit in, but the other one wasn’t, so I cut it so that the box wasn’t inside the plastic, but the plastic instead was just on top of it. It’ll work fine.

Then, fill the pots with the damp soil and pack down slightly. I fill all of them first, and then worry about what I am going to plant in each of them. I was able to fit 6 in each column, and I got 12 across, so this one pizza box holds 72 pots. They will help hold each other up, and the funny thing is, that when I just put the empty pots in, I could only got 5 across, but when I got the soil packed in and I was able to push them up against each other, I was able to get 6.

I then started to plant. Cabbage and broccoli were first up. They should have been started earlier, but no use crying over that. I planted 18 broccoli plants, and 36 cabbages, 18 from Gurney’s and 18 from Jackie Clay. I put two seeds in each pot, and when they get going for a few weeks or so, I will see which one is growing best in each pot, and carefully cut the other one away. That way, each pot will only have one plant to support.

The last thing I planted in this flat is some Jimson Weed (some? Ha. 18 of them). This is a flower that my husband’s Grandma has in her yard, and it is just beautiful and so fragrant. The flowers bloom towards evening, so it is perfect for me. I don’t go out in the yard before work or church, and Saturdays are a big house chore day for me, so I don’t ever get out to the garden until afternoon/evening time. They have large, showy, white, tube like flowers and a lot of dark green foliage. The plants themselves get very large. Grandma C gave me some of the seeds last year from her plant, and so I’ve been holding on to them since then. I didn’t know how many will actually germinate, so I planted 2 or 3 per pot. This plant is said to thrive in dry conditions, so how perfect is that in this dry, droughty season? This is a picture from a few years ago in her yard. The picture quality is awful, but I hope you can tell how large and showy the flowers are!

So, why am I planting flowers? It’s vegetable planting time, yo. Well, because. My best friend has the most awesome yard I’ve seen. She gardens for vegetables, has started an orchard behind her house, and the front of her house keeps getting deeper and deeper flower beds. I bet she has a 6 foot deep bed of flowers in front of the house, and it just looks so great! She buys bulbs and flowers when they are spent and at a deep discount, plants them, and they come up the next year, and every year after. She gets delayed beauty, but for cheap. I saw it a few years ago, and I’ll admit. I was jealous. But then I decided, hey, why be jealous, be inspired instead! So, since then, I’ve started thinking about adding flowers to my yard.

I started out by putting newspaper down on the grass on the north side of our house, wetting it down, and then putting deep straw on top of that. I did that a year and a half ago in the fall, and I just let it go over the winter. Then, last spring, I dug in it, and it was very loose soil and almost all of the grass and weeds were gone. Grandma C brought over some bulbs for some early small white flowers, and we planted those last year, and I got some geraniums from work last year in a hanging pot. I split those up, got 3 plants out of the it, and planted those as well. I was planning on starting more flowers, but I just never got around to it. I tried planting the Jimson Weed out there, but I didn’t get any to come up. I think it was too dry to germinate, and I do awful watering when they are seeds. I then added more newspapers and more straw and left it for the rest of the year, until now. Now, it is basically bare ground, but on the north side of the house so it isn’t baked and cracked like the rest of the ground is. Covering it again is on the list.

So that was some long winded background to the question of why am I starting flowers now when the vegetables need to get in. The answer is, if I don’t start them now, I might not ever get them started. I plan on starting some flowers in each flat I start, just to make sure that I don’t wait until everything else is done, because by then, I might be too busy and put it off too long.

I ran out of potting soil before I got the second flat filled. This pizza box only holds 5 in each column, and I ran out right when I finished the 8th row, a little over half way to filling this flat. I planted 15 Kale, 15 Celery (both from Gurney’s) and the rest in daisies. As an aside: Holy moley, celery seed is small. I basically dusted those in: took a pinch, sprinkled it over each pot, and then kind of poked them into the soil. I’ve never planted celery before, so we’ll see if they take.

I only have one heating pad, so I just put it under the first flat, and once those have germinated and are poking up, I’ll shift it so that I am heating another section of the boxes. I got this from Gurney’s a few years ago.

Finally, last thing I do is put plastic wrap over the top of the flats. The seeds need to be damp, but not soaking, so I won’t water any more until they have poked up over the soil. I put plastic over the top so that the moisture won’t evaporate, put it on the heating pad, and let them be.

Now, I just need to get more potting soil, and spend some more time making pots. I’ve got okra, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers to start for sure, more flowers, and if I have time/space, I’ll put in some cucumbers, and both winter and summer squashes. Might as well start everything now, before the hubbub of late May gets here.

I don’t need to set up my lights just yet. The seeds need to sprout and get 1/2″ or so tall before they need any lights. DH is telling me he is going to weld up some light holders for me, and we’ll see how that goes. I might have to apply some interesting engineering to the problem if he doesn’t get it done. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention and all that.

2 thoughts on “Seed starting in newspaper pots

  1. Karen.

    The plastic over the top is smart. I feel like a slacker; I’m only starting 38 plants altogether! Wish I could find the marigold and morning glory seeds I saved last year, but alas.

    Someone whom I live with has convinced me to try plastic silage pile cover on the garden rather than trying to weed and mulch. Have not concluded this is smart but am going to give it a whirl. I am likely the world’s worst weeder.


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