Seed Starting Experiment

Posted on May 10 2010 - 3:32am by Mike Lieberman

Last week I direct sowed carrots and mesclun lettuce into containers on my balcony garden. I’m not seeing anything coming up on them yet.

This week, I’m experimenting with starting seeds indoors and outdoors to see which light works better. I don’t have any self-watering containers to direct sow into, but I have seeds. So why not get some started?

For this test, I’m starting a leaf lettuce blend, basil and also some of the flower seeds that I’m going to grow – sunflower and calendula.

I made seed starter pots using toilet paper rolls. For each of the seeds, two were planted indoors by a window and the other two were planted on the balcony.

An old pie tin is being used to hold the pots indoors and the cover is serving as the greenhouse. For the outdoor seeds, a long strawberry box is being used to hold the toilet paper rolls and a cut-up ziploc bag as the greenhouse.

My apartment is east facing and gets about 4-6 hours of direct morning sunlight. It’s been in the 60-70s during the day and in the 50s at night.

Which do you think is going to work better the indoor or outdoor sets?


9 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Indoor Kitty May 10, 2010 at 5:25 pm -

    Two more seed starting tips from this year's batch.

    1. Line to bottom of the “greenhouse” containers with some polyester batting and leftover weed block fabric/ scrap woven fabric to make your own homemade capillary matting. Makes watering from below much more efficient. When you're done, toss the batting a fabric in the wash and you are all set for next year. (You can forgo the woven fabric if you wish, but your sprouts will root into the batting.)

    2. Chamomile tea prevents damping off. From Sharon Lovejoy's _Trowel and Error_: “16 chamomile tea bags (or 2 cups dried chamomile flowers) and 2 quarts of water. Simmer for 20 minutes, turn off heat and allow the tea bags to remain in the water for several hours. Strain. if using flowers, ans water the plants at the roots. Spray foliage with the tea daily until transplanted outdoors.” (p.33) This book is awesome, btw.


  2. Mike Lieberman May 10, 2010 at 9:34 pm -

    Sweet. Thanks for the tips. More stuff to try out!

  3. Sprout February 24, 2011 at 7:40 pm -

    We started all of ours indoors using homemade mini-greenhouse made from plastic bottles and a mini-greenhouse seed germination tray. We are also using a grow light on the seedlings. They seem happy. :o) It’s too cold here to start our seeds outside. Looking forward to seeing your results!

  4. Mike Lieberman February 24, 2011 at 9:05 pm -

    Here in LA can start outdoors year round. Big advantage.

  5. Julianne Idleman May 8, 2011 at 8:58 pm -

    My money is on the outside batch. No idea what light filtered through both the plastic cover and the windows may be missing from the full spectrum, but I’m going with the more naturally lit option. 😉

  6. Mike Lieberman May 9, 2011 at 2:19 am -

    The ones indoors actually wound up doing better.

  7. Stacey September 19, 2011 at 2:13 pm -

    Great idea to use the old tp tubes. Hadn’t thought of that one before. That will save some money. Also love the tip on the chamomile tea. How fun is it to treat our plants with plants!

  8. Mike Lieberman September 27, 2011 at 4:16 pm -

    Glad you likes. They can be finnicky, but work most of the time.

  9. Joyous May 31, 2013 at 10:08 am -

    Super clever idea with the toilet paper tubes, that is gonna save me today ‘cuz I just realized I didn’t have enough little peat starter pots. Thanks ~ wondering how all this turned out 🙂

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