Tag Archives: APS seed system

Checking on the Seedlings

Why didn’t I buy grow lights before?? My seedlings have always been “fine”, but after seeing my mom’s lush healthy seedlings under her grow lights, and with a little nudge from my husband I decided to take the plunge. I am so glad I did!

I bought two 2 ft Hydrofarm T5 Grow Light Systems.

I decided against the single 4 ft light so I would have more flexibility. They came safely packed and were easy to assemble. I did have a little trouble with placement since my table is a 4 ft one and each lamp is actually 26 inches. Got it figured out with the help of a tray table.

I started the peppers back in March and then planted the rest of the seeds at the right time based on my last frost date.

I usually add a couple of weeks to the last frost date to be on the safe side, so I’m aiming to plant the week after Mother’s Day. I keep track of what I’m doing on these handy Botanical Interests Month-to Month planner sheets.

I’m growing Cosmos and Marigolds in my APS system trays, and this year all my vegetables in Botanical Interests small 1 1/2 in Recycled Paper pots and larger 3 inch Recycled Paper Pots.

I’ve always ended up with root bound squash and cucumbers in the smaller APS trays and they are really tenuous when transplanting, so I decided to grow them in the 3 inch pots this year. As a bonus, using these Botanical Interests Paper Pots they can go right into the ground when ready–just tear off the bottom strip and all set to go. The paper will just decompose and the roots aren’t disturbed when transplanting.

So far I’m really happy with the BI paper pots.  Plants have grown great and watering has been easy, even when I’ve been gone on vacations. I was a little worried about that, since I had always used self watering plant trays.

What I ended up doing while I was away was to place the paper pots in a baking pan and fill the tray up with water. The plants just soaked up what they needed. I did figure out I needed to fill the tray the day before, and again right before leaving since the soil soaked up so much water right away. That has seemed to work well for 4-5 day trips. I don’t keep them this damp too long so I don’t encourage mold/fungus to grow that could damage the seedlings. (What’s my favorite indoor watering can? The Oxo 3 liter Indoor Pour and Store)

The squash is healthier than I’ve ever grown!



Sunflowers are about 8 inches tall!

The kohlrabi, basil and coleus is getting there and maybe should have been started earlier.  This was a couple of weeks ago and they’ve since been thinned to one plant per pot. Best to thin by cutting the unwanted plants rather than pulling them out. Pulling one can pull them all out.

Can you tell the difference between the purple and white kohlrabi?

Can’t wait for the weather to get warm enough to think about planting. We keep having frost warnings so this year things are going to be a little delayed. In the meantime, this weekend I’ll put up the mini greenhouse and begin transitioning them to the outdoors (also known as hardening off). Seedlings have to be gently introduced to the outdoors or it’ll be too much of a shock for them.

How’s your seed growing going?  Has it been a tough year for you?


What Am I Growing-2017

It’s always fun to spend time in January and February going through all the seed and garden catalogs to see what I am going to grow this year.

It’s also during that time, I wish I had bigger gardens and more sun to really plant huge vegetable and flower gardens. But I have what I have, so I’m limited in what I can plant and can honestly barely take care of that. After many years of experimenting, I’ve settled into growing particular vegetables we like best, but often changing up the varieties, and then throwing in a few new things for fun.

Now’s the time to get started with any indoor sowing that needs to be done to give plants a head start in my northern climate. As in prior years, I’ve printed out my very handy planting guides from Botanical Interests and noted the sowing dates by counting the weeks backwards from my average last frost date.

If you don’t know your average last frost date, you can find it easily on Dave’s Garden.

Like usual, I’ll get my tomatoes and sweet peppers from a local nursery (shout out to Vern Goers Greenhouse) who grows multiple varieties of both. Pretty much any variety I want I can get from them, and they’ll be stronger and healthier than anything I’d grow.

So what am I growing this year? I usually get my seeds from Botanical Interests and Burpee, depending on who has my favorite varieties. This year, I have also ordered some seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds since I was already ordering leek plant sets and seed potatoes from them.

Inside, I will be starting:

Vegetables that I will starting outdoors directly:

I’m also trying something new this year, seed tapes. Seed tapes are supposed to make it easier to plant small seeds and reduce the need for thinning. It’s biodegradable and can be cut to fit your space. Looks handy! I’m going to try it for spinach and radishes this year.

Since we don’t have any spring parties scheduled, I’m going to grow more of my own annuals from seed.   As always, I’m growing marigolds and plenty of my new favorite cosmos.

I’ve described how I start seeds using the Gardener’s Supply Company APS System (which has been replaced by the GrowEase System) in “Time to Sow Seeds Indoors“. This year I’m also adding some new recycled paper pots from Botanical Interests which look perfect for the plants that don’t like to transplant so well.

Plants can be grown right from seed and when time to transplant, the bottom tears off and the remaining pot and plant go right in the ground.  Sounds great for my cucumbers and squashes.

I’m also finally investing in a grow light. I tend to grow very leggy seedlings that do ok, but a grow light is going to help the seedlings grow faster, healthier and better for transplanting. My mom Peggy bought the Hydrofarm JumpStart JSV2 2-Foot T5 Grow Light System a couple of years ago and had great luck with it. Her plants looked great when I was visiting last week, so I just ordered the same light set. Looking forward to not having a leggy, tangled mess of plants 🙂



Time to Sow Seeds Indoors

After my last post where I realized that spring was indeed coming, I figured I’d better open my boxes from Botanical Interests and Burpee that were still sitting by the front door and see what I had bought.  I know I’m still ok with timing since I usually don’t start anything until after spring break.  Oops, forgot I was going grow my own peppers this year rather than buying them and they need 8-10 weeks in the house before going outside!  Better get a move on!

Stephi gardens

Seeds to be started indoors

I found this great Seed Sowing Guide on the Botanical Interests website that very clearly lays out when seeds need to be started, both indoors and out.  I printed off my sheets and started calculating.

botanical Interests

Even though my last frost date is April 22nd, I’m generally not comfortable assuming I can plant tender seedlings before Mother’s Day Weekend.  So using that as my planting weekend, I calculated back when I needed to get things started.

First up is the peppers ASAP since I’m behind a week or so, then in a couple of weeks I’ll start the cucumbers and squash.  I’m not growing as many flowers myself this year because we’ll be having a high school graduation party the end of May for my twin boys.  I am going to splurge and go for some instant color this year.  But, I will start some cosmos and sunflowers for me to enjoy later in the summer.

As I described in my earlier posts, Starting My Seeds Indoors and Starting Seeds Indoors, I really like the APS system from Gardeners Supply Company (recently replaced by the GrowEase system)  So I hauled the box of seed starting supplies from the basement, bought a new bag of seed starting soil and got planting.

APS seed starting system

My fancy storage container for my seed starting supplies

APS seed starting system

Moisten the seed starting mix. Make it damp, not sopping. Also, use seed starting mix, not potting or garden soil.

APS seed starting system

Should feel moist and be able to form a loose ball

APS seed starting system

Moisten thoroughly the capillary mat and set up the APS tray system.

APS seed starting system

Fill the cells with soil. Tamp down the soil to compress it. Forms a better root ball for transplanting.

And here’s my new “trick” this year.  I always have trouble knowing what seeds are planted in which cell.  I usually use popsicle sticks, but they just get in the way of the lid and sometime the writing fades.  This year I marked off a grid like a map and made a log to go with it.  So simple, not sure why I didn’t think of it before!

APS seed starting system

Now I just need to be sure I don’t lose my paper log!

pepper seeds

Plant the seeds, 2-3 to a cell (you’ll thin later).  Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil so they are at the right depth according to the seed package directions.

APS seed starting system

Peppers are ready, looking forward to seeing them sprout.  In a couple of weeks, I’ll start the rest of the indoor seeds, and I’ll also get the cold weather seeds sowed outside.  It’s always iffy as to whether I get anything to grow this early outside, but I keep trying.

Starting My Seeds Indoors

This weekend I finally had time to get my seeds and seed starting materials out to get them started indoors.  I usually try and plant vegetables like cucumbers and summer squash that I have trouble finding in stores,  but I buy my tomatoes and pepper plants from a local nursery who has a great selection.

Seed starting trays

I hauled out all the seed starter kits I had (see Starting Seeds Indoors), plus I bought some new trays to expand what I can grow.  I also bought a great new mini greenhouse to set all the trays on and set it up on the porch.  I’m hoping this will work better then the tray tables in front of a bedroom window!

mini greenhouse

mini greenhouse

I first started with my APS-24 systems (see Starting Seeds Indoors for more thorough instructions)  I like this size for starting vegetables and larger flowers.  Be sure to thoroughly wet the capillary mat and pre-moisten the sterile germinating mix used to fill the holes.

APS Seed Starter Tray

Then add the seeds according to directions as to how many per grouping and how deep (you’ll thin them later).  Be sure to label them so you know what you’ve planted!

APS Seed Starter Tray

Since I have my new shelf and have space for more trays, I added to my collection of seed starting trays.  I bought a couple of different kinds to try, a 72 cell Ultimate Growing System from Burpee to replace my missing APS one, and some smaller Jiffy 12 cell kits.

Burpee seed tray

Jiffy seed starters

Both of these use soil pellets that you add water to and they expand.   Like the instructions say, warm water does work better.  After setting up all three kinds of soil cells, I think I prefer the old fashioned germinating mix that I pack myself.  I found the pellets a bit difficult to get to rise evenly and needed to still fluff the mix in the Burpee kit.

Burpee Seed Starter kit

I’ll see what I think after everything gets going as to which system I prefer for ease of use, and which holds up better for use year after year.  For anyone who noticed the chunk missing from the styrofoam APS system, that was my fault.  I’m not sure why I decided it what a good idea to pick up the full tray with one hand to move it.  That missing piece would be where my thumb was.  Otherwise, I’ve had these for years without any problems.  Best to move all these trays with two hands!

Most of the germination instructions say plant inside 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost date.  I’m about 3 weeks prior, although I usually wait a couple more weeks until mid-May before putting them in the ground.  They should be fine starting this week. Here’s what I planted:

24 cell size:
Cucumber, Marketmore Organic (Botanical Interests)
Summer Squash, Baby Round (Botanical Interests)
Summer Squash, Cubes of Butter (Botanical Interests)
Summer Squash, Patty Pan Scallop Blend (Botanical Interests)
Zucchini, Burpee Hybrid (Burpee)
Marigold, Boy O’ Boy (Burpee)

72 cell size:
Cosmos, Sonata Mix (Burpee)
Marigold, French Favorite (Botanical Interests)

Jiffy pop-ups:
Zinnia Cut and Come Again (Botanical Interests)
Zinnia Fireball Blend (Botanical Interests)

Here’s the finished project.  All ready for the sun to shine on it and get everything growing.
mini greenhouse