Thursday, April 7, 2011

Let's Not Do the Time Warp Again

Confession time.

Blogging about seed starting is so much harder than I thought it would be. Why? Because life intervenes, and suddenly, a strange blogging time warp is created.

It looks like this: I plants seeds on March 22nd. Meanwhile, I have a household to run, twin boys to care for, and a husband returning from Afghanistan on March 25. Naturally, blog post on seed planting doesn’t get written for several days. To make matters worse, after writing said post, several days pass before I can find time to publish it on blogger-- a laborious process involving the uploading of 19 photos. 

(Any experienced bloggers out there hoarding tips on beating the time warp, please share. Unless you're going to share that you always have time to write.)

Why am I bothering you with all this mundane blogging minutia? Because when the post about planting seeds actually appeared on March 29th, my soil pellets already looked something like this:

Feverfew Sprouts

And this:

Hollyhock Sprouts

And this:

Tomato Sprouts

See my problem? When I can't find time to write, the seedlings don't get the memo to slow the heck down.

In fact, today, as I write on April 5th, (note any discrepancy with the actual publication date above for further evidence of the time warp), my little prospects are looking more like this:

Feverfew Sprouts

And this:

Hollyhock Sprouts

And this:

Tomato Sprouts

Because of my past failures when it comes to getting seeds off the ground, I’m now pulled between twin impulses: to scream SUCCESS!  out my front window, or bury my head in my hands and concede that my posts will never keep up with my pellets.

Such is life. But to say we have some catching up to do is putting it too delicately. In the interest of keeping this post on the shortish side (because long posts further stretch the time warp) I’ll skip the day-by-day chronology of seeds emerging from soil and jump to the important stuff. Namely, what I learned this time around:

1. Seeds will germinate with heat alone, but they’ll emerge looking like pale yellow extraterrestrials. Observe:

These morning glory sprouts were the first to emerge on day number two. Interestingly, since these were the first seeds I ever germinated on a home-made heating mat , rather than a windowsill, they showed not a trace of green. Here is a photo of my germinating set up:

 Luckily, as soon as I perched my grow light on top of them, they began to green up within hours:

Next year, to avoid the creepy yellow sprouts, I'll probably use the warmer and light together like this:

2. Some seedlings will quickly demand special treatment
After six days, when many of my pellets were showing no signs of life, my sunflower sprouts were already pushing up against the lid of my greenhouse. I felt like a school teacher faced with a tracking dilemma. I was forced to create an advanced program for my agricultural overachievers. I pulled out 10 pellets (6 sunflowers, 2 morning glory, 2 cardinal climbers) and placed them on the “tall and talented” track with their own set of lights.

Those are clip lights I bought from Home Depot many years ago for my first (and only other successful) seed starting attempt. Here I've clipped them onto the leg of my hanging light system. You can see they are quite a bit clumsier than the hanging light, and they have fallen on top of my seedlings more than once. You may also be wondering about the space-age foil reflector you see in the background of the photo. That's something I rigged to capture more of the light from my hanging flourescent rod. I just cut the top and bottom off a cardboard box and wrapped the inside with aluminum foil, then lowered it over my seed tray.

3. Sometimes, even coddled seedlings flop.
Here are my dill seedlings (which I had such high hopes for in the bring-beneficial-bugs department) showing absolutely no gratitude for the high powered light perched over them for 16 hours a day.

Leggy Dill Seedlings

These are supermodel seedlings if I’ve ever seen them. I’m stumped for now. Any readers who have spotted my blunder with these babies are encouraged to comment.

4. Not every leggy seedling will flop
Check out my chives! I’d never grown chives before and was totally fascinated with the way they emerge looking like green stork legs with their knees poking out first.

Chives Seedlings

Once the leg straightened out it was very long, very thin, but very sturdy.

Chives Seedling
That black speck on the end of the sprout is the seed. I usually resist the temptation to remove the seeds when the sprouts emerge wearing them. Pulling off the seed, in my opinion, would be sort of like helping a baby chick out of its egg. I like to think the little sprouts require the struggle to build up some strength to face the world.

Next Post: Seedling Lessons Part II (When hard choices and surgery are called for)


  1. you are just a seed sprouting fool...I am just doing a few this year...I will take on more next year but boy they need constant care...I am growing many from seed and hope to start them outdoors this weekend even though we will still have frost for a month...using a row cover...I too use a heat mat and grow light..the grow light has been the ticket for me to a good crop of seedlings...

  2. Bel, I think many of us have experienced the blogging time warp. I have some posts begun last year that won't actually get published until next year because the moment went by and I never got them finished. One strategy that I have found helpful is to use the free software Windows Live Writer to draft my blog posts (you can find a couple of posts about this in my archives from January 2010). I do find it much easier to use that my blog host's (Wordpress) editor. More importantly, I can jot down ideas and save partial drafts in Live Writer, which I find helps with the time warp problem. -Jean

  3. I'm just starting my blog again for 2011. This is my second garden season of blogging. I went along great guns, until about July, then totally went into the 'time warp'.

    I'm pretty sure it will happen again this year, but blogging is just so much darn fun!

    Found your blog on blotanical, by the way!

    Cheers, Diane

  4. Hi there, I followed you over from Jean's blog. I laughed at this post as I have seedlings growing too and my posts are always out of sync with what's really going on. Not so much a problem for readers (they won't know if you don't tell!) but if you ever want to refer back to your blog to see what you were doing in previous years the timing will be off.

  5. I came here at the recommendation of Jean and got a good chuckle out of your seed starting dilemmas (I hope that's what you intended). I used to grow everything from seed: 15 kinds of peppers, 10 tomatoes, etc. Then I started a nursery and seed starting went by the wayside. Your trials and tribulations didn't make me want to go back by I enjoyed reading about them. I think blogging, fun as it is, has to take a backseat to life.

  6. perfect solution. when you have a dilema about the process, blog about the dilema, and the problem kinda gets solved... :)

  7. Great post. Just be glad they did germinate! Wouldn't it be worse if you were having to blog about them not coming up at all. I love your propagator set up. Makes me think I should get one...

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