May 1, 2010

Starting from seed

Inspired by Monica Flaherty, whom I wrote about in the Larchmont Gazette, I decided to bite the bullet this year and get a head start on my garden by starting some plants from seed.

Scouting out the seeds available from Tony's Nursery, Stop and Shop and Home Depot, I picked up the usual suspects: lettuce, cucumbers and spinach. And then there was the basil seed, ready to be watered, in a small pot that I'd picked up at a Christmas Tree Shop several months ago.

While Monica doesn't believe in using peat pellets, preferring to start everything in larger cups, I had bought some pellets on sale at the end of the 2009 gardening season, so I decided to use them. Sure enough, within days, the seeds had sprouted, and I was hooked.

Soon the shelf in my office was overtaken by seedlings. Inspired by my success, I went back to Tony's and picked up zinnias and impatiens. I began imagining that I'd have enough plants from a single $1.69 packet of seeds for the entire garden.

The cucumbers did beautifully. Soon they were transplanted into cups (Monica, you're right!). As their tendrils began to develop I put in small stakes and now they're almost ready for transplanting.

The lettuce and spinach did well, too. They're early crops, so I transplanted them into the garden where they joined rows I'd planted directly in the soil. Unforunately half of them were washed away by heavy rains just a few days later.

The zinneas are also several inches high, but the impatiens are disappointing.

And the tomatoes really didn't do well, so I picked up a few small plants on my latest swing through the garden store and they're thriving in the morning sun that floods the window.

Unfortunately, morning sun is just about all the sun these windows get, and the plants really need more light. When I visited Monica and photographed her seedlings, they had taken over her dining room table. She has since moved them into another room, where she built a shelf for the plants and lights. If I'm going to continue on this path, I'll need to  make an investment.

Today's going to be in the 80s, and I'm tempted to start transplanting. But the last frost date in our area is May 9, according to Victory Seeds, so I'll just bide my time and let them enjoy the morning sun that floods my office for a few more days.


  1. Wow! Your plants look great! And if you need tomatoes, I have loads. By the way, I learned that spinach doesn't do well under the lights, it bolts when the lights are on the 16 hrs a day that the other plants need, so I'm direct seeding spinach from now on.

    - Monica

  2. It is addictive, isn't it? We did tomatoes from seed this year, and they're doing pretty well in our dining room right now. We might even transplant them in the next few weeks... We have plenty extra, so our friends are getting tomato plants as gifts this spring. Our peppers didn't come up though. Oh well.