Seed-Starting, Part 2

Reader Contribution by Charlyn Ellis
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Seedlings in the classroom.

Read Part 1 of this serieshere.

After two weeks, it is clear. Starting even cool-weather crops inside, under a light, is better than starting them in the chilly greenhouse. Granted, it is an El Nino year, so it has been very dark and damp, but there is not quite enough light to grow stocky seedlings yet.

The classroom starts have grown beyond the first two leaves, and I can tell which flats hold kale or mustard, the celery has sprouted, and all of the tomatoes are up. In the greenhouse, many starts are still on the first leaves, they are a little leggy, and neither the celery nor the one flat of ‘Sungold’ tomatoes are out of the ground. Even the lettuce starts from January are holding back, waiting for more light.

Seedlings in the greenhouse.

I could put a plant light in the greenhouse; it is wired for electricity. I could also purchase a heating unit to keep the flats warmer, but, as we are working off of solar panels, I would rather not. I will continue the trials through the season — the next round to be planted out are some of the early summer greens, like chard, beets, collards, and more broccoli. By mind-March, we should have enough sunlight for strong growth and some solar heat gain to bring them along nicely. And, if not, my classroom set up will  provide back-up plants.

Charlyn Ellis has been growing vegetables since she was five years old, when her mother bought her her first rake and pitchfork. She and her family are urban homesteaders and have a large organic vegetable garden, fruit trees, a beehive, four chickens, one rabbit, and two cats on a small urban lot in the center of town, surrounded by college students. Charlyn considers permaculture principles when she makes changes in her designs, especially the idea that the problem is the solution. Find her online at 21st Street Urban Homestead, and read all of Charlyn’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

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