As spring approaches, many gardeners are thinking about growing their own seeds into small plants – called “starts.” Using compost is a great way to give the little plants a healthy start before planting them outside. Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm has several tools and tips for getting your starts up-and-running in time for spring planting.
Yes, you can buy starts at the garden center if you want. Be aware, though, that you will be limited on the variety. Garden centers only have a limited selection of the best-known and most popular varieties of plants. Did you know that plenty of exotic seeds are available? How about striped tomatoes or heirloom sweet corn in 10 different colors? Those will only come from seeds.
Additionally, most of the starts on the retail market are not organically grown. They may have been treated with pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals. Some are worse for wear after hanging around in a truck and on a shelf. Growing at home puts you in the driver’s seat, and you can control how your starts are treated.
To make your starts, you will need:
- Completed compost for fertilizer
Look through your local grocery stores, health food stores, and gardening centers to find seeds. You can also order seeds online. Uncle Jim’s carries a selection of heirloom seeds. In general, it will be easiest to choose plants that come from smaller seeds. Also, it’s difficult to make starts for root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots. Good plants for starts are: tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, etc.
Where to get soil for starts:
- Buy a package of seed-starting mix at the garden center and mix it with compost, or
- Mix your own. Here is a recipe: 1/3 coconut coir, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost.
Completed compost is an important nutritional boost for the little plants. If you have been cultivating a composting system, you should have plenty of all-natural fertilizer available. When compost is produced using worms, it’s called “vermicomposting.” Red worms eat scrap vegetation and make worm castings (worm poop). This “black gold” is a cherished, organic fertilizer that gardeners swear by. Find out how to harvest compost. Uncle Jim’s offers Red Composting Worms and composters. If it’s too late to start composting, or you just want the convenience, Uncle Jim’s also sells finished compost. This compost is produced by our own worms in Pennsylvania and shipped to your door.
You will need containers to grow the plants in. These can be purchased, or you can save small containers; however, you can save money by making your own containers. Uncle Jim’s has two tools to make this easy: the Paper Potter and the Soil Cube Tool.
The paper potter ingeniously presses sheets of old newspapers into a pot shape. Talk about recycling! These paper pots hold their shape when you add dirt and seeds. It comes in two sizes: Paper Potter Original and Paper Potter Big. When it’s time to plant, plant the entire pot. Newspaper breaks down very easily once exposed to the elements. The delicate roots need not be disturbed, reducing the risk of transplant shock.
Many a seasoned gardener swears by the Soil Cube Tool. This ingenious, money-saving tool eliminates the need for pots. Just follow the instructions and make the seed-starting mix. Use the soil cube tool to press the mix into small cubes. Add seeds. The seed-starting mix is designed to stay together while the seeds grow. Place the whole thing in the ground and let your babies grow.
When your seeds are in place, set them in a warm spot with plenty of sunlight. Keep a close eye on them, and keep them moist. Soon enough, your little sprouts will be big enough to plant in the garden.