every year around this time of the season i struggle to decide when to start my indoor greenhouse. start too early and it's still too could to transplant them into the garden. start too late and watch as everyone else enjoy harvesting vegetables while you're still waiting for the plants to mature. but there's actually a formula for that. the average last winter frost for boston is may 10th. and seed packets for plants that need to be started indoors typically say 6-8 weeks before the last frost. just so happens that today is 8 weeks away from last frost, which makes it the perfect time to plant my seeds (actually 58 days, which is 8 weeks plus 2 days). it's still a gamble, because you never know with the weather around here, but i'm expecting it to be an early spring (despite the serious snowstorm on tuesday), with global warming and whatnot.
last year i didn't plant seeds until april 3rd, the day before i left for china. none of the seedlings survived when i came back 2 months later, with the exception of a tomato, some eggplants and striped mallow. the mallows ended up dying while i managed to salvage a few eggplants and the tomato. the year before that (2015), i planted my seeds on march 14, which is exactly 8 weeks before last frost. i figured it out intuitively, without using any formula. the seedlings were ready by the end of april and i transplanted them on 4/30 (6 weeks later). 2014 i had a hiatus, but 2013 i planted my seeds on 3/20. in 2012, i planted on 3/10.
around noontime i started burning drainage holes into the plastic cups with a heated awl. i started with 4 holes but decided on 3 because it'd save me some work and time. i went out in the early afternoon to dollar tree to pick up more 16 oz. plastic cups (16 greens) and a pair of seed starting trays (12 cells each).
i started filling the cups with potting soil. i had so many cups (84 total), i was afraid i would run out of dirt. but once again i used my scientific mind and realized i could just easily figure out the maximum number of cups i can fill. i had 32 quart of soil, which is 1024 fluid ounces. each cup is 16 fl. oz. so 1024/16 is 64 cups. i wouldn't have enough dirt if i filled each cup to the top, but in practice i leave about an inch gap, so something like 11-12 fl. oz. i ended up with some dirt to spare, probably enough to fill 6-8 cups later on if i want to start some cucumber seeds indoors (those only need to be planted 4-5 weeks before last frost).
the potting soil smelled delicious, as least to my gardener's nose. i didn't wear gloves because i enjoyed touching the soil. i crumbled the dirt before adding it to the cups. the potting soil had occasional bits of twigs, cement chunks, and i even found a strip of wire. maybe this vigoro brand isn't all that good, but i occasionally find non-soil items in potting soils i've used in the past as well.
after filling the cups (and trays), it was time to water them. i water by soaking from the bottom (a trick i learned from laurie a long time ago). unfortunately the first batch i soaked for too long, and the dirt became saturated with water to form a kind of dirt cement slurry. it also shrank the volume of dirt to the point where i had to add some more to level it up. maybe this vigoro soil is not as good as the miracle-gro soil i normally get.
i ended up planting the following:
|hot pepper blend (anaheim, ancho, long slim red cayenne, jalapeño, hungarian wax)||burpee||6|
|heirloom tomato 'mortage lifter'||burpee||6|
|tomato 'best boy hybrid'||burpee||6|
|tomato 'super sweet 100 hybrid'||burpee||6|
|eggplant 'zhikou hybrid'||park||8|
|basil 'siam queen'||burpee||6|
|hollyhock zebrina malva||etsy||12|
|gazania sunshine mix||park||10|
|lupine 'tutti frutti mix'||burpee||10|
|snapdragon 'magic carpet blend'||botanical interests||12|
|snapdragon 'fordhook tall mix'||burpee||12|
|balloon flower 'komachi'||park||18|
|columbine 'mckana giants'||etsy||18|
i planted some of the flower seeds earlier, because they were going to live in the starter trays. in the smaller trays (dozen cells each) i planted 2 types of snapdragons. they need light to germinate and prefer a cool environment so the best place for them was by the back door. of my longer starter tray (two trays of 18-cells each), i planted half columbine 'mckana giants' and half balloon flower 'komachi'. both flowers are winter hardy, and prefer a period of cold stratification in order to germinate, so i set them outside in a sunny spot. i got my balloon flower seeds from park, and they only gave me 25, so i was very careful about only adding a single seed per cell.
i'm germinating a dozen zebrina malva plants. the first time i saw them (or at least noticed them) was back in litang 2014. they were growing in the flower garden of a tibetan house. i was so happy when i found some malva seeds and tried to growing them last year but wasn't successful (mostly because i wasn't around to take care of them). so one of my major gardening project this year is to grow some zebrina malvas.
also new this year are gazanias. they're only annuals and normally i prefer perennials, but the flowers are so flashy and variable they're worth growing.
i went to the dollar store a second time to buy a spray bottle. i used to have one but i couldn't find it (could be at my parents' place). since i wasn't soaking the soil to the very top, i was afraid the top layer would be too dry (although the soil seemed moist enough). to be sure, i got a little sprayer (came in a travel pack, i only needed the sprayer) to mist the top of the soil so the seeds make good contact.
after planting all the seeds, i covered up the cups with plastic wrap to prevent the soil from drying up. i'm a little worried about the 10 habaneros i planted, because those were the first cups to be watered and the soil is very saturated and compact. fortunately i have a lot of habanero seeds, i can either choose to repack them or start a few additional cups of habaneros for insurance in case the original ones don't germinate. i finally stored all the trays into the grow closet around 6:40pm. even though the time said it was late, it still felt early because it wasn't dark yet, due to the daylight saving time adjustment late last night.
karen came home right when i finished up with my indoor gardening. she went out with the cousin of her friend around 2pm. she didn't say where, said they were having lunch, although it was a strange time. when she came back she told me they went and saw moonlight. they tried the assembly square cinema first but it wasn't playing there, and they finally went to kendall square to catch it. later in the evening around 8pm, her coworker friend paula called and asked her if she wanted to go grocery shopping (via car). they went to the new bfresh market in davis square, which is like a trendy supermarket for hipsters.
for dinner i made myself two tuna fish sandwiches.