It’s starting to feel like Spring and we just attended our first school garden meeting of the year… needless to say, we can’t wait to get our hands in the soil!
The ground is northern Illinois will remain too cold (and soggy) to plant outdoors for some time, so we’ll be starting seeds indoors, both in the classroom and at home.
When’s the best time to start seeds indoors? That depends on a lot of factors, but our target date is the day we return from Spring Break: Students will be back in class to monitor seeds daily and water them as needed. The seedlings will have plenty of time to grow until we plant them outdoors in late May.
We have three favorite ‘pots’ in which to plant seeds… none require students to remove the seedlings from pots before transplanting. (We usually get a lot of snapped stems when kids have to extricate seedlings from plastic pots.) In fact, all students have to do is pull the bottoms off the pots to free up the roots before they plant the seedlings — pot and all — directly in the ground:
Peat pots (about 3.5″ diameter) are great for starting seeds. Made of biodegradable peat moss and wood pulp, they are big enough to give plants some room to grow and don’t dry out as fast as smaller peat pots.
Peat pellets — those disks that expand before your eyes when you add water — are fun for kids and contain everything you need to grow seeds (no pot or seed-starting mix required). But they can dry out quickly, so check them daily, especially if they’re placed in a warm, south-facing window. Pellets come in various sizes; look for the larger ones. On transplanting day, you may need scissors to cut the netting that holds the soil of these pots together in order to free up the roots.
A newspaper pot roller is a simple, wooden device that makes it easy to create seed-starting pots from compostable newspaper. We’ve made these homemade pots at home for years and they work great. Plus, it’s a fun lesson in reduce-reuse-recycle!
Always monitor plants to make sure you’re not over- or under-watering. If the seedlings’ main source of light is the window, you’ll have to rotate pots so the plants don’t get so leggy. And, if a window is particularly warm, pull the seedlings away from the window on Friday afternoon. Otherwise, they may bake to a crisp over the weekend and you’ll have some disappointed kids on Monday morning.