Get ready to start those seedlings

January is the time for many gardeners to get excited and start planning their gardens. If you live in Phoenix, the timing is a little different: those tomato plants need to be started right around Christmas Day. In my maritime northwest garden in Olympia, I have to sit on my hands a bit and wait to start seeds until the end of January and into February.

BUT–I can be prepared.

Yesterday, I pulled out my seed tray and my light stand. I purchased the light stand a couple of years ago and it was still new in the package. It’s a Jump Start two-foot grow light. I am happy to report that even after a couple of moves, it’s in good shape and I am really happy with it. It’s just the right size for a flat of seedlings. The stand uses a pully system to raise and lower the light so the light can be adjusted to be close to the seedlings.  I am using a flat that holds 72 peat pellets. I like peat pellets because they are easy and easy to transplant without too much overhandling of delicate seedlings. Plus, if you have things ready before others, you can just swap the seedling for a new pellet. I placed my light stand in the guest room where it’s relatively warm and there’s plenty of light thanks to a large skylight. I am planning to add a heating mat, too. And I set up a timer for the light.

This year, I am also going to try some DIY newspaper pots for squash. You can plant squash seeds directly in the ground and in some cases, that’s probably better, but starting the seeds ahead helps me to be able to see the plants and I do a little better with spacing. Everyone is different so remember that you can adjust methods to suit your style and still be very successful. The best methods are always the ones that work for you.

I made a list of what I want to grow. I have five garden beds in my fenced-in garden area.

  • Tomatoes (two varieties)
  • Sweet Peppers (two varieties including one named after me! more on that later)
  • Yellow squash
  • Delicata squash and another winter squash
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant (mini)
  • Cucumbers
  • Snap peas
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Scallions
  • Leeks
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Melons (two varieties)
  • Ground cherries
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Kale assortment
  • Salad greens

I decided to order most of my seeds from Oregon-based Adaptive Seeds. They sell Pacific Northwest grown, open-pollinated organic seeds. I really enjoyed reading through all of the varieties and selecting new things to try. There is a lot more plant diversity out there than you would realize from a stroll through a typical grocery store produce section. It’s worth repeating that varieties grown for mass marketing are rarely the best tasting varieties. An interesting tidbit that I will share from my Reno garden and Phoenix garden: northwest seed varieties often do well in both Phoenix and Reno. I think that’s because they are short season gardens. Particularly with tomatoes, you need a short season variety that will tolerate cooler temps if you want to harvest tomatoes in either Phoenix or Reno.

I have some leftover miscellaneous seeds and they are all going to be used. Not sure that I can hope for great germination but I also know that they will never grow if I don’t plant them. I might have a happy surprise.

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