Saturday, January 16, 2010

Seed Starting Part II....OK, Only Some Seeds Starting

Last weekend I started some broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower seeds in cell packs in order to transplant them in a month or so. My seed starting setup is in our unheated basement so it stays pretty cold down there. For those of you who have never had the pleasure, here it is:
No laughing. It really works rather well. It's just a piece of plywood wedged between two unfinished walls and one supporting it in the middle, but it's not really holding it up since the horizontal board is wedged so tight. It stays pretty darn cold down there so what grows, grows slowly, but it does grow, which is better than nothing at all.

I mainly wanted to start the broccoli seeds. I'm going to have 9 broccoli plants. Not a lot for many of you, but I decided to checkerboard them again this year. The one per sqft planting did not work out for me this fall, so it's back to what I know will work. Those things just need more room.

I've failed each time with cabbage and cauliflower. I bought some smaller cabbage that's supposed to be better for SFGardening, but I'm still going to checkerboard them. I put three cells of cauliflower. Why? Beats me. I suppose I'll keep on trying since I have the seed.

Now the seedlings are starting to emerge. Look at the pretty seedlings on the left and the bare cells on the right.
Murphy's Law. It's unavoidable. The cabbage and cauliflower are in the left pack. The broccoli, with only two cells sprouting, is the right.

Well, what'ya gonna do. I'll give the broccoli a few more days. The seed is last year's seed and I'm not an experienced seed storer so that may be why they're not sprouting. Instead of ordering new seed, I'm going to let the packs they sell at the stores suffice. However, they haven't put the seed racks out here yet. I thought I remembered MLK weekend as the go-to date last year, but I'm sure they'll be out at least by Valentine's Day.

I may leave the cells outside for the next few days and just bring them in at night to see how they'll do with the real sun. Yesterday, our low was 23 and we made it to 61 for the high. Amazing. We're in for a few week stretch of 50 degree weather. Do you think if I put them outside in the morning when I go to work that they'll enjoy the sun during the day and be content to go in and out?

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.


  1. I had the worst time trying to get my broccoli seeds to germinate last year. I think I got about 4 viable transplants out of any entire pack...also, 2 were decapitated when I tried to remove them from the cell, which is why I'm opting for soil blocks this year.

    I don't think it's a bad set up at all, especially if it works!

  2. If your setup produces results that's all that matters. Maybe I'll try some broccoli tomorrow. You give me hope! :)

  3. ribbit - I can send ya some "green goliath" broccoli seeds if ya like. They're brand new. If there's anything else you need, i'll send it, too. (EG has a pack of everything)
    If the propagation setup works, that's all that matters.

  4. Thomas, I use a butter knife to loosen the soil from the sides before I pull the seedlings out. That seems to help.

    KM, I'm going for the 2 yr old's method. Keep poking it in the arm enough and it will give in a do what you want.

    Thanks, EG, but that's the kind I have now. I'll give it a week more. By then our seeds should be in. Thanks, however!

  5. No advice here, I have never sprouted broccoli from seed. But I love your seedling area! Mine just consists of a vinyl tablecloth spread out over my washer & dryer in the closet with hanging lights above it. Kind of wierd seeing the grow lights glow behind the closet door, lol.... very hidden "grow-housy", maybe the cops will visit me this year!

  6. Hi Ribbit,
    I've always been able to germinate my brassica seeds, my problem is when they begin to gorw. I barely harvested a cauliflower last year and my cabbages have been the size of a cricket ball. I think my problem is not preparing the Brassica bed well.

    Also wanted to let you know that I am loving my 'Pay It Forward' package, especially the Apple Pie Syrup. Yum. Thank you ever so much.

  7. I don't think it is a bad seed area setup either. It's probably better to grow in cooler temperatures so the seedlings will adjust to spring nighttime temperatures easier when planted outside.

    When buying transplants, I feel I need to harden them off much slower as they usually come from warmer, greenhouse conditions.

  8. That looks like a great place to start some seeds. We were also thinking of using our basement as a place to start seeds this year.

    What I do with brassicas, especially broccoli, is add one seed for every year old the seed is. If it is two years old I will put two in the hole and thin the best one if they both germinate.

    I like your in and out idea, they might be a lot less leggy if they get some real sunshine to compliment your grow lights.

    I can't wait to get started on my own seed...pretty soon.

  9. Erin, the man always says it looks like a grow house in the basement. Home grown has a whole new meaning, huh?

    Mango-Cheeks, I'm on my way. I'm so glad the package made it.

    GM, here's hoping you're right!

  10. Stellar! Thanks for the validation, Mr. H!

  11. I grew Gonzales cabbage last year which is the main small one that people sell. I gave it one sqft each and they did grow fine. Broccoli on the other hand really likes to be 18" away from its neighbor. They never produce for me when they are put much closer (though I did do 16"x18" once and they did well then).

    I can't wait until it is time to start my indoor seedlings but I have a couple more weeks.

  12. I have been thinking of getting a shop light. They seem to do wonders for veggies. If the broccoli is viable they should pop up pretty fast. Hope this is the year for cabbage & cauliflower!