The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

April 26, 2012

Seed Starting Tips

Filed under: Seed Starting — Tags: — bob @ 1:24 pm

A couple of years ago I taught an adult ed. class at Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor. It was about starting seeds at home. Here are the notes I passed out to the class:


Before Seeding

-Pick out easiest seeds to gain experience: cabbage family, onion family, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers; alyssum,, castor bean, cosmos, marigolds, zinnias

-Determine when they need to be started: refer to chart

-Does the seed need to have any special treatment before sowing?

-Be sure to have proper growing medium: sterilized, well drained, proper moisture content

-Match seed size to container size

-Determine whether the seeds need to be covered when sowing or other treatment: check seed packet or other growing instructions


-Containers used to start seeds must be clean and sterile

-Potting medium must be sterile

-Don’t over pack the soil mix into the container, a light tap on the table is plenty

-Smooth the planting surface: tamp lightly

Sowing Seed

-Smallest seeds sown of the surface and usually not covered with soil

-Largest seeds covered or pushed into planting mix to the proper depth: about 2-3 times the diameter of the seed

-Cover container with clear plastic to retain moisture: a dome or clear wrap

-Place container on heat mat: 70F is a good average temperature

-Be cautious when placing covered tray in direct sunlight, you may “cook” your seedlings as they emerge

-Water trays or containers if they become dry, use a fine nozzle so the seeds don’t wash away or place in a tray of water and allow water to wick up into soil mix

After Seedlings Are Up

-Move trays into a sunny window, greenhouse or place them under lights; 2 40watt fluorescent fixture 2 inches from the seedlings; if seedlings start to “stretch” there’s not enough light.

-Take trays off of heating mat

- After a few days, fertilize with ½ strength soluble fertilizer every 7-10 days


-Have your new containers ready: clean and sterile

-Use proper planting mix: move up to a coarser mixture if necessary, i.e. Individual pots

-Create a hole in the mix to receive the transplant

-Prick the seedlings out of the sowing medium using a narrow tool

-Lift and handle seedlings by their leaves and roots

-Place seedlings into the new soil mix, try to keep the roots from curving upward

-Gently tuck the soil around them

-Water in gently

-Most seedling will not need plastic covering at this stage

After Transplanting

-Continue water and fertilizer schedule

-Raise grow lights as needed

-Separate plants if they begin to get crowded

-Stimulate the plants by rubbing them with your hand to strengthen them, or use a fan

-As planting time nears, begin to harden off your plants: expose them to outdoor condition very gradually over a period of a week

-Plants can be left out overnight after one week and be transplanted into the garden if the weather permits

Common Seeding Problems

-Poor germination

: sown at wrong depth, poor drainage, improper temperature, light requirements, drying out, pre-treatment of seeds

-Seedlings die or fail to grow: lack of water, damping off, lack of light


Jeavons, John How to Grow More Vegetables

Bubel, Nancy The New Seed Starter’s Handbook

Ashworth, Suzanne Seed to Seed

Bradley, F.M. et al ed. Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening

Newcomb, Duane The Backyard Vegetable Factory

Bartholomew, Mel Square Foot Gardening

Madigan, Carleen ed. The Backyard Homestead

Poincelot, Raymond No Dig, No Weed Gardening

I hope these notes help you get your seeds off to a good start.


April 23, 2012

Conservation District Tree Sale Seedlings

Filed under: Events,Trees — bob @ 1:05 pm

The trees I ordered from the Monroe Conservation District arrived Friday. I drove over to pick them up first thing in the morning and got there shortly after they opened the doors.

My package  contained 50 trees — 25 white pine  and 25 white cedar– so it was small enough to carry in one hand. The tree seedlings look beautiful.

I placed my seedlings in a bucket of water for a while to re-hydrate them a bit before planting.

White pine grows very fast in our sandy, somewhat acid soil. I have never planted white cedar here but I’m sure that they will do well too.

Fifty seedlings doesn’t take too long to plant. I noticed other folks picking up orders that were much larger than mine. Some had several gunny sacks worth of seedlings. I mentioned to one fellow walking out with a large order that it looked like he had a big project on his hands — he just grunted and walked out to his truck with the last of his order.

Judy and I planted our  seedlings Saturday morning. The cool weather this week will help them get off to a great start.


April 13, 2012

Early Spring Vegetable Garden Preparation

Filed under: Garden Preparation — bob @ 1:04 pm

With all this warm weather we’ve been having, we have had an ideal chance to get a good start on our vegetable gardens.

One garden space is connected to our chicken yard.  After last fall’s first heavy frost when the tomatoes and late beans and zucchini were done, we let the chickens go into the fenced in vegetable garden to clean it up very well.  The chickens ate up the old too-mature beans and the frost-damaged green tomatoes. Along with cleaning up the veggies and weeds, they also ate up any insect pests , including insects eggs and that could over winter to cause problems next year.

So with the chickens doing most of the work of cleaning up, it wasn’t much work to pull a few bigger tough stalks and smooth the garden soil out.

Then Bob spread some compost around the area.  He used some of the wood shavings from his wood working over the winter, plus old straw bedding from the chicken houses. He spread it around evenly about an inch thick or less, and then rototilled it into the soil.  This was a great year for doing this because the soil was dry enough. The structure of the soil can be ruined if it is worked too early while it is wet.  He rototilled in one direction and then again  at a right angle .

The chickens were let in again to this area to find and eat any quack grass roots (which are a big problem for us) plus any weed seeds or insects eggs that had been exposed to the surface of the soil.

We may let them in again to this area if weeds start growing before we have a chance to plant.

Bye for now,


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