Friday, January 1, 2010

Seed Starting 2010

The beginning of January is when I start seeds for the upcoming season.

I have used the APS Seed starting system from Gardener's Supply Company for the last several years. I have five APS-6 units and one APS-24 unit.

Last year (see this blog entry), I made the mistake of using only the APS-24 to start all of my seeds. Unfortunately, the larger seeds (Winter Melon seeds) did not germinate because the seeds had inadequate soil depth. I had to restart my Winter Melon seeds a month later using APS-6 units (see this blog entry).

This year (see picture below), I am going to use three APS-6 units to go along with the APS-24 unit.

In the APS-24 unit, I am planting 8 Chili Pepper and12 Cherry Tomato seeds. There are 24 slots in the APS-24, but I have nothing else that I want to plant so the last 4 slots are vacant.

This is the first time that I have planted Chili Peppers. I wanted something that was spicy hot, but not so hot that it would burn my skin if I mishandled it. I decided to plant Thai Chili Peppers which have a Scoville rating of 50,000 to 100,000.

I bought 2 varieties for Thai Chili Peppers from Trade Winds Fruit: Thai Red and Thai Yellow. I planted 4 seeds of each type in the APS-24.

Last year, I planted six varieties of Cherry Tomato plants. This year, I am only growing the two types that tasted the best: Sun Gold and Sweet Baby Girl.

My Sun Gold Cherry Tomato seeds (purchased from Natural Gardening Company) are 4 years old and I am worried that the seeds will not germinate well. Since I was already buying Thai Chili Pepper seeds from Trade Winds Fruit, I also purchased Sun Gold Seeds. I planted 4 seeds of each type in the APS-24. It will be interesting to see if the 4 year old seeds will germinate as well as the new seeds.

I am using the same Sweet Baby Girl Cherry Tomato seeds that I planted last year from Park Seed. I planted 4 Sweet Baby Girl seeds in the APS-24.

In the three APS-6 units, I am planting Winter Melon and Charentais seeds (see picture below). I planted 14 Winter Melon seeds and 4 Charentais seeds. The Winter Melon seeds are in the APS units labeled "B" and "C" and in the top two cells of the APS unit labeled "D". The Charentais seeds are in the bottom 4 cells of the APS unit labeled "D".

Last year, I planted 5 different varieties of Winter Melon plants. However, only 2 types grew well: Long Melon and Round Melon. I planted 7 seeds of each type. Long Melon is in APS unit "B" and the top left cell of APS unit "D". Round Melon is in APS unit "C" and the top right cell of APS unit "D".

I have grown the Long Melon for the last 3 years and it always produces a lot of fruit (see this blog entry from 2008). I am using seed that I harvested in 2008 from the exact Winter Melon fruit that is displayed in the Long Melon picture above. The Long Melon is a "jit gua" type of Winter Melon. This is not the type that is traditionally used for Chinese Winter Melon soup. The fruit has a fuzzy coating on the skin.

The Round Melon is from a Winter Melon that my mother bought from an Asian Supermarket. This Winter Melon is the "dong gua" type of melon that is used for Chinese Winter Melon soup. The fruit has a waxy coating when ripe.

My family likes eating cantaloupes. However, cantaloupes are cheap at the local supermarket. If I am going to go through the trouble of growing my own produce, I want to grow something that is either expensive (Cherry Tomatoes, Strawberries) or not available (Winter Melons, Okinawan Sweet Potatoes). I did some research on the Internet and it turns out that what we call in the United States a cantaloupe is really a muskmelon. A true cantaloupe does not store nor transport well and is mainly grown in Europe.

Charentais is a type of cantaloupe that is grown in France. The fruit from a Charentais plant is bright orange and is suppose to be super sweet. Charentais seeds are hard to find. I ended up buying a packet from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

The picture above shows the APS-24 and APS-6 units after I was done. I have a cover that came with the APS-24. It raises the humidity in the APS-24 and creates a "greenhouse effect". Last year, I did not use it. This year, I will use it.

The weather has been nice that past several days, so I plan to keep the APS units outside during the day and bring them indoors at night for the next few days.

I'll put them under the grow lights afterwards. Hopefully, I'll have seedlings in a week or so. If all goes well, I can transplant into the ground at the beginning of March.

To see the results, go to this blog entry.


  1. Hi,
    I read your blog regularly. I also live in Southern California (San Clemente). I wasn't quite sure when to start my seedlings. So, is this considered early? Or is it normal to start them in January? Do you start all your seeds now? I enjoy your blog because your information is relevant to Southern California. This is my first year growing seedlings here. When I lived in Northern California the climate was much different.

    Happy gardening,

  2. Hi: I'm also from Southern California (Los Angeles). I just started my winter melon from seed yesterday. I know it's late in the season but it's so warm through winter I thought it would be ok. The seeds are from a fresh melon I got from the market. I just stuck then into some soil with fertilizer and prays that it will grow.

    Thanks! I love following your garden process.