When Do We Start Seed Trays?

It’s just about that time of year to begin plans for seeding vegetables into trays.  I was out in the shed pulling out some ’72 trays’ (they have 72 cells in each tray – the best size here for most transplant production, compared to trays with 50 cells, 128 cells, etc.) and clear plastic lids.  There’s a whole lot of trays and pots of different sizes that we have accumulated over the years.  I even found an old wooden tray labeled ‘Univ. of Wisconsin’ from my days there doing research in botany.  I also made sure we have enough potting mix for the upcoming season (we use Promix BX, available in most garden centres).  And of course, we will need our seeds.  Word is that seed companies are already getting overwhelmed, so don’t delay in your ordering!

Even though its snowing outside today, there’s 6-8″ of snow on the ground, and night time temps are well below zero, seeding time is here for some crops – starting under grow lights, for later transplant into a greenhouse.  Its a timing issue.  If you begin seeding in the second half of February, be sure to use a grow light, and be sure that you can move them into a greenhouse (or cold frame as a minimum) by the second half of March.  Letting seeds germinate on a window sill is usually a recipe for disaster, because they will stretch towards the light and become weak-stemmed or leggy (the botanical term is etiolation).  You need the light intensity of a grow light to eliminate this problem.  I set mine on a timer for 16 hours of day length.

Two days ago, I started the very first seed tray – our ‘ultra-hot chill’s’ – red ghost, red 7-pot, bhut jolokia and orange habenero (all with scoville units over one million!).  These seeds are finicky.  They need at least 29-30 degrees to germinate in high humidity.  I have them on a heating pad, under a clear plastic lid which has a temperature sensor inside.  That way I can monitor their conditions, and try to keep a uniform temperature in the 30-32 degree range.  Even at that temperature, they may take up to two weeks to emerge.

Next week, we will begin seeding onions and other varieties of peppers, including sweet bell peppers.

We will not begin to seed most crops until mid-March.  In that way, we can grow them out directly in the greenhouse without the need for grow lights.  These will be mostly the cold hardy spring crops – more on that in upcoming posts.

Spring is coming soon!  All the best, Bob

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