I always like to start some seeds in January to give my seedlings a good healthy start before I set them out. Last week I cleared off my work bench in the garage to make room for my heat mat. I started many varieties of lettuce, kale, pepper, basil and tomato. As the seeds germinate I move them indoors under my grow lights. Once the seeds have germinated I make sure to remove them from the heat because the heat can damage the young roots and the plants will not thrive. Heat really only aids in speeding up the germination process and then after that the seedlings need light. I move the plants indoors because my garage is just too cold for the young plants.
This is my second year using the heat mat and grow lights system. The year before I tried to start seeds indoors and just put them by the window but they got very poor light. Last year the grow light system really gave them the boost they needed so they didn’t become spindly plants. Since the lights are on a pulley system, I am able to move the lights close to the plants and retract the lights as the plants grow taller.
I keep track of everything I start with dates of when I sow seeds, when they germinate and when I transfer them outside. I also keep notes on how well the plants do during the season so I can keep track of whether I am starting seeds too early or transplanting them too early. I especially like to keep track of what worked well (rather than what failed) so I can repeat the same timing from the year before. This also helps in succession planting because I always try to have something in the ground. For example, I noticed planting turnips before tomatoes works great because turnips are quick and out of the ground before the tomatoes are big enough to go in.
Last week I also started some seeds directly outside. After amending the beds, I planted Green Arrow Peas, carrots, various turnips (Purple top, Shogoin, and Mikado), and beets (Red Baron, Early Wonder, and Detroit Red). I had put a layer of leaf mulch on top of my raised beds a few months ago and while the bottom layer was pretty well decomposed, the top layer was still a visible layer of leaves. I just dug these into the soil so I am a little worried about them tying up the nitrogen as they decompose. Hopefully it wont affect the growing seedlings!