As a newbie on my farming journey one of the first things I was excited to do was to start flowers from seeds. It amazes me that you can hold these tiny items in your hand and they contain... well... life. In knowing that, I take it very, very personally when I start seeds and they don't come to any fruition (read: die). To me they are my babies (I know I am speaking to the heart of most — if not all — farmers here.)!
So when my first journey into seed starting didn't really end too well I dried my tears (yes, I cried), planted what I could, and consulted an expert. My expert is Katey Wietor of Good Omen Farm in Bealeton, Virginia. I met Katie — where else?! — at a farming expo just this year, and felt an immediate connection to her. Maybe because we both love flowers, or maybe because we have the same initials, I don't know why — it's just cosmic that way. Regardless, she has been a tremendous resource on my journey. When I knew I needed help I jumped at the chance to pick her brain.
Photo property of Kelly White.
So... get to it already right?! Ok... here's what I asked her: Please share with me your top three tips for seed starting for people who don't have a greenhouse (I don't — I want one — more on that later). Here are her tips:
- "Make sure you have adequate lights." She suggested bright shop lights with fluorescent bulbs, but noted others have used LED or lights specific to growing plants with success also. An additional tip on lights: "Make sure you keep the lights close to the plants as they germinate, or you run the risk of stretching your transplants."
- "Don't overwater." (I felt like she looked right at me as she wrote this — just FYI). "While seeds do need moisture to germinate, indoor starts don't dry out as quickly as those raised in a greenhouse. Make sure to water only when dry or you will run the risk of damping off and fungus gnats." (DING DING DING — me!) Katie added she uses a 1-gallon garden sprayer that has only ever been used for water to mist her plants. Notice the word "mist" and not "water," the key is to not fully saturate them. She also added that she likes to use "clear plastic dome lids to cover germinating flats — this creates a micro-greenhouse for the plants and reduces the need to water." I did this! And watered... so... there's that. Next...
- Air circulation. I failed hardcore here. "If possible, have a small fan to move air around the space. The breeze will also help the young plants strengthen up. Plants grown indoors can be very tender as they don't have as much environmental stimulation as ones grown outdoors. When your transplants are about an inch tall, gently run your hands over them once a day." (Awww... I love this one the most!)
What struck me the most about Katey's tips (besides her limitless knowledge) is how clearly she cares for her plants like the living, breathing creatures that they are. It really speaks to her as a person, that she is a true steward of the Earth and loves what she does.
I could go on and on about her and her beautiful herbs and flowers, but if you'd like to learn more about her farm, visit Good Omen's website. Katey learned her craft at the Organic Farmer Training Program at Michigan State University, and has further developed it with lots of care and practice.
If you visit the Northern Virginia region you can find Katey at the Leesburg Wednesday Farmers Market at the Virginia Village shopping center in Leesburg, VA, and on Saturdays at the Reston Farmers Market at Lake Anne Plaza. She also supplies flowers for three stand-alone markets: Brassicas Farm Fresh Market and Café in Aldie, VA; Market Salamander in Middleburg, VA; and Messick's Farm Market in Bealeton, VA.