Spring Makes Me So Happy!

For me, spring is a happy time of digging out my grow table, starting plants from seeds, and anticipating planting in the greenhouse! Each spring I write a little update.

2020 started with a wicking experiment!

While it's early, my started plants are already a bit behind. I went on vacation for 14 days and tested a wick system for watering. I used cotton clothes line rope and put it under my seedlings and ran it over into the trays of water, holding the rope down with rocks. It worked!

water wicking trays  
wicking trays are bone dry  

My water trays were bone dry after 14 days and all the plants had plenty of water! The rope wicked water over into the other trays as they dried out.

However, tiny green growth also appeared...EVERYWHERE! EEK! I repotted, hoping to ward off more green surface growth. Thus, my plants are a bit shocked and likely will miss a few days of growth.

I added a fan to blow on them each day, and may research a spray for damping off. I've not had trouble with such yet, but with that much green surface growths, I suspect I could have trouble. Baby plants need water, but too much makes a nice environment for all sorts of unwanting growing things!

repotted plants   

Even though they've been a little shocked, the plants seem to be perking up and getting stronger each day.

2019 will start with sturdy trays!

2019 -- I have to say that it's been a while since I had a "normal" spring. I have missed writing updates for seedlings and between moving, a new job, and going back to school, my seedling endeavors have taken a hit! However, we are back. So, let's start with today and realize there will be a few "missing" spring updates.

I have new seeds (I confess I went crazy, ...it was snowy, ...I got some catalogs in the mail, ...I had time on my hands ...I ordered. If I plant all these seeds, I could fill large greenhouses.) So, now I must choose an approach to figure out what I need for starting seedlings all over again! I know what has worked for me in the past, so here’s my list this spring:

2019 seedling tray and seed packets  

Seedling Trays--I ordered some heavy duty ones this year because not only am I growing them inside, but I have a carpeted living room! Carpet, dirt, water, fan, shelf, cat … so much can go wrong. At least a tray that won’t crack will make me think things are safer. Remember, since I’m doing this all inside, those trays can also be useful for the repotting process… that 10 inches of snow in my yard may or may NOT be gone by the time I transfer babies to larger accommodations.

Small Fans --I want two this time. My most successful and sturdy little seedlings came from using a fan for a few hours each day to help reduce the spendliness. We get a little wind here in Montana, so a little thicker stalk is not going to hurt any plant!

Grow Lights --These have been in storage, so I really do need to dig them out to check bulbs and make sure I’ve not lost the chains or hooks on them. They are good ol’ shop lights with appropriate grow-light bulbs installed. I suppose by now, I could just buy “grow lights” that fit my system, but 36’ shop lights were easy to come by years ago. Maybe I’ll review my bulb options, but I’ve used them with great success before, so unless they for some reason just don’t come on, I probably won’t replace these bulbs.

Sturdy Stand--I’m thinking of dragging in the plastic shelving we had in the garage. Sure, I won’t be able to move things too easily, but it isn’t like I could roll shelving around this room anyway. I’m pretty sure my grow lights might hang nicely under a shelf. While it is a great idea to use a window sill for light, I’ve never found one with enough light to really start viable little plants.

Peat Pods --I love these things. It takes so much “mess” out of using small containers and soil and getting it all right. Each one has netting around a small amount of soil –perfect for starting a seed. If I repot, I simply tear away the flimsy netting.

Plant Markers --One of my challenges has been how to mark each seedling/plant as it grows from taking up barely any space (which makes it hard to stick a ½ inch marker next to where the seed might come up) to withstanding multiple moisturizings (once my toothpicks and name labels first became unreadable and then fell apart completely).This year I'm going to try colored perler beads… those should be hard to get so dirty one can’t see the color. Maybe a future post will show how this works.

Posts from Long Ago

2014 -- Happy Tomatoes!

2014 indoor starts for tomatoes  

The plants are thriving --in spite of my recent inattentiveness. We did major spring cleaning (two garage sales, several hauls to the local thrift and the dump!) here at our house and oh, my, I DID neglect my babies for a few days! I have some Kale plants that must go outside soon!

Two things are important to my success with starting indoor plants for the greenhouse: adequate lights and a fan. While it would be ideal to have the fan on a timer, I currently just try to turn it off/on at various times and move it around. Note that some of the tomatoes do have thicker little stems --a product of air movement. Air flow is also important to combat "green stuff" that likes to grow on top of the soil if it stays damp. The fan seems to dry things out, which means adding more water often.

2013 tomatoes

The peas in the egg cartons do not impress me...maybe it's too hard to keep them wet enough? They seem stunted and unhappy! :(

water tomatoes from the bottom  

Another thing I try to do (sometimes successfully) is to water plants from the bottom. Too much water on the top of the soil leads quickly to some "green" growth --you might see this in some of the photos if you look closely. Watering from the bottom seems to combat any moss or fuzzies near the base of my plants. You've probably heard of plants "damping off" --well, one contributing factor of that can be moisture near the top of the soil/base of the seedling.


The tiny seeds are buried in moist soil. It feels late! I only planted about 30 plants before April 1st! We'll see how they progress. I stuck with the plugs again this year. I like the quickness and neatness of getting things started. I will also use some small containers and my plan is to move small plants out of these plugs sooner rather than later this year, hopefully I can maximize my use of plugs AND have hardy little plants.

2013 baby tomatoes  

2014 indoor starts for tomatoes  

I'm trying something new with my peas. I want tiny pea plants to set out early. I want established little plants since they are resistant to frost AND already up --no need to wait for warmth in the soil. Little peas will sprout in cool conditions, but they sprout faster in warm conditions! From my experience, egg cartons don't make long-term plant starting containers because they either turn green or fall apart. I figure that if the peas will sprout in 14 days, I shouldn't have to put up with ugly or deteriorating containers for long.

straw markers taped to seed packets

I used colored straws again this year to mark plants, and a few other random objects like toothpicks --some as is and some with clipped ends. (I wrote sharp and non-sharp toothpicks in my notes.) I then taped the colored straw (or toothpick) to the seed packets.

Grow Table

my grow table spring 2014

Again, my grow table isn't a "table" but is only a set of grow lights sitting on the floor. I need to find my tablecloth that I used last year under the plants. It seems soil DOES escape no matter how neat one tends to be. And then, there's this new cat we have. She is fascinated by these little straws and I fear I will have to add a cage around the entire thing to keep her out. If I come in to find half of my straws missing or strewn around, I will not be happy!

Read more about our spring adventures at Spring 2012 and Spring 2013

If you live in Montana and have a greenhouse or start your own vegetables from seeds, I would love to add some pictures and comments here. Please fill out a contact form and I will email you.