Are you just itching to get outdoors and start planting your garden?
It’s getting warm, but there are still nights that the frost sets in. Not a good thing for new plants. As much as you’re ready go head out to plant that garden, it’s not really time yet.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t start your garden indoors by seed-starting!
Read on for the basics.
Basics to Seed Starting for Your Garden
Obtain the Perfect Growing Medium
The best thing you can start your seeds in is a fresh seed-starting mix. It’s really the best chance for success because seedlings are so delicate.
A seed-starting mix is something that is light and fluffy and holds just the perfect amount of moisture. If the growing medium is too wet, disease can start and harm your fresh seedlings. If it’s too heavy the baby roots can’t push through the medium.
There’s bagged seed-starting mix you can get or you can buy compressed pellets of peat that expand when wet.
Locate the Perfect Container
There’s no need to get fancy, anything that can hold the seed-starting mix will be fine. Here are a few ideas:
- old yogurt cups
- plastic salad trays
- mostly-intact egg shells (which help add nutrients to the seedlings)
- egg cartons
- empty toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls
- old newspaper shaped into small pots
- empty cell-packs or pots from last years annuals
There are a great many options available – the best ones being using something that’s biodegradable and/or recycled. But there’s no point in using anything that’s more than 3-4 inches wide since you’ll be transferring your young plants to the garden or container.
Just make sure to sterilize any containers with a solution that’s 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Then make sure they have good drainage by poking small drainage holes in the bottom to ensure the excess water drains away.
Finally, make sure you place all seeding containers in a waterproof tray to keep them upright – and make it easier to transfer them to where the light is the best.
Provide the Perfect Lighting
New seedlings need plenty of light or they will turn out stalky and feeble.
You can buy specially made plant light set ups, but that gets pretty expensive for people on a budget or for the newbie. Most often, just placing your freshly planted seeds in a south-facing window works pretty well.
But for those of you that don’t get enough light, or need to put your seedlings in a safe place that doesn’t have access to natural light, you can rig up your own lighting fixture. Most people just use a fluorescent T-12 or T-8 bulb that fits into shop light – the one that hangs from the ceiling using S-hooks. Just make the light is kept to 3-4 inches above the seeds and as they grow just keep raising the light.
The ideal amount of time seedlings need light is 16-18 hours.
Providing the Perfect Amount of Warmth
During the germination phase of the seed growth the seedling needs just gentle heat. Like something that comes from:
- sitting on top of a refrigerator or dryer
- propping above the radiator
- use special heating maps
Once the seeds have sprouted about an inch you can move the seedlings to lighting in a cooler environment that’s kept about 60-70 degrees.
Give the Perfect Amount of Attention
Don’t just plant them and walk away, hoping they will be ready and turn out perfect in a few weeks. It doesn’t work like that.
Seedlings need to be checked every day…
- to see if they have sprouted
- to provide water
- to move the lighting
- to turn the plants if they are placed on the windowsill
Starting seeds isn’t a hobby for people who are away from home a lot or who are just to busy to pay attention.
Bonus Tip: When watering your seeds/seedlings pour the water into the tray holding the seed containers – effectively watering them from the bottom. This way the soil won’t become compacted or overly wet that promotes disease and fungal growth that could kill your young plants.
You can transfer the young plants outdoors once the last frost is over. Just use this tool from the Farmer’s Almanac to help figure out the date of your last frost and double check your local weather channel for more accurate information.
You don’t want to transfer your plants too early! The best option is to do a slow introduction to the outdoors. Set them out in a nice spring day for a few hours at a time for a while so they get used to the conditions.
Get Started Now
Summer is getting closer and it’s almost time to start your garden, but not quite. There’s still time to start your seeds indoors.
Do you have any additional seed-starting tips?