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Self-Watering Seed Starter System

Self-Watering Seed Starter System

It’s a partly cloudy 34.5 degrees on this beautiful snow-covered morning.   One day after a nice 5-6 inch blanket of fresh snow the melt has begun (again). 

Even though March is just around the corner I haven’t been super-motivated to get the garden seeds started.  Besides the lengthening days, spring just doesn’t feel that near.  This all changes today!

A few weeks ago I picked up a 28-plant self watering system seed starter tray at Menards.  The tray is a Planters’ Pride Self Watering System – Cutting Pots and Water Distribution Tray.  In years past I’ve tried making my own seed starters using toilet paper roll tubes (cut in half) and reusing a variety of disposable nursery-grade high-density four-packs.  Both offered mediocre results, at best.

I’m optimistic that this new tray will work better. 

First, the containers are individual 2.5 inch plastic pots which fit into a custom molded tray.  The tray has individual spots for all of the pots.  Last year’s toilet paper rolls provided limited success.  The seeds sprouted well, but quickly became root bound due to their small size.  I think the 2.5 inch pots will provide plenty of room for good root growth.

Second, Moisture control. The new 2.5 inch plastic pots sit in a molded plastic tray with inter-connected water tracks.  this provides an easy way to water multiple containers at the same time. Each container has four 1/4 inch drainage holes in the bottom.

With the toilet paper rolls it was hard to regulate moisture content.  They quickly went from one extreme to the other.  They had a tendency to dry out and/or wick too much water into the cardboard.   This resulted in mildew problems or dried out soil. 

Third, It’s made of nice quality plastic containers which are reusable and should last for years.  The toilet paper rolls needed to be saved all year, then cut and folded individually.  The super-cheap quality nursery seed start trays I’ve reused often cracked, split or fell apart after a few handlings.

I know that once I get these seeds started the weather will break and spring will zoom right in.  As much as I love snow and winter, I will welcome spring with open arms.

If you have thoughts, comments, or suggestions… please post a comment or stop by the EnjoyTimeOutdoors.com Forum at http://enjoytimeoutdoors.com/forum .

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Here’s the weekly vlog update for 18 July 2010 …

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I finally shot a video update of the container garden and posted it on YouTube.

I’ve been adding new containers almost weekly and plan to continue through the growing season.

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It’s been a while since an update…

Strawberries and raspberries are ripening about a combined (small) handful per week.  Just enough for a nice snack every now and then.  The blueberries are growing but not producing, but I didn’t really expect anything this year.

The lettuce blend is doing great.  We’ve harvested salads for two about four times so far, and it’s ready for another two large salads.  Two rounds of hand-picking cabbage loopers, but the lettuce bounced back great.

Peppers and tomatoes are all blossoming and setting fruit like crazy!  The first sweet pepper is about the size of a baseball, this past week about five peppers and a dozen tomatoes are growing to about the size of a gobstopper.

So far so good…  More updates and photos coming soon.

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For the last month the weather here has been unseasonably warm and sunny.  This has given the berries a great running start. 

While watering the containers today, after another fine day in the mid eighties, I had a few exciting surprises waiting for me…

1.) The strawberry blossoms are starting already.  There are only four, so far, but it’s a start.

2.) Both  transplant blueberries are showing signs of life.  I don’t have high expectations for either of them this year, but maybe next year.

3.) Every branch on the cherry tree is budding!  I was wondering if it would make it.  It was in pretty rough shape when I did the spring cleanup a few weeks ago.  This was a pleasant surprise.

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Windy aftermathWhen I got home from work today I was surprised to find the growhouse on its side with all of its contents scattered upon the ground around it.

I thought I paid particular attention when I placed it down wind of the log rack, and even monitored it during some breezy evening earlier this week.  It appeared to hold fast so I didn’t think I needed to tie it to the log rack.

All was going well until I removed the two transplant blueberries from the bottom shelf.   I failed to consider that these were serving as the ballast for the whole growhouse.

Considering the mess, there weren’t too many damaged plants (the photo was taken after I regrouped everything).

Seeing that we have good weather forecast for the near future, I was thinking about transplanting many of these starts into their final containers.   I guess my decision has been made for me.

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Blueberry blossoms- How long do they last?

The Chippewas have already started!  It looks like there’s going to be dozens of blossoms in the days and weeks to come.

While this is exciting, the situation is bitter-sweet.  I don’t have another variety (required for pollination) anywhere near ready.   The Dukes are the closest and they are just now starting to set buds.

 Gauging off the Chippewa’s progress, the Duke won’t be blooming for another three weeks.  Hopefully the warmer weather we’re expecting this week will give them a boost, but it’s still going to be close.

I’m sure glad we added the Dukes.   Especially since the transplants still aren’t showing any signs of life.  I’m not sure if this has to do with the damage they endured this winter or if it’s just still too early.

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Here’s a great blueberry resource from Michigan State University.  Well worth a read if you are looking for information on blueberries. http://www.blueberries.msu.edu/

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