Okay, enough talking (and reading and writing and web surfing); it’s time to get planting.  Past time, actually.

We started with the seed-starting soil mix.  We purchased a ready-made product but it is packaged dry and needs to be moistened.  We dumped half a bag into a large, wide bucket (it had been stored in the basement for quite a while so we first rinsed it with diluted bleach to kill any residual mold, etc.) and then added water from a spray bottle.  It was like making fresh pasta but in reverse:  We added water incrementally, mixing the soil after each addition, until the consistency was cohesive but not clumpy.

Next, we filled the compartments of a seed tray.  Rather than stuffing soil into each cell one at a time, we scooped handfuls of soil onto the top of the tray and then spread it back and forth until all cells were filled (molded chocolates are sometimes made this way).  Then, we compacted the cells by poking our fingers into them (this we had to do one at a time).  We repeated the process until all of the cells were full and moderately compacted (we did not overdo it).

The first seeds up were the tomatoes.  We have six varieties and each tray has 72 cells.  That means 12 cells—one long row—per variety.  Most of what we have read recommends two seeds per cell to protect against failed germination but that would be a lot of seeds and we have space for only two plants of each type.  Planting that many seeds seemed like overkill so we placed only one seed per cell.  If some do not come up or are sickly, we can discard them.  Alternatively (and let’s keep this positive), If we end up with more healthy plants than we can use, we will give them away.

We carefully labeled each row with a plastic row marker and then took the tray outside to water it.  Using a spray bottle (with a fine mist and gentle pressure), we applied water until it started to drain out the bottom.  When we were sure that all of the soil was moist, we placed the clear cover over the tray and moved it to the shelving unit.  The cover should retain most of the moisture for several days or even weeks.  We do not plan to water the seeds again until sprouts have emerged.

We repeated the process with the eggplant and peppers.  We planted 16 eggplant seeds (each in its own compartment) and eight each of the red and orange bell peppers (this tray will have a lot of empty cells but we did not want to put in anything with a greatly different germination period).

Finally, we filled a tray with basil seeds.  If we are lucky, we will have 72 basil plants, at least a dozen of which we can plant in the garden (this worked very well last year).  The rest we will give away.  Basil can easily be grown on a windowsill or sunny kitchen counter.  Besides providing a ready supply of fragrant leaves, it looks pretty.

It remains to be seen whether the spot we chose by the window provides enough warmth for germination.  We think that with a daily dose of direct (but diffused) sunlight, the temperature in the room will rise to at least 70 degrees (as it does in the dining room upstairs) but if the seedlings haven’t sprouted by a day or two after their expected date, we will consider other options.  We are hoping to get some help from Mother Nature here.