If you have made it this far, you might be wondering what to do next to keep your basil babies alive. Here’s a short list of things to do to keep them going.
Remove your seedlings from the top of the fridge once they begin to sprout
Reduce the number of times you spritz your seedlings to once a day, and gradually taper down to every other day, and then just start watering them with a watering can as the soil starts to dry on the surface. Why?Seeds need to be kept moist constantly until they sprout, then you want to gradually reduce the amount of water you give them to avoid causing them to rot or suffocate. This could be another separate article!
Take the set up to a warm, sunny room, away from heat vents(at least 5 feet away) I have mine sitting on the top shelf of a bakers rack that sits in my sunny foyer.
Begin removing the clear lid from the seedlings. Why?
To prevent your seedlings from getting to long and spindly (leggy)
To prevent mold from growing that can cause a disease called (dampening off) that causes your seedlings to die off right at the base of the stem.
To begin getting your seedlings acclimated to air movement. (air movement will ultimately help your seedlings get stronger, sturdier stems.
Rotate your seedlings once a day to prevent them from bending too much in one direction towards the sunlight.
You can now leave the clear dome off permanently
Reduce watering to once every 2 or 3 days. Just make sure that you water deeply so the soil gets wet all the way to the bottom of the container to stimulate deep rooting down into the soil.
At this point you can still water with a mister, but you can adjust the nozzle from mist to more of a heavy spray and eventually a small stream.
Avoid blasting the delicate seedlings with hard streams of water.
Teach little ones to wet the soil surface rather than aiming directly at the seedlings.
Teach little ones that the seedlings will get their water from their roots which are buried in the soil. This is why we aim at the soil instead of the leaves.
You could even gently pull one seedling out and show your kids the little white root! Tell them that the root is kind of like a paper straw! It can suck up water through the tip and can absorb through the sides kind of like a wick.
If you use a magnifying glass, you will also see root hairs which also help your plants get a drink.
Make sure your container is not standing in a saucer full of water. Standing water causes the roots to be deprived of air and will cause suffocation and rot which ultimately results in death of your seedling.
It feels like spring. Finally! We can all get out, get some air and get our hands dirty again. But what can we plant that isn’t going to freeze on us and have to be replanted again later? Here’s a list to get you started in your veggie patch.
Potatoes: as of Good Friday, you can start planting seed potatoes.
I’m sure there are many more, but this is just off the top of my head and will at least get you started:)
Wilcox tools are great for digging holes for annual flowers and vegetables, especially for those of us who don’t like to get down on our knees! The extra long handle is 18″ long, super sturdy from tip to tip, and made in my native state, Iowa!
A few years ago, when my boys were ages 2 and 7, I discovered microgreens. It had been a long winter, and I was aching to be outside. January and February are the months when my family gets a new seed catalog in the mail at least once a week! This may be from my last 17 years of mail ordering seeds and bulbs!
The first time I heard the term, microgreens, was at a “Grow Your Small Market Farm” class my husband Tim and I took at Iowa State University during our days as cut flower growers. I had no interest in microgreens at the time, because I was deeply invested in growing cut flowers. I was always curious about what they were and how to grow them, but never made the time to learn more, until that long, cold winter a few years ago.
I must have seen something about microgreens in one of our seed catalogs, and decided to learn more that winter. It was a fun project that I could do with my 2 year old in one arm, while planting seeds with the other hand, and hopefully, providing my kids a tiny learning experience at the same time
7 Reasons to Grow Your Own Microgreens
1. Microgreens taste great: They give your salads a kick in the pants by adding a little bit of spice but not too much. Radish microgreens, for example, have a kick, but are not nearly as strong as eating an actual radish. I would say they have about 1/3 or less of the spice of the actual full grown radish. The same principle holds true with other plants.
2. Microgreens are super easy to grow: Most of my favorite microgreen varieties will sprout from seed in 7 days or less.
3. Fun and Easy Project to do with the kids: Since the seeds germinate so quickly, and large quantities of seed are broadcasted over the seed tray, kids will enjoy it.
4. Microgreens are packed with nutrients.
5. Microgreens take very little space to grow.
6. Microgreens take very little supplies to grow.
7. Microgreens can be grown year round in your home.
The picture below is what full grown arugula looks like. Arugula is a fun one for beginners, because the seeds sprout really quickly and easily. Arugula at this stage is very strong tasting, and sometimes, a little bit too intense in flavor, but if you just eat the little microgreen seedlings, the flavor is subtle, sophisticated, and delicious as a garnish, salad accent, or atop a beautiful panini, burger, or cold cut sandwich!
Arugula seed is really inexpensive, quick to germinate, and very rewarding in terms of flavor when harvested as a microgreen! Click the photo on the right, if you want to get some of your own seed to try.
Below is a packet of Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch Kale. It sprouts very quickly, so it’s really rewarding to plant these with kids! It’s packed with nutrients, because, well, it’s Kale! It can be harvested as a microgreen, or allowed to get a little bigger for baby salad greens. But let me tell you, even though it is Kale, it tastes so much milder when you harvest it when it’s only 2 or 3 inches tall with cute little baby leaves! I have waited until the leaves are about 1inch by 1inch, and then pinch them at the base of the stem without removing the center of the tiny plant, and gotten several cuttings throughout the summer this way. I suppose letting it get this big, probably makes it less of a microgreen and more of a baby salad green, but regardless, it’s a great addition to salads, and it also holds up in soups…think potato soup with Italian sausage.
Radish seeds are super easy to sprout, and they will pop up in a week or less! And these little cuties are purple! Don’t let their cuteness fool you though; they pack a spicy punch in that tiny little seedling, making them perfect for spicing up your burgers and sandwiches! This variety is called Rambo.
Below are Bull’s Blood Beets! Quite a bit different from what we all normally think of when we think of beets. They are so fresh and colorful, and would be so beautiful and nutritious as a garnish to just about anything! Well, maybe not with cereal.
Japanese Mizuna is another easy to sprout seed that is packed with flavorful punch! Plant these little guys if you are a fan of the spicy mustard flavor of wasabi.
The tray to the above is a tray of peas sprouting just 3 days after we planted them. The tray to the right is all Arugula about a week after we seeded them. The trays are re-used take out containers from a local restaurant. No drainage is required. I would recommend using a shallow container no more than 2 inches deep to prevent excess moisture and seed rot.
We used regular Miracle Grow Seed Starting Soil.
Let’s Play in the Dirt!
We poured some soil in a 2 gallon bucket, brought it to the kitchen sink, and used the sprayer to wet it down. Potting mix takes a while to absorb water, so you get to squirt water on it a lot…bonus for my little guy. Then you get to stir it up with a big spoon until it is just right. Not sopping wet with water standing in it, but wet enough that if you picked up a handful, and squeezed it, you could form a ball.
How to Plant the Seeds
1. Once the soil was moist, we put it in our cleaned take out trays, pat it down a little bit, and then scratched the surface so it was rough and not totally smooth.
2.Then we took our seeds and scattered them just as if you would be sprinkling salt on a steak. About 1 seed every half centimeter or so. Not precise, just scatter and have fun!
3.After we spread the seeds, we scratched the soil a little bit again gave it a love pat, and covered up the tray with the clear lid. A perfect moist environment to get them going.
4. Once you get them planted, you can put the tray on top of the fridge, so they get some bottom heat, which speeds up sprouting(germination).
NOTE: If you keep the lid on your trays, you should not need to water them until after they have sprouted. I kept a mister on hand, and misted the seeds right after we gave them their love pat, and then left them alone.
How Do I Care for Microgreens Once They Sprout?
We checked our seedling trays daily for signs of life, and after about 3 days, the peas began to sprout.
KEEP THEM COOL AND BRIGHT!Once they all sprouted, I removed them from above the fridge and place them in a cool, yet sunny window, and away from heat vents. An ideal temperature average would be between 60-70 degrees F. once they sprout. Microgreens can also be grown in a cool place like your basement with fluorescent lights overhead.
How do I water them?
In order to not disturb the soil too much, I usually would turn the kitchen faucet on the lowest pressure possible, and directed the water along the side of the container to let it seep down to the bottom, so as to water the roots from the bottom up. I might have used about 1 cup or less of water per tray, let it soak up, and then poured the excess off by tipping the tray gently to one side. Not a lot of water is needed.
Once the lid is removed, it is important to maintain even soil moisture for your microgreens…but not have the sprouts sitting in water. If you think you put too much water in the tray, just gently tip it at an angle to allow the excess water to drain over the edge of the tray.
After about a week and a half, we had a crop. I just left them in the container, with the lid off, and snipped as needed to put in my salads or on sandwiches and burgers. The kids actually loved eating the pea shoots. Peas shoots are sweet, tender and delicious. They also make a beautiful garnish if you like things fancy.
That’s it on microgreens for now. I hope you learned something and that you’ll consider giving this fun little project a try! Stay warm!
I just got a question from Shaina about how to start basil so she could have fresh herbs in her kitchen. Basil is an easy one to germinate, or start from seed. And fresh basil tastes wonderful in so many dishes. So this one is for you, Shaina, hope this helps:)
First and foremost, you’ll need some seeds! Below are links to where you can order some of my favorite varieties! And there are tons of different kinds of Basil!
As I was hunting for links for Basil seeds and looking at pictures of this delicious herb, I began smelling Basil! I told my family, “Man, all of this talk about Basil is making me so hungry, I am starting to smell it!!!” Then I walked into the kitchen and realized that my son, Harrison, was eating his breakfast, leftover angel hair pasta with basil pesto mixed in!
Potting Soil Prep:
One thing that nobody seems to tell you is that potting mix is hard to moisten in the beginning. It usually has peat moss in it, which can hold a ton of water….but because of that, it takes a while to soak up! I would advise that prior to planting any seeds………
grab an old bucket
grab an old large spoon or trowel
pour the amount of soil you need into the bucket
turn on some warm water in your kitchen sink
turn the spray nozzle on
gently spray some water into the bucket, being careful not to spray directly onto the soil, because if it’s really dried out, the soil particles might poof into your face and make you sneeze:)
start mixing the soil, to work in the water
add squirts of water until the soil feels moist, and will clump together when you squeeze it…kind of like shortbread cookie dough, or pie crust…still crumbly, but will hold together if you squeeze it.
Once it has enough water, put the soil in the pot
You are now ready to plant your yummy Basil seeds!
Doing this soil prep will make it much easier to water in your seeds after you plant them. Why? Really dry potting mix tends to float and repel water at first. If you are trying to get the soil to soak up the water after you have already planted the seeds….think flash flooding of baby seeds and drowning and suffocation of baby seeds…not good:)
What if you Don’t have time for soil prep as described above?
Here’s a cheat. In plant nerd terms, we call this process capillary action. Just set the pot that you planted your seed in, in a saucer and fill the saucer with water
Let the water soak in from the bottom, up through the soil, from the drainage hole in the pot.
refill the saucer until the soil appears to be moist on top. This may take a few hours.
Planting the Basil Seeds
1. Find a small 4 inch pot. I prefer clay pots, because they are cute, and because they allow the soil to dry out faster, which helps me to avoid rotting my seedlings from overwatering.
2. Get your favorite variety of Basil seed
3. Sprinkle the Basil seeds right on top of the soil
4. Gently scratch the soil surface to let the Basil seeds fall into place
5. Water in the Basil seeds with a gentle shower from your kitchen sprayer
6. Make a mini greenhouse environment for your newly sown basil seeds by
a. covering the soil with a clear baggy dome, or
b. you could set the whole pot inside one of those clear plastic lidded spinach
boxes from the grocery store that acts as a saucer to catch the drips and
keeps the air humid which will make the seeds germinate faster.
7. Place your mini greenhouse with your newly sown basil seeds on the top of your refrigerator, as the bottom heating of the soil from the fridge will stimulate them to sprout.
8. After they sprout, take the baggy off or remove the salad container lid and keep them in a bright place. Away from heat vents and scorching sunlight. A foot or 2 away from a sunny window would be good to start out.
9. Once the sprouts get 4 leaves, pinch off the top 2 to get the plant to branch, each place you pinch, you should get 2 new branches right below the pinch. Once those get big enough, pinch and use for cooking, and you’ll then have 4, then 8 then 16 branches and so on. Feed at least once or twice/month and don’t let it flower, so you can get more greens off it. mmmm, now I want to try it! I think I will be trying spicy globe basil, because it branches so easily and is a nice looking plant, plus, it should have great flavor too.
After all of this talk about planting seeds, I think I am ready to start some of my own for this year. It seems quite appropriate given this weeks weather of snow, snow and more snow! Thank goodness we don’t have to wait until spring to start gardening!!! Check back for updates and maybe even some pics of our planting day. Or follow along on @gardenshapers on Instagram!