Remember that jar of bleach water I carried to the berry rows? If not, see “About that pruning…” Well, I carried it back to the house, and rummaged through my supply basket and jacket pockets to find a big handful of used labels and promptly dropped them into the disinfecting liquid. There was a time, long ago, that I didn’t bother with this step. However, I try to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them. Early on in my growing, I decided to save expenses by using labels again. I wrote on the backs of commercial labels and marked out and rewrote others. Merrily, I stuck them into newly seeded flats. Imagine my horror when a ring of gray fuzzy mold began to grow at the base of many of the labels. Because I was growing hundreds of seed flats, I didn’t notice it on some soon enough, and it spread rapidly across the surface of the potting soil, killing thousands of seedlings. Since then, I’ve soaked recycled labels in 10% bleach/water and never had a problem. With the cost of seeds and soil, this simple preventative step is well worth the trouble.
Next I collected a stack of seedling flats and domes from the storage area in the barn and brought them to the house. A quick brushing first, and then each one was submerged and scrubbed in a tub of bleach/water and stacked on the counter (covered with old towels) to dry. 4-Pack inserts followed, as well as a few plastic mesh flats. I use the mesh flats to support the seedling flats. Having a flat full of precious seedlings buckle and dump while being moved is a heartbreak that can easily be avoided. I do enough flats that I can use some as covers over flats of seeds that require darkness to germinate. (Think violas, pansies, gomphrena, etc.) I’ve found that even though I cover those seeds with soil, I get better germination if they also have a light-proof cover. The clear domes (stacked on top in photo) are wonderful for covering newly planted flats, especially those with rows of seeds that need light to germinate (think yarrow, most daisies, chamomile, etc.) or dust-like microscopic seeds which are resting on the surface rather than covered with soil. The domes help keep them moist and protect them from mice or bugs, if those could be a problem. I keep clear domes on all seed flats after the seedlings emerge until the tallest ones touch the top, then the domes come off. Of course, if there is too much condensation on the inside of the dome, I tip it a bit. Also, if these are in a greenhouse where temperatures fluctuate, on a sunny day the domes may need to be removed to prevent overheating.
When I was finished, there was a heap of plastic flats and domes about the kitchen….a heap of hope that this year’s growing season will be as much fun as last year, and even more bountiful.