Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Starting


Reposted from late-night Friday, the Blogmaster:

I don’t know if I will save any money, but I do know that I will be able to use the kind of seeds I want, and not have blight or anything from factory produced plants.

The biggest reason though is that I like spending the time doing it and it’s a nice calming activity.

For those of you who self-start: Where do you get your seeds? (This batch of Cole’s is from Sustainable Seeds; there’s a bunch of other recommendations in the comments to that earlier post.)

Any recommendations for setting up a successful starting array? Supplies, lights, benches?

How about pet-proofing? Are there seedlings that are particularly resistant — or attractive — to cats or dogs? (Cats I’ve lived with would eat anything from nicotine-laden tomato seedlings to thorny mini-roses being overwintered; not having a sunny window the current felines can’t access is the main reason I no longer even *pretend* I’m gonna start from seeds.)


I’ve started ordering this season’s plants already… partially in the hope that I’ll be a little less likely to overbuy tomatoes when we’re having a snow-melting period to remind me how much work our yard already needs. Results so far: mixed! Some more Mara des Bois strawberries for the Spousal Unit from Logees, while they’re still available; a half-dozen must-have tomato plants I’m not seeing elsewhere from Got suckered lured into ordering a bunch of container blueberries, strawberries and lingonberries along with a batch of ‘Mix’n’Match’ individual tomato plants from Burpees, which is running a big sale this weekend.

When all the FRAGILE LIVE PLANTS arrive at the same time (in mid-May), I’ll be cursing my overambitious goals — again!

73 replies
  1. 1
    rikyrah says:

    Good Morning,Everyone 😄😄😄

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    Ramalama says:

    My Mom had a black thumb, but was beloved by everyone who met her. Maybe I should think of her as being Green with People.

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    Aleta says:

    Last fall the windstorm broke off the trunk of a black pu xssy willow I’d planted. (Originally it had been thrown out for being a bad plant by the landscaping nursery I was working at, but over the years it became a faux Japanesish tree I was fond of.)

    The timing was bad but I cut off lots of branch ends and stuck them in buckets of water in the kitchen. Best hope was they would stay alive but dormant. Checked them out yesterday and they’d budded (bad); not good roots, only occasional hairs.

    They’d want to be dormant until Feb-March anyway so maybe some hope. Trimmed them way down to see what will happen. If they start root growth I’ll stick the sticks in pots. Maybe make a foolish hedge at the end of the summer, if they haven’t dried out. So much easier to just buy a truly decent plant or order a root stock. I don’t know why I waste so much effort in futile gestures.

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    Aleta says:

    @rikyrah: Morning!

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    oatler. says:

    “I have green fingers…everything I plant grows…everything…including ME”. Good old Night Gallery.

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    ThresherK says:

    @Aleta: “Only occasional hair”

    Leave it to this blog to come up with a totally innocent entry about occasional hair on a puxy willow.

    We have no garden area, but I did get a “indoor herb garden” gift with basil and thyme and a couple others. I’m going to see what sprouts. I don’t have dreams of being a gardener but this might be nice, and if it doesn’t work, I won’t have sent many plants to their deaths.

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    Baud says:

    @rikyrah: Good morning.

  9. 9
    JPL says:

    Today the temperature is suppose to reach 65. It seems like only a few days ago that ice and snow closed school for three days. I assume because of the wild swing in temperatures, that I’ll lose some plants, but replacement will have to wait.

  10. 10

    @JPL: Supposed to get up to 63 here in the Southland today. Perfect weather for a hike in the Verdugos.

    (Just hope it goes better than last year’s hike on the same day.)

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    Lapassionara says:

    @Aleta: Doesn’t seem futile to me. The other option was to put them in yard waste.

    Good morning, all

  12. 12
    JPL says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: I saw below that you are also suppose to celebrate your b-day, so many all your wishes come true.

  13. 13
    Baud says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Happy birthday!🎂🎁🎉🎈🎊

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    Quinerly says:

    @rikyrah: @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: @Baud: Good morning everyone! Great day yesterday in Carlsbad! Love the Carlsbad/Pecos River Beach area and all the local families enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. Working my way today to Ruidoso, NM for two nights with a friend. Have a great day!

  15. 15
    Quinerly says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: And a happy birthday to you! 1/21 is a popular day for births! Two of my best friends birthdays are also today. Plus, yesterday I had the pleasure of attending Maggie, the Bear’s birthday party at the Living Desert SP and Zoo in Carlsbad.💚 They said technically her birthday is today. She was a rescue. Her presents were edible. How are you celebrating? What presents are you eating?

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    Raven says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Happy Birthday! I’m still recovering from rock and roll last night!

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    Patricia Kayden says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Happy B’ Day to ya!!

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    @Baud: Ah, you remembered Baud.

    @JPL: Madame and the kid were supposed to take me out for dinner, but madame’s illness and the kid’s schedule(social and work) didn’t mesh for either yesterday or today. So maybe in a couple of weeks…

    @Quinerly: Thank you, it’s also another jackal’s b-day as well. You do know that I’m a Bruin, so I guess I’m sort of related to Maggie.

    What happened last year, I was going to take 2 hikes and driving to my first hike early in the morning my 31 yo VW Jetta died. I spent most of my b-day in a parking lot for a playground getting dirty looks from parents and the Park Rangers. The tow truck was being given bad directions by the dispatcher and kept passing by the street where I was.

    I went on my first hike yesterday and took this picture.

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    satby says:

    Good morning rikyrah and everyone else, and a big Happy Birthday to Billin! Hope the day is good weather and good hiking for you!

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    satby says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: isn’t the other jackal a hip hop artist?

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    @satby: Thanks, it looks like it should be nice (and clear) skies for hiking(and taking pictures).

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    satby says:

    @satby: yes, that’s what I remember.
    So getting in Happy Birthday wishes to BellaQ, your astral twin!
    🎂 🎂 🎂 🎂!

  24. 24
    Aleta says:

    @ThresherK: You’re wide awake.

  25. 25
    Baud says:


    Did she change her nym?

    Anywho, happy birthday to Bella!

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    Quinerly says:

    Any word about Ozark’s son?

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    satby says:

    As for seeds: Territorial Gardens, Jung, Park Seeds,occasionally Burpees. I had lousy germination rates with the ones from Seed Savers, but the heirlooms I picked may have been the reason. Or it may have been before I used these to germinate my starter plants. Heating system may below and strong grow light above and I started getting so many I gave some away.

  28. 28
    Immanentize says:

    Hello! I look out my kitchen window at the bare spot that will be my veggie garden next to the house, and the wild area at the back that needs all sorts of work to be my perranial blooming garden I pitch a sigh. It seems so long between now and then….

    But from my years of gardening on God’s little half acre (or less), I know I will grow:
    Tomatoes: 🍅
    Rutgers, celebrity, Purple Cherokee, SunGold, San Marzano and ?
    Peppers: 🌶️
    Anaheim, Poblano, Jalapeno, Serrano, Tabasco and?
    Tomatillo!! (Best crop addition for me by far) and cukes 🥒

    As for the back zone? I found two sport roses 🌹which need moving and I am going to transplant a line of white azalea this year in front of my lime hydrangea.

    I wrote all this to inspire myself….

  29. 29
    Immanentize says:

    @Aleta: Have you tried dipping the new-cut ends of the p-willow in Rootone? It is both a fungicide and excites growth. I have had good success with it.

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    Immanentize says:

    @Raven: Beats recovering from the flu!

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    debbie says:


    I use that whenever I take a cutting. It has never failed me.

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    Immanentize says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Happy Birthday, Bill. I really like your pic, but the triangle of green at the bottom is very distracting. Maybe crop up to leave just a slice? I know, everyone’s a critic….

  33. 33
    jacy says:


    How sad is it that I instantly could see Elsa Lanchester saying that? I watched way too much TV in my formative years. I always wanted to have a Night Gallery painting….

    I have a black thumb. And black fingers. Plants see me an kill themselves preemptively.

  34. 34
    Immanentize says:

    @Aleta: @debbie: the trick with cuttings is the know whether your plant requires a hardened cutting or a green end cutting. I never know….

  35. 35
    debbie says:


    Google would tell you that.

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    oatler. says:

    @jacy: Me too. I killed a lemon tree last year and now have two pomegranate trees on deathwatch.

  38. 38
    Immanentize says:


    . I always wanted to have a Night Gallery painting….

    Of a man fishing in a lake? Or of a crucifixion?

  39. 39
    Immanentize says:

    @debbie: doh! 😎

  40. 40
    Alain the site fixer says:

    @satby: seed tip for those who cook: I use seeds from the Kitazawa seed company for Asian veggies and herbs. Great seeds, neat plants.

  41. 41
    Jeff says:

    I ordered some seeds from Swallowtail Garden Seeds yesterday.

  42. 42
    jacy says:

    @Immanentize: I always wanted Pickman’s Model. I was a strange kid.

  43. 43
    PAM Dirac says:

    I’ve always liked Reimer Seeds. It sometimes can be hard to narrow things down as their selection in most areas is so large. They advertise 900 varieties of tomato. (I haven’t counted). They are also the only place I have found where I can get my favorite hot pepper, Charleston Hot.

  44. 44
    MattF says:

    I had some success growing houseplants from seed, back when I was a grad student. I put vermiculite in icetrays, added some diluted liquid fertilizer (Miracle-Gro), then put in about a dozen equally spaced seeds in each tray. Then covered the seeds + fertiliizer + tray and put them in a dark place– under the sink, as I recall. Took the ones that sprouted and looked good and put them in a pot in a sunny spot with soil and rocks for drainage. And it worked nicely.

  45. 45
    rikyrah says:

    Happy Birthday 🎈🎁🎊😄🎂🍹😎

  46. 46
    rikyrah says:

    Morning to Poco 😎

  47. 47
    oatler. says:

    @Immanentize: “The Girl With the Hungry Eyes” for me. Joanna Pettet fan here.

  48. 48

    Oh yay! I just sold another short story, this one to Swords and Sorcery Magazine. I’m making tens of dollars here!

  49. 49
    scav says:

    while we’re on the topic, any hints about the pots / trays / whatevers the seedlings are to be initially raised in? I’ve tried and had indifferent luck with the peat pots (less luck with the expandable pellets) and was wondering this year about just using Amazon bixes and egg cartons rather than buying anything. Thanks.

  50. 50
    debit says:

    Last year I set up one of these rolling carts from Ikea, put clip on grow lights on the top tray, then used LED strip lights for the middle and bottom. I could fill each level with seedling trays and it worked beautifully. Then I failed to harden my babies sufficiently, we had a cold snap and everything but one lone tomato plant died, and that one failed to thrive. I ended up getting plants from a local nursery.

  51. 51
    oldgold says:

    This week my sojourn into the sunny south was shattered by a visit from my neighbors Noah Tall and his older brother Gerry Tall. I answered the door and announcrd we were not interested in any Fuller brushes or Avon products. They were not amused. They wanted to talk about my weed sanctuary, South of Eden.

    Standing, most appropriately on my stoop, still in their grocery carry-out uniforms, they gave me a tall order: “OG, Clean that shxthole up, or else!”

    “Or else!” Hmm.

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    @JPL: @debbie: @Baud: I’m super pleased. The editor wants a new title but says he “loves” the story. Honest to god, I’m pathetic because that’s all I want. Someone has to love my characters and care what happens to them!

  56. 56
    Amir Khalid says:

    Selamat Harijadi.

  57. 57
    MomSense says:

    The gardeners here might enjoy the book An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter about her time living off the coast of New Hampshire in the Isle of Shoals. There is a wonderful method for starting seeds in egg shells and then planting the seedlings still in the egg shells in the Spring.

  58. 58
    debbie says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady):

    That’s the whole point of being a reader! The moment I realize that I am caring about people on a page is why I read!

  59. 59

    @debbie: Me too. I like plot, but it’s characters that make me love a book.

  60. 60
    Kay says:

    I use a shop light with 2 bulbs for light. I stack bricks on either side and rest it on those because I put it away in May. Add a brick when the seedlings grow taller. I also use 2 heating pads for bottom heat when the seeds are germinating because the plants are in the mudroom and it’s cold in there. They’re just ordinary heating pads I got at garage sales, not the rubber seed mats they use in greenhouses. “Low” seems to be the right amount of heat- I don’t know the temp.

    I took the master gardener course at the cooperative extension service (in Indiana) a long time ago and they all liked Johnny’s Selected Seeds so I ordered from there for years. I still do but I also order from other places. Last year I used Johnny’s and Burpee and Territorial Seeds. This is just a couple of packets from each place. It’s not that big a garden.

    This year I’m going to my daughter’s in Pittsburgh in May to help redo the community garden in her neighborhood- I took out several days so I can focus on it- she and her husband will be working but I can see them in the evenings. It just needs major help- shore up raised beds, add soil to beds where it washed out, recut the aisles and redo the mulch in the aisles, take out junk tree saplings that have sprung up- and 10 people sporadically gardening their own little plot isn’t going to cut it. It’s been bothering her that it looks terrible for years but she has a full time job and graduate school and she is never going to “get to it” and I will enjoy doing it. Pittsburgh is very different than where I garden in Ohio- it’s lush to me- so much rampant plant growth even in urban neighborhoods like where she lives, and of course it’s not flat so that’s a change for me.

  61. 61
    Kay says:


    I’ve made pots out of newspaper for 20 years. There’s a wooden tool you can buy as a mold for the pots. It lasts forever and it’s about 15 dollars. Mine was made in Canada but I’m sure there are others.

    Whatever you use the key is to fill to the top with soil. I don’t know why this is so important, but it is. Greenhouse growers leave little on no space at the top and they’re fanatics about it. I never asked why when I worked in greenhouses but it’s true because I’ve run low on potting soil and left space and the seedling don’t grow as well or fail completely.

  62. 62
    laura says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Happy birthday, and many happy returns BinG.

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    scav says:

    Ooo, thanks. That looks exactly along the lines of what I need. Make taller ones for the sweet peas and other deep-rooters, oh yes. Interesting about the soil too.

  64. 64
    WaterGirl says:

    @Immanentize: You have to add Krimzon Lee peppers to your list. You will not be sorry!

  65. 65
    WaterGirl says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady): That’s how I feel about TV shows, too. There has to be at least one character I like and care about. If they are all terrible people, I just can’t watch.

    Congratulations on your short story! And don’t spend that $10 bucks all in one place!

  66. 66
    WaterGirl says:

    @Kay: You are so great, Kay. Whether you talking about your kids, or your clients, or your political activities, I always think about how lucky they are to have you.

  67. 67
    MomSense says:

    Happy birthday Billin!

  68. 68

    @WaterGirl: Terrible characters are better than boring characters but at some point, I need one to love.

  69. 69

    i’ve been starting seeds for years and years (maybe 30?), and yes, you need shop lights, like @Kay says, above, even if you’re using a very sunny window for light. i made a nifty little frame for mine last year from pvc pipe (found the instructions here: http://www.vegetablegardener.c.....ight-stand).

    also i’ve found that heat mats are almost essential. peppers, especially, don’t like to germinate in cooler temps. but there are also veggies that don’t want bottom heat. you have to do a little research, i.e., read the back of the seed packet, to know which is which.

    as for perennials, i slavishly followed the famous old Thompson & Morgan germination guide for years, putting seeds in the fridge, nicking them, soaking them… then, like a miracle, i found out about “winter sowing.” lemme tell you what, this is the ONLY way to start perennial seed i will ever use again. see here for a tutorial:

    so that’s my 2¢. have fun everyone! remember, seeds are cheap. and it’s nice to have a hobby during the winter months.

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    debbie says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady):

    I don’t need to love them, I need to not hate them (Gone Girl or Freedom). I also need to be able to stay interested in them, ie. Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall.

  71. 71
    Kay says:

    @Auntie Beak:

    Thank you for the tip. I too spend lots of time screwing with perennial seed. I love to grow flowers – I dutifully grow vegetables because I also love to eat, but I love growing flowers, as far as a hobby. I’m trying your winter sow method.

  72. 72
    EL says:

    I buy seeds from a few different sources (Tomatofest, Parks, etc,). It right now my particular favorite is Bakers Rare Seeds.

    I start seeds in the styrofoam blocks from Parks. They start in a tray on my cooktop griddle; the pilot light provides the perfect warmth. After germination, the go under grow lights in the basement until ready to plant out.

  73. 73
    oldswede says:

    Be careful about buying grow lights. Too many and the DEA will come and break your stuff.

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