Vroom, vroom – that’s your garden talking! It’s getting close to seed starting time. Can you hear the gardening revving up under all of that snow? Garden dreaming is soon to become garden reality, and if you start your seeds indoors this happens sooner than you might think.
1. Indoors or Out?
Some seeds prefer to be started outdoors, some prefer a head start indoors, and others are not overly picky. Before you plant, look at your seeds’ preferences. For example, tomatoes might prefer to get big and strong before being planted outside if you live in a cool area, while greens won’t care and actually thrive in the cool air outdoors.
2. Starting Time
When are your seeds ready to go? While spring might be in the air soon, look for the last frost date in your area to get a sense of when you should start your seeds indoors. Seed packages usually state when you can start your seeds indoors, basing this on a distance in time from the last frost date. However, be aware that this is an average to help you plan your indoor seed starting times: it can be frosty after this time.
3. Begin With Good Seeds
The recipe for success begins in the seeds themselves. Seeds purchased from the discount rack might be all right, but they may not have the quality that you want. If you’d like your seeds to germinate and produce a quality vegetable that has seeds that you can save, look for locally-sourced heirloom seeds. To save, buy them in bulk and share with friends, swap your homegrown seeds for a friend’s seeds, or grow vegetables that make seeds that you can save and use next year.
If you’re new to heirloom seeds you should read.
4. Start Seeds in Appropriate Containers
How large will the plant be when you move it to the garden? Seedlings don’t really want to be transplanted multiple times, so plan your containers according to the size the plant will be when you move it into the garden.
Look for containers that maintain a consistent moisture level. While egg cartons and toilet paper tubes work well for some, they may also leak moisture through evaporation, making it hard for your plants to stay uniformly moist.
5. Give Your New Babies Some Vitamins
When you plant your seeds, give them some good soil. Look for an organic and nutrient-rich potting soil. In our area, I purchase a fish-based product called Sea Soil. Soil is the nourishment for your new baby plants. Just as you’d try to nourish your children, give your new plant babies good food as well. They’re not very picky eaters either – they love things like kelp fertilizer.
6. Add Some Sunshine
Your seeds need light, and they like to live close to the sunshine. If you’re starting them on a windowsill, choose one with a lot of light for a large part of the day. If you’re starting your seeds under lights indoors, they’ll want to be as close as possible to the light without growing into it. Seeds without enough light become spindly, and when they’re transplanted they may not be strong enough to withstand the rigors of the outdoors.
7. Water, But Not Too Much
Water is good, and you’ll need to keep your seedlings consistently moist. However, if they get too damp they can get moldy, and that’s not good either. Touch the soil surface and slightly below to make sure that it’s damp, but not squishy.
8. Apply Heat
Many warm climate seeds thrive in an environment that’s a little warm on their roots. Make sure that tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants all get started in warm places. If you can provide heat on the bottom of the tray they will thank you for it.
What’s your recipe for success when you’re starting your seeds?