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Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:21 am
Location: Houston, TX

Seed starting in Central Texas, harmph

So my first experience with seed starting, instead of buying starters at the local nursery, was this last winter. And it did not go well.

I started peas, carrots, cilantro, spinach and arugula.

I started in the house in September while it was still hot out, and transferred in November. Everything did semi well until we got a freeze a few weeks ago and everything but the spinach wilted and died? Is it because they were still seedlings? All these plants are supposed to be frost tolerant, but then it got to 30 degrees and didn't make it? What did we do wrong?

I would like to do the same thing for summer plants, start from seed instead of paying $50 in tomato and pepper seedlings at the nursery. But I'm worried I'm going to mess this next crop up too!

Any advice on what could have happened?

Also, it sounds like seed starting takes room inside the house (or greenhouse) and equipment. The only room we have is really the top of our dryer. Maybe seed starting, until we can get a greenhouse, is just not the way to go for us!

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Super Green Thumb
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It would be hard to know what happened to your seedlings without more information and preferably pictures of how your seedlings looked when transplanted etc. But to start with, carrots don't transplant well and are generally just direct seeded in the ground. I plant mine in late winter, as soon as the ground can be worked.

All of those things could be direct seeded in the ground, but some of them should have been ok to start indoors and transplant. And they should have been frost tolerant, if hardened off well. Where I lose the most seedlings is in the hardening off process. Seedlings that have been started indoors are very tender (one advantage to direct seeding in the ground, then your seedlings are already adapted to outdoor conditions), so they need to be gradually acclimated to outdoors.

So it would be a question of if they were hardened off well. You asked is it because they were still seedlings? It depends. Baby seedlings are definitely more tender and vulnerable than something that is better established. For transplant size you want a sturdy little plant with at least several pairs of true leaves, stocky, at least a few inches high and growing well.

You don't need a greenhouse for starting seeds. I start hundreds of plants from seed every year and I don't have one. But you do need some basic equipment, starting with lights. Window light usually is just not sufficient.

Check out the seed starting basics thread here: ... sc&start=0

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Super Green Thumb
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Location: ID/WA! border

I have peas, carrots, cilantro, spinach and arugula in the garden each year but just use direct-sowing in the garden. I don't use the greenhouse for those plants.

One thing that makes seedlings vulnerable to not only the hot sun but the cold is insufficient soil moisture. If there will be only a light frost, it has been a good thing to have the plants well-watered.

Often, small plants can be covered easily on cold nights.

At one time, I did not have a backyard greenhouse. Your dryer location made me think about that because I used a utility room to start plants. I could open the door into the kitchen or even an outside door if it was too warm in there. That wasn't much of a problem. It had its own baseboard heater and I could keep that turned down so the room was usually cool. It had a perfect south-facing, long window and a shelf below for plant starts.

Cool temperatures, lots of sunlight and a shelf in the right place. It wasn't so bad with a small garden and no greenhouse. I allow seed to sprout in my warm kitchen but still use a similar cool, sunny location for seedlings in their 1st couple weeks of life. They go out into the greenhouse later.


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Super Green Thumb
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Every thing you listed I usually dirct sow. Transplants just don't do real well.

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Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:21 am
Location: Houston, TX

Howdy folks.

Thanks so much for the quick and informative replies. Most of those seeds I mentioned before I did transplant, and some I did directly sow into the garden when it got later in the season. When the frost came, we did try our best to cover the seedlings (most of the carrots and lettuces were about 1-2" tall at this time) but still lost about 95/% of everything.

Even the lettuces and peas we put in late October just grow slow. I was expected robust plants by now, but they have all stayed at a steady 4-6" tall with few leaves on them. We compost, and supplement with Hill COuntry garden soil so can't imagine that the soil is the problem? Unless we have a mineral deficiency? Going to test the soil soon to rule out that problem.

I'm glad ya'll that are close let me know you are starting your peppers and tomato seedlings already! I would have never guessed we do that this early (this is the first year I'm attempting seeds vs buying transplants). I guess I have a project later this week!

It looks like I will be buying some sort of light, and getting out the heating pads.

Marlingardener your info is priceless becuase we are in the same neck of the woods. I'm still in the 'green' stage where I need someone to tell what to do when, so it's nice that you are on this board!

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