Sunday, March 29, 2015

Seed Starting Begins

The Ambition shallots were sown two weeks ago. I used McEnroe organic potting mix, which has some compost in it, in a plastic tub. I figured the plants would be in the tub for awhile so some extra nutrients would be beneficial. I have about 20 plants germinated from 45 seeds planted, so germination was not terrific. I would have more except for the plants’ tendency to commit suicide. The McEnroe mix formed a crust on top of the pot. Not sure that was the cause but the taproot of some plants elongated and pushed the seedlings out of the soil, where they flopped over and died. Weird, never had that happen before. I have started to pre-germinate some more seed in a wet paper towel in a baggie in hopes of catching up and getting a few more transplants. The top of the plant lights makes a good area to pre-germinate seed since it is slightly warm but not hot enough to kill the seeds.




Last week I sowed the first of the Brassicas, the kale and broccoli. For them I decided to use a standard soilless planting mix, Lambert’s All-Purpose Planting Mix. They spent a few days on the heat mat until germination started and are now off the heat and under the grow lights. Planted on March 22 were:

  • Kale Beedy’s Camden
  • Kale Nero di Toscana
  • Kale Tronchuda Beira
  • Broccoli Fiesta
  • Broccoli Arcadia
  • Broccoli Raab Sorrento




Today I am planting lettuce and peppers. The peppers and Ping Tung eggplant are going into plastic 6-cell flats. I can fit 12 of these flats into a 1040 tray, or 72 plants. I thought about but decided not to try pre-germinating the seeds. I have a heat mat that will accommodate a 1020 tray, and I planted 2 seeds per cell, so with 12 varieties to germinate, this is just much simpler. The one shock was the Stocky Red Roaster pepper, which had just 10 seeds in the packet. Guess I might be collecting seeds from this one if I decide it is a keeper (which is likely given its rave reviews). Planted today were these varieties:

  • Eggplant Ping Tung
  • Pepper Jimmy Nardello
  • Pepper Lemon Drop
  • Pepper Padron
  • Pepper Stocky Red Roaster
  • Pepper Arroz Con Pollo
  • Pepper Hungarian Paprika
  • Pepper Yummy Belles
  • Pepper Aji Dulce
  • Pepper Trinidad Spice/Perfume
  • Pepper Tiburon Ancho Poblano




The pepper flat was placed on my one and only heat mat. An hour after planting, here they are, warm and steamy on the heat mat.




Next I planted a tray of lettuce and greens/herbs. Lettuce seed needs light to germinate so I made a small depression in each cell and sprinkled a pinch of seeds into it. Then  I covered the seed with a little fine vermiculite and watered it in. The lettuce flat has a clear plastic dome to cover it but the heat mat is currently occupied by the peppers. They should be alright at room temperature.




Planted in this tray were the following:

  • Lettuce Green Ice
  • Lettuce Red Sails
  • Lettuce Buttercrumch
  • Lettuce Midnight Ruffles
  • Lettuce Winter Density
  • Lettuce Marshall
  • Ice Lettuce
  • Mustard Green Wave
  • Chinese Cabbage Soloist
  • Cilantro Caribe
  • Endive Dubuisson
  • Escarole Natacha

This was a pretty good start to the season. Next are some Asian greens and then the tomatoes. Hopefully the peppers are prompt because the toms are going to want some space on that heat mat.


  1. Good luck with the peppers. I don't grow them anymore as I can't eat them, but I do remember how fickle they were to germinate sometimes.

  2. I didn't have great germination from my Camelot shallot seeds either - probably about 85% or so off the top of my head (when I would expect closer to 95%+ from a new seed packet) - I remember the same thing from last year as well. Since they don't have many seeds in a packet - and I need all of them - I pay particular attention to how many germinate. Maybe seed shallots are just not the greatest when it comes to germination.

    Last year I had quite a few onions that also seemed too high, with their roots showing above the soil level - I just assumed that I hadn't sown the seeds deeply enough. This year, I sowed them much more deeply and although I still have a few that have done this, it is nowhere near the number I had last year.

  3. I'll join the chorus of poor shallot seed performance, a lot of mine didn't germinate and then a bunch more died young. I ended up making three different sowings, all from new seed packets! Those things better be tasty. My cats will have to give up some space on my seedling heat mat, this week is solanum sowing time. I got my Stocky Red Roaster seeds from Adaptive Seeds, they were a bit more generous with the number of seeds. I don't understand why so many seed companies offer really skimpy packets of pepper seeds, some offer as few as 5 seeds per packet, darn near robbery.

  4. I hate it when the seed co's skimp on seeds too. Some peppers I ordered only had 10-12 seeds this year. I got my Stocky Red Roaster from Wild Garden Seed (the breeder) and I bet there are 100 seeds in the packet. Space is always an issue on the heating mats here. I've just about got everything up now except for a few stragglers which might just be bad seed.


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