Our 2021 garden: February seed tray prep

For our Zone 3 area, quite a lot of things will need to be started indoors. While most things won’t need to be started until April, onion seeds are supposed to be started up to 10 weeks before the last frost date. For us, that means late March.

However, all the experienced Zone 3 gardeners that grow onion from seed have been saying onion seeds MUST be started much earlier. They started theirs in January!

Do I go by the seed packet, or by these gardeners?

I have decided to listen to the gardeners, at least as much as I can.

The problem is we don’t really have supplies, and with the polar vortex we’re under right now, I do not consider it safe to drive. I just don’t trust that our van, or even my mother’s car, can handle it. In these temperatures, breaking down on the road is life threatening.

So, I can only start with what I have.

We have two seed starting trays that fit the Jiffy Pellets. We found a box of Jiffy Pellets while cleaning up the house. Unfortunately, there were enough pellets to fill only half of one tray.

K-cups to the rescue!

We used to have a Keurig, but when it finally died, we found ourselves left with boxes of product that expired. Rather than throw them all out, I emptied the contents into the compost and kept the cups, specifically to use them for starting seeds. πŸ™‚

Their bottoms fit in the trays, but the flared tops needed more space, so I put the pellets in alternating spaces, then punched drainage holes in all the K-cups with an awl.

We’ve still got peat from last year, so that was used to fill the cups.

They fit rather well, this way.

I have enough K-cups to fill another half tray, with a few left over, but no more peat pellets to fill the spaces in between.

We’ll figure it out.

The tray went into a shallow storage bin, where I filled the bottom of the tray with water. Then, to keep it safe from cats, I put both the dome and the other tray, upside down, over it, then put more stuff on and around it. The cats really wanted to get at that peat!

Remembering how difficult it was to fully dampen loose peat last year, I added more water to the top, the left it sit for a while. I used that time to cut label markers out of a 500g size plastic container.

We have three different types of seeds; bulb and bunching onions, and shallots. I can only start one variety right now, so I decided on the bulb onions. The shallots will be next, and I figure the bunching onions can wait until we can figure things out and maybe get more supplies.

The tray got checked several times, more water was sprayed onto the top, and I finally ended up leaving it overnight. The above photo was after soaking for several hours, and I’d just sprayed more water to the top.

This morning, I took a skewer and checked the status.

The centres of the K-Cups were still dry!

I ended up using the skewer to make holes in the peat of each cup, then used the stream setting on my spray bottle to direct water directly into each hole.

Before anyone suggests that I should be using a potting mix, or a seed starter mix, there are two reason why I’m using straight peat. One: one of my information sources is a soil scientist living in the same zone was we are, and she recently did a video on exactly this. Since every seed has all the nutrition it needs to support itself until the true leaf stage, sterile peat and water are all they need. I would have preferred coconut coir over peat, but we don’t have any. Two: we don’t have any seed starter mixes, nor the supplies to make our own. Some stores are starting to have them in stock, however many of these places do not accept medical exemptions to mask wearing, so I am essentially banned from them. Of those that don’t discriminate against people with medical mask exemptions, they’re a long drive away and I won’t be going to any of them until this polar vortex passes and it isn’t so dangerous to go out. Even curbside pickup is not an option; I’ve already heard from many people who can’t wear masks and have tried to do curbside pick up, only to be refused service because the staff refused to bring their orders to them, outside, unless they wore a mask. Not even shields are being accepted. As for ordering online, shipping costs rule out that option, as well as the current delays in shipping. They’d never get to us in time to use them, assuming they even find us. Which reminds me. We never did get my husband’s FedEx delivery (for something he ordered online in November). As far as we know, the package is still somewhere in the city. We can’t get it ourselves, and they won’t deliver it to us, even with detailed instructions on how to find us. So… yeah. Ordering online is not an option, either.

So we make do with what we have. It will work out.

At this point, I’m just hoping to be able to get the one variety of seeds in today!

The Re-Farmer

7 thoughts on “Our 2021 garden: February seed tray prep

    • This particular seed company is Canadian, so they’re going by the Government of Canada climate zones. In the end, it all comes down to our last frost date. Even so, I’ll take the years of experience from local gardeners over a map! LOL

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Starting onions really early can be a great thing, because you have decent sized plants to go into the garden early, and an early harvest. When I first started growing them from seed, I learned that. AND it gave me an excuse to start seeds early when I was desperate to feel like winter would end at some point! However, I’ve now learned that starting them in January or February does give me onions to eat earlier, it’s hard to keep them stored throughout the winter. So, now I still start some in early Feb, but I also start the ones for storing in late April and that works better for me. Zone 5a, so you’d need to check your first frost date and work backwards. Best of luck, and hope you can get some supplies soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks!

      I’m constantly seeing warnings about starting too early indoors… and then there’s onions, which are the one thing that’s the opposite! Lol

      Our first frost date averages between Sept. 11 – 20. So we have about 3 1/2 months between frosts.


  2. Peat should work just fine.
    And welp, we make do with what we have, right?
    I 100% understand the mask exemption issue…I sure wish people could understand that not everyone can wear one, but sadly there aren’t a lot of folks with their hearts open enough to understand.
    The fear (thanks politicians and media πŸ€¦β€β™€οΈπŸ™„) is just too strong. πŸ˜₯

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Our 2021 Garden: First seeds started! Also, I couldn’t resist. Again. | The Re-Farmer

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