Starting your seedlings
I love spring. The weather is warming, buds are appearing, and tiny little green plants start to peek their heads out of the earth. In the Pacific Northwest, we are lucky to have a long growing season. The Farmer's Almanac predicted the last spring frost this year to be March 17 and the first fall frost to be November 16, so that gives us 243 days in the growing season. Wahoo! Certain seeds enjoy the cooler weather and can be direct sown as early as February. Sugar Magnolia Snap Peas (which are purple) and Sugar Snap Peas (really sweet) are our favorites. They do great growing up a trellis and the kids love to walk under them and snack away. Hudson Valley Seed Company and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds are two of our favorite companies to order seeds from.
For those seeds that tolerate being started indoors and then transplanted, why not reuse and recycle. Egg cartons, yogurt containers, and single-serving hummus cups work great. As an added bonus, muffin tins work excellent as holders to prevent containers from being tipped over and catch the draining water. Egg cartons are great for smaller plants and can later be separated and planted directly in the ground as they are biodegradable. We've been planting our marigolds in these.
When you're ready to plant your seedlings, drill holes in the bottom of your plastic containers and fill with a seed starting mix. Seed starting mix, as opposed to potting soil, is a soil-less medium that is sterilized, loose, and poor in nutrients. This allows the seedlings to develop a healthy and branching root system. Once your seedlings have developed 3-4 true leaves, they are ready to be "hardened off". True leaves are the leaves that grow after the cotyledons, or the first leaves that appear when your seeds begin to grow. "Hardening off" is like a gradual introduction for your baby seedlings to the great outdoors. It is recommended that this process take 7-10 days and involves gradually increasing the amount of time your plants are outside and in the elements. You start them in a sheltered and protected outdoor space for a few hours and gradual increase this. When the process is complete, soil temperatures are warm enough, and the possibility of frost has passed, your seedlings are ready to move outside!