March 6 column: Seed-starting basics

Seed-starting basics
Here is a link to my column in today’s edition of The Spokesman-Review: Planting the seeds for a plentiful year. It covers the seed-starting basics so you can get your garden off to a good start.

At this point, I have flats of onion and leek seedlings growing and about 25 lettuce seeds have just germinated. While it might seem a tad early to have lettuce seeds planted, I want to try growing some in a container so figured it was a good time to get them started.

I planted the onion and leek seeds about 2 weeks ago. In order to get their root systems off to a good start, I trim the greens back to about 2 inches in height every week or so. That forces the plant to focus its energy on developing the roots rather than putting out a lot of foliage that small roots might not have the strength to support.

Everything is growing under a 2-tier plant light – something I got as a birthday present many years ago from Northwest Seed & Pet. I just love it and have gotten a ton of seedlings off to a good start under it.

Oh and before I forget, if you were studying the photo that accompanied my newspaper column today, I wanted to explain what you were looking at. I have a small 6-foot by 8-foot greenhouse, kindly given to me by our neighbors about 10 years ago. It was on the property they bought and they felt they wouldn’t really use it like their fanatical neighbor would!

In the greenhouse, I have 2 metal planting benches. I got the idea to cover one of the benches with heavy-duty black plastic and then cover that with capillary matting which I think I bought from Charley’s Greenhouses. I bought some plastic rain gutters and mounted them on the front of the bench. During the early season when I have a lot of seedlings on the planting bench, I fill the rain gutter with water on a regular basis and the capillary matting – part of which is lying inside the gutter – soaks up the water and provides plenty of moisture for the seedlings, from the bottom up. The photo above should give you a better view of what I’m talking about. And if you click on the photo itself, you’ll get an enlarged view.

I don’t often come up with “great ideas” all by myself, but this was one of the better ones because it’s worked really well! If you have any questions about this, just let me know by either emailing me at or putting a comment on this post.