Trying Jiffy peat pods for starting seedlings.

It’s still summer but need to plan for fall…

We’re going to take advantage of our long growing season and also add some hoop houses to the raised beds to try our hand at some cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, and rutabaga namely) as well as get some milkweed seeds in the ground, garlic started, mustard greens, and a special strawberry pyramid project for September.

However, it’s still the dead of summer and none of these fall and winter babies want to be outside. Apart from staring longingly through seed catalogs and keeping up with watering the current vegetables, it’s time to get seeds started so we can transplant in August through October.

Starting fall/winter vegetables in damp paper towels in plastic bags for germination.
Starting fall/winter vegetables in damp paper towels in plastic bags for germination.

We looked up a planting guide for our zone (7b) on the National Gardening Association garden planning calendar (just add your zip code) as well as checking some great University of Georgia Cooperative Extension guidance such as this vegetable planting chart (PDF).

We still had seeds from Baker Creek Seed Co. from trying cabbage and broccoli for spring but got too late of a start but needed rutabaga. We also knew it was going to be too hot in the small greenhouse even though we moved it onto the patio. Even with shades newly installed it gets well above 80 during the day (and seeds prefer below mid 70s). While there are many ways to start seed indoors, we had seen the Jiffy peat pods during the spring and decided to give those a try using the tray with holes so you can water from underneath and the lid to assist with a greenhouse effect.

The first attempt was awful. All the sprouting seedlings were covered in a fine white fuzz. A quick online search said likely too much moisture and we didn’t clean our trays. Clean our trays? We couldn’t ever remembering doing that. Back to the drawing board! Also many of the seeds didn’t germinate or did so at different rates.

Jiffy peat pods tray with seeds.
Trying the Jiffy peat pods tray for fall seedlings start.

The second attempt was better. Top lid removed, trays cleaned with a 10% bleach solution and dried in the sun, a fan added to the seed room, and seeds germinated first in moist paper towels in plastic bags. Once transferred to their peat pods, they grew quickly — too quickly — and many fell over. More research said that the grow light was likely too far away and that the fan wasn’t reaching the seedlings. Lots of great reading on why vegetable seedlings get “spindly” available online.

Trying Jiffy peat pods for starting seedlings.
Trying Jiffy peat pods for starting seedlings.

Third attempt is going well! Seedling tray has been boosted to within 2 inches of the CFL grow lights (13 watt SunBlaster that you can use in regular fixtures) and can be lowered as the seedlings grow. The fan has been elevated about 3 feet too.

When the second attempt had issues, honestly it was disheartening. Starting seeds in the spring in the greenhouse had been way easier with no issues of white fuzz or spindly growing. But extending growing season or even trying fall crops is a new experience. We’re resolved to not get frustrated but treat set-backs as a way to learn something new.

What methods have you found for starting seeds have worked the best for you?

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