We are up against a cold spring again, and the farmers market begins in four weeks, so it is time to get a move-on. The planting calendar says to seed the zucchini. The zucchini seeds will start and transplant very nicely in foam cups. I will be transplanting these zucchini to the garden in two to three weeks so I am seeding them in small 8-ounce foam cups. If I wanted to hold them longer, I would be seeding directly into 16-ounce cups.
You may wonder why we like the cups instead of a plastic pot. Some plants seem to appreciate the warmth of the foam and the cone-shaped cup. The foam keeps the roots warmer, and the narrow width at the bottom of the cup allows the roots to use up the water quicker, which helps them to grow. A plant likes to use up the area it is growing in. You will notice that plants grow faster in a pack or group than with each little plant all by itself. Because of this, weeds or groups of plants are actually helpful until crowding happens; you’ll then want to do a little thinning-out to help them shoot up to the next stage.
The first things we do to prepare to seed our zucchini is to put holes in the bottom of the cups. A handy tool that I have around the house is a Cro-hook, a long crochet needle with a hook on each end. Take 4 or 5 cups upside down and drive the hook straight down through all the cups. Do this four times spacing the holes evenly around the bottom of the cup. Be careful not to pull the bottom of the cup entirely out.
Now label each cup directly on the side. We seed yellow squash the same way as the zucchini, and they look identical until they produce. Sometimes they fail to germinate, and if we did not label each one, we would be scratching our head wondering which one didn’t come up. We’ve done that more than once out in the garden. Remember to label. I just put a YC on the yellow crookneck. Fill the cups with potting soil a little above the top and shake down to firm the soil a bit and fill in air holes. Now, level the top by shaking the extra dirt off. Set them in a divided tray. We are now ready to seed. The seed I buy is treated and has a almost 100% germination rate, so I drop one seed per cup on top of the soil.
Gently press down into the soil about ¼ inch, not too far as we want the seed to pop right up and be able to move them off of the heat table and provide room for the next round of planting. We will cover with plastic wrap, which will keep the seeds plenty moist. We use a large roll from Costco because it is wider than a normal roll and covers the trays nicely. The pieces can be reused if you take the wrap off carefully and hang to dry after each tray is done sprouting. Add enough water in the bottom of the trays to the depth of ¼ inch from the bottom of the cups.
This will soak up immediately and will be all the moisture that the plants need for almost two weeks. Cover and place on the heat table, under the fluorescent green light bulb. Your plants will be up in just a few days.