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It's Time...[the 2023 Garden Season is HERE!]

Hey y'all! Happy New Year and belated Happy Holidays. It is my sincerest hope and prayer that you enter this new cycle around the sun without limitations, fears, or doubts of your innate greatness (God don't make mistakes chil').

Out here in Zone 9, we are 6 weeks from our estimated last frost date (February 17, 2023). Frost hardy crops such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and frost sensitive herbs suggest that if you are going to start from seed, you should start them indoors, about 8-10 weeks

prior to your estimated last frost date. Starting seeds indoors under grow lights, or if you are in a mild enough climate, under some sort of cover with adequate sunshine, i.e. a greenhouse or covered seed starting table, maximizes your growth and harvest potential because you are giving your garden a head start. Instead of direct sowing from seed when the weather conditions are right, you will be transplanting fairly mature (teenage level of maturity) plants into your garden during optimal growth time.

In the past, I've adhered pretty close to these dates because I wanted to get my garden going ASAP. This year however, I am taking a more...lunar approach.

Lined notebook paper titled "2023  Seed Varieties (by seed start date). List of tomato, pepper, eggplant, and tomatillo varieties to start January 2023
Seed starting schedule

Let's keep it real, I've been planning the 2023 garden since about October 2022. I took note of how well the 2022 spring/summer garden did, which crops grew well and where, and started thinking about new crops that I wanted to grow (I'll save those details for another post). Around mid November, I decided that I wanted to align my seed starting and garden plant out by the upcoming full moons. I've always been drawn to the beauty and magnificence of full moons. They signify fullness (no pun intended) and a deep gratitude for the elements. With that said, I set my 2023 garden plant out date for March 7, 2023 -- the first full moon after my zone's last estimated frost date. From there I mapped out my seed starting strategy. I counted backwards 8, 6, 4, and 2 weeks out and listed the various food crops, herbs, and flowers I want to grow this season. Which brings us to today, when I started the first seeds of the 2023 garden. Like I said, I'll go over what I am planting in a separate post, but for this post, I will share how I start them.

Let's start with supplies. and equipment:

I am starting this year's (and every year going forward) seeds in the Epic 6-Cell Seed Starting Trays from Epic Gardening. I am also using their Universal Bottom Trays because they are literally the sturdiest trays I have ever seen! (These are not affiliate links, they are just here for reference). By no means, do you need to use the same products, but I do suggest some sort of seed starting system. In the past I've used seed starting kits from Home Depot, egg cartons (be ready to up-pot soon), and red solo cups -- all were great, but I wanted to upgrade to something with more longevity.

As for my soil mix, I am using the Kellog brand outdoor potting soil, and amending it with worm castings, and bit of Bio-tone Starter Plus Plant Food

To start off, I sifted the bagged soil to remove sticks and other large chunks of matter. Next I mixed in a few handfuls of the Bio-tone and worm castings, then gave everything a quick spray of water. Don't drench the mix, but make sure that everything is moist.

Once the soil mix was prepared I filled the 6-cell trays, prepped my labels (variety, sow date, seed company), and sowed the seeds. I don't bury my seeds per se, I place the seeds on top of the soil and then sprinkle additional soil on top to cover them. This takes a lot of the depth guesswork out.

One thing.I really love about the 6-Cells and Universal Bottom Trays is that bottom watering

is super easy. I have lost countless seedlings in the past by overhead watering. These seeds (and all the others as I start them) will live in my greenhouse (aka the greenshelf) until it is time to harden and then plant them out in March.

Because I can be a little forgetful (raising 2 kids, keeping a home, working a 9-5), I set daily alarms to go tend to the seeds/future seedlings. All seeds (just like crops) have different needs, but all require that the soil stay moist for proper germination.

This is phase 1 for me, because I still need to sow the 6, 4, and 2 week crops, as well as up-pot these in about 4-5 weeks. I love starting the garden from seed. I think it's the fullness of the cycle -- especially when you add in eating/preserving and composting to the mix. This is probably my fourth year starting from seed, and I remember it used to feel so intimidating -- low-key still is, but I really wouldn't have it other way and once you get the hang of it --- there's no going back.

Happy Planting! Ciao & Cheers!

- Tiffe at the 'Stead

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