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started my seedlings too early

 
Posts: 7
Location: Barnardsville, NC
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OK. So I made a mistake. I have a very long list of plants I want to grow this year, and managing inside start times and planting out times became super complicated, so I after trying to make a master list of the details I needed, I just went for it and started, with a very loose plan. Then the pandemic hit and I went plant start crazy! Now I wish I had a more strategic plan.

Our average last frost is May 10.

I have several plants now, such as basil, marigolds, etc. Too many starts to count. I have some like chard, dill, cilantro and parsley, that can probably go out, but are very small. And the best thing is that I have warm and cool season plants coexisting in my 1020 seed flats.

Some of them seem to need to move up, but I'm out of space and containers. Of course, the plants that are ready to be transplanted are the warm season ones, not the cool season ones :(

My question is, how to keep the plants happy through this tight squeeze. I feel the need to fertilize, but need your opinions. I should also possibly move up in pot size (which is challenging due to lack of room and I am out of seed flats again).

Thoughts?

Also, I am willing to give away my surplus plant starts or even trade for something small. I'm just outside of Asheville, North Carolina and would love to share.
 
pollinator
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Location: Worcestershire, England
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Congratulations on making a mistake you are probably on an exciting road to discovery. If I didn't make mistakes everyday gardening I wouldnt learn anything! -Its also important I learn as I do it for a living too!

I would put some out and leave some indoors then you still have some as a back up.  It should be emphasised that your last frost date is an average, not reality. You could put it out after that date and potentially still get all your plants struck down by Jack Frost. Its worth observing if the ones put out early are better in the long run than the ones repotted and then put out. Also try to pay attention to the weather and hopefully in time you can cultivate a feeling of when is a good time to get planting where you live.

Dont forget to harden the plant off a bit by gradually taking them outside and potentially back in if weather conditions worsen. I learnt that by killing a load of tomato plants with wind burn many years ago!
 
pollinator
Posts: 617
Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
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Oh yeah, that sounds familiar.
I've put my kales out when weather was superb, nightfrost for a week after.A lot died, some survived, better genes i guess. Could be interesting if you plan on saving seeds to get costs down.
I've covered some with phacelia that grows everywhere in my garden, just plopped it on, it protects it a bit.
Don't they get very weird and stringy when you keep them in too small pots?
Maybe put an advert on facebook or some local group,
Guess it could be a great hobby when you're confined any way.
Hanging disposable bottle gardens behind the windows could help you as well..
 
gardener
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Location: Pacific Wet Coast
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Welcome to permies Stephanie!

Yes, you've just made a few "beginner gardening" mistakes - the important thing is to learn from them and think laterally about your options.

I'm having to make some assumptions here - you're talking about flats with individual cells? How many cells/flat?

1. Yes, it's a really good idea to only plant a single type, or very compatible types of seeds in a single flat!
Options: A) give away or sell "mixed flats" to people who are willing to try to baby them/transplant them as needed
B) Cut your flats apart and set the cells in different boxes
C) carefully transplant out the things that need to move
D) get more ideas from someone else?

2. Yes, Veggies really need about 3 inches of depth to stop them from getting root-bound/senescent if they have to stay there too long. It sounds like you need to transplant anything that is getting big and and think *very* laterally about "where to?"
Options: A) you know those wine boxes with the cardboard dividers in them? Could you score some of them locally and transplant into them? You'll have to cut the box apart to plant them out eventually, so make sure everything in one box can go into it's spring/summer home at the same time.
B) As much as I prefer to avoid plastic - score a bunch of 2 liter pop bottles (sorry I'm speaking Canadian), chop the tops off, poke a couple of holes 3 cm up from the bottom so you have a tiny reservoir for water and use them as instant pots. One liter bottles might do for some, but only if they're fairly slow growers.

3. Yes, I *totally* get the space issue, but again, I've got no real idea of your resources.
Options: A) Do you have the tools/skills to cut up free pallets to make yourself space? Do you have access to fresh manure to put in the bottom of a pallet cube and the pots of plants on top to keep them warm? Or use pallets and salvage some windows off the internet to make some quickie cold frames?
B) Can you buy safe hay or straw bales (there are certain herbicides in some hay that you do *not* want on your land) and stack them up in a "U" shape with the opening south to again provide a warm-ish place for pots of plants or even right in the garden, but with a "heat trap" around them? You might need to put sheets over at night for extra warmth.
C) Can you score containers with lids - juice bottles etc - that you can fill with water to moderate the night time lows? If you use glass, it can't freeze or they'll break.

Think about some of these ideas and reply with information that would help us get you through the current problems, hopefully without just creating more problems in two weeks!
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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Location: mountains of Tennessee
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Welcome to permies Stephanie. I'm an hour or two west of you, basically the other side of the mountains. From the looks of the weather I suggest waiting about another week before transplanting too much outside. Some cold nights ahead. I think it will be smooth sailing after that. Just proceed cautiously because we do sometimes get late freezes. I push the season a little by planting early & hope it pays off but save enough seeds to replant if necessary. You might want to try making a mini-greenhouse for individual plants out of a milk jug with the top cut off.

It's not too early to start direct seeding peas around here. If your chard & cilantro were larger they would probably be ok to transplant out this week. Mine are doing fine outside & they tolerate cold quite well. I'm not transplanting the tiny ones out this week though. Beets, turnips, & rhutabaga seeds can go in the ground now. Buckwheat & spinach too. Again, start gradually in weekly stages or you risk having all your eggs in one basket.  

I think in general we're 2 or 3 weeks "warmer" or ahead of schedule than in a typical year.




 
Posts: 122
Location: Ontario, climate zone 3a
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Do you have the materials on hand to cover your seedlings if you planted them outside now so they don't get leggy and potbound? Like a makeshift low tunnel, or using your recyclable plastics (if you have any on hand) to cover some individual plants until the weather looks better?  You could rig something even with branches and tarp and just keep them covered at night or if it looks like hail, if you have to, just make sure you weigh it down with rocks or whatever you have lying around, and that there are no places where water will weigh it down onto the plants.
 
pollinator
Posts: 463
Location: N. California
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I also try to avoid plastic, but needed cheep containers to upgrade my seedlings, so I used red solo cups(actually used store brand, but you get the idea)  They were big enough to buy me some time, not use to much compost, and I will wash them, stack them and keep them for next year.  If you want to plant outside once you have hardened your plants off you could plant them and put something over them at night to protect them.  If you don't have cloche, you can use a large glass bowl, cut the bottom off of a water, milk or juice plastic jug.  this will give your plants a bit of frost protection.  I think plants are like money, to much is never enough.  Good luck to you.
 
pollinator
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How about row cover?  Depending on the thickness you will get at least 5 degrees from it.  Will also prevent the frost from being on the plants which will burn them.  If you take care of it it will last a couple of seasons and once it starts to wear out you can lie it on the ground on top of your direct seeds.  You won't have to water them as much and they germinate faster and seem to be much healthier.
 
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