The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

New seed-starting supplies

Seed-starting flat

Onions are probably our biggest vegetable-gardening Achilles heel --- we ran out in January again this year. Wanting to be able to start these Old seed flatsseedlings inside in February was a big part of the impetus for my spare-no-cost improved seed-starting campaign in fact.

So it seems fitting that onions should be the first vegetables to enjoy our new flats. The containers I've been using are literally a decade old, so all are torn and not-quite waterproof. The new white ones are reputed to be a little hardier, although I can tell I'll still need to be careful with them. But maybe they'll be in a little better shape in 2026 when Mark once again talks me into buying new gear?

Seed-starting rows

Onion seedsI didn't use all new supplies, though. I found this wooden stick in Mark's workshop (hopefully it wasn't intended for anything important) and cut it to just the right length to make indented rows in my found stump dirt. Then I meticulously sprinkled in the seeds, half an inch apart. Finally, I added another thin coating of stump dirt atop each row and pressed down gently with my palms to compact the earth.

With potting soil, there'd be a moistening step in there too (preferably before the soil even hits the flats). But stump dirt comes out of the tree at the perfect hydration level for planting seeds.

Seed-starting setup

Mark growled when I took the heating pad out of Lucy's den and put it under my first set of flats. (Hey! That's why we bought the pad in the first place!) So I went ahead and splurged a little further, this time buying a heat mat that's waterproof and is just the right size and shape to fit beneath a seedling tray. My new humidity domes hadn't arrived in the mail yet, so I popped a larger dome we use for rooting perennial cuttings on top and called that flat complete.

Seedling heat matI'll admit that these are going to be some expensive onions since we spent nearly a hundred bucks on new seed-starting supplies. And that doesn't even count the lights (which Mark already had on hand) or the electricity we'll be using in the process.

On the other hand, all of the same equipment will be reused next month for starting broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. Then, since the flats came in a ten-pack, I'll probably even make soil blocks for watermelons and see if we can't get a crop of those heat-lovers in the ground a little early this year. All told, I'm positive that these supplies will more than pay for themselves many times over during the next decade...and that's not even counting the dose of winter greenery that will boost my spirits as I wait for spring.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I don't think you will regret the heat mats, as soon as the seeds germinate and you can get your flats in rotation the cost of the mat won't sting so much. Getting the mat to last 10 years though, might be a stretch. I don't know what organic produce costs in your area, but if you have to buy food the capital expense of good seed starting supplies starts to look like a bargain. Organic onions here are $2.00 per pound and that's on sale. Using one a day in cooking quickly adds up.
Comment by Nita Sun Feb 7 08:55:46 2016

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