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Seed Starting for the Organic Garden

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Let’s talk seed starting. If you’re growing a garden this year, seed starting might be on your list of things to think about right now. I started out this year with a much more thorough {shall we say} attempt at seed starting than in previous years. I only marginal success with seed starting last year and the year before and I wanted this year to be different.

Amazing, homemade seed starting shelfSeed Starting for the Organic Garden

Dan built me an amazing seed starting shelf last month, complete with adjustable lights and 4 shelves, using material he found around our homestead. I ordered my seeds from Baker Creek way back in December and drooled over them for many months. I bought organic potting soil, nice seed starting pots, and heated mats for better germination. You can read my post here with 5 supplies I recommend for starting seeds and see my baby seedlings when they first germinated!

I methodically started my seeds toward the end of February. I wanted to give my little seedlings plenty of time to grow because they were still pretty small last year when I finally transplanted them. I had spotty germination results: tomatoes, cabbage, and peppers did great. I got a few eggplants and one luffa gourd {these have a reeeeeally long growing season so need to be started early if you want to harvest any – found this out the hard way last year, hence Take 2}, broccoli did ok. But I got ZERO cauliflowers to sprout. Also, only one brussel sprout – which later broke and died. 🙁

Transplanting tomato seedlingsAnd then we went on vacation. I took my seedlings to some great friends who promised to tend them with their own seedling starts while we were gone for two weeks. When I came home and finally picked them up, I was amazed! The tomatoes looked better than mine did when I planted them last year {after growing for many more weeks than they have grown so far}. Because my friends had done such a fabulous job with the seedlings, many of them had to be transplanted into bigger pots. I started with the tomatoes.

transplanting broccoli

And then I moved on to broccoli. The broccoli was really leggy so I turned to instagram, facebook, and google for tips on how to encourage better growth. I think the reason for the legginess was too high of a light source and too warm of temperatures. I decided to try to fix it by burying part of the stem and trimming the upper leaves. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out so well and almost all of my broccoli seedlings are dead. I’m hopeful that a couple of them will survive, but most of them lost all of their leaves and look terrible – I {think} they lost their leaves because of my over-zealous trimming. Another good friend on facebook told me that the shock of transplanting AND losing their upper leaves in the SAME DAY was probably too much for them to handle and they collapsed. A couple of the stems still look green and I’m watering them still. I don’t have much hope, honestly. But it doesn’t hurt anything to water them.

March SeedlingsAnd those are my seedlings – 4 types of peppers, 3 types of tomatoes, 2 types of eggplant, 2 types of cabbage, 2 types of broccoli, and one luffa gourd! I plan to start more as soon as I pick up a few supplies and sweet talk my hubby into building me ANOTHER shelf (staring soon – herbs and marigolds). And in a couple weeks I will also start my cucurbits as I have a horrible time with cucumber beetles and have had read that the bigger the plants, the better they are able to defend against those vile, nasty creatures.

fox farm fertilizer

By the way, I think the key to my friends’ success with seedlings is a bit of fertilizer they use from Fox Farm – I ordered some too and my seedlings look GREAT! Hope you’re finally enjoying some warmer temperatures. It’s 65 degrees today in Eastern Iowa, but it feels like my barn is going to blow over, it’s sooooo stinking windy. I can always find something to gripe about, but I’ll sure take the warmer temperatures. 😀

Happy seed starting friends! Please share your progress. And don’t forget to enter my Spring Bonanza Giveaway here – for your chance to win an assortment of seed starting goodies, including seeds from Baker Creek! Stay tuned for my garden plan! I’ve been hard at work and you can have a sneak peak if you follow me on instagram or facebook as I’ve already posted pictures of my first hack!

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About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long time green living enthusiast and rural Iowa mom of four. An avid traveler, Michelle has lived on three different continents and has driven all four kids across the entire USA (by herself!). She loves sharing farm-to-table recipes, their family travel adventures, and gardening and homesteading tips on her popular lifestyle blog, SimplifyLiveLove.com.


  1. blankJenny.U says

    I’ve tried unsuccessfully for several years and I give up. It’s not worth the headache. Yes it saves money when you compare cost to a plant but not worth my stress! We’ve talked about building a true greenhouse maybe a better environment will work. For now, bought plants it is!

  2. blankKelli @ The Sustainable Couple says

    This is my first year starting seeds, and it’s going really well! I’m not taking any huge risks or anything, but I’ll probably buy a few plants before it’s all said and done. I am thankful I waited until mid-March to start a few things, because I bet some plants will be pretty leggy when it’s time to plant! Eeeek!

  3. blankTonya says

    Am I blind or is there no date for this blog post? Hee. Hope this is recent. Love the starters. Someday I will re-tackle this. Check my blog if you want to see how my plants look that I ordered through Azure. Nice seeing you and thanks again for the book!

    • blankMichelle Marine says

      You’re not blind, Tonya. 🙂 I took the dates off posts – it’s supposed to be better for SEO. Your plants look great and I look forward to seeing you next month at the pickup! <3

  4. blankKayli Schattner says

    Wow! This looks incredible. I’m currently starting a small balcony garden and it’s true, you don’t need tons of space to grow your own food! Very empowering. I look forward to seeing how everything turns out!

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