You may have noticed that this year at several Fifth Season locations we grew our own plant starts to sell. Combined from our Asheville, Carrboro, and Charlottesville, VA stores, we sowed thousands of seeds. We grew heirloom tomatoes, some of the hottest peppers in the world, culinary herbs, and many types of greens for salads and sautéing.
We started mixing our own starting soil recipe, using all organic components and natural trace minerals. During your next visit, ask one of our employees to share the recipe with you! We planted only the best organic and heirloom seeds available from trusted suppliers like Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Baker Creek Seeds and Sow True. We then used indoor lighting to raise them to the point that they were ready to be planted for the growing season.
Many seeds were started in late winter with Super Sprouter heating mats to help with seed germination. I personally like the 4 tray unit with a Super Sprouter Thermostat with the temperature around 78* for tomatoes and peppers. We also used a 7” Mondi Dome with vents and 72 cell insert. The dome helps keep moisture available for the very fragile stage of seed germination.
Once a tray starts to germinate, we supply the plant with artificial lighting so it can start photosynthesizing. We transfer the tray underneath some Spectralux T5 compact fluorescent tubes, making sure we cover the complete footprint of the tray with enough lighting to prevent the seedlings from stretching. Using the larger T5 fixtures ensures us of an even and healthy growing plant. Once the plants’ canopy fills up the tray, it’s time for us to up-pot or transplant the seedlings into a larger container.
We then supplied the recent transplants with some high intensity lighting. Metal halide is the best light to maintain a short stout plant with thick stalks. We raised the plants under the metal halide bulbs until they were ready for sale. One last step we took with the tomatoes and peppers was to harden them off under high pressure sodium lighting in order to get them ready for outside world. High pressure sodium has more of the red and orange spectrums the outdoor sun provides.
I hope you enjoyed this write up about our experience growing starts this year. If you have any questions about the blog or how to grow your own starts feel free to ask an associate at you nearest Fifth Season.