tiny seedling

If visions of this year’s lush green garden are already filling your head, well, join the club. My first seed catalog came in the mail a couple of weeks ago, imparting visions of the gorgeous, healthy, organic herbs, vegetables and flowers that will soon be ours for the growing. So, if you – like me – can’t wait until outdoor planting time to get started on the garden, follow these steps to start seeds indoors and get a jump on the growing season.

1. Find the right indoor seed starting time for your area.

This first step is crucial; if you plant your little seeds too soon, and they are ready to be transplanted into the ground before your ground is warm enough, you’ll have to keep them in pots too long and they’ll get leggy, root-bound, and will be much more prone to developing diseases. So the timing of when you start your indoor seeds matters. There are a few ways to find out the best indoor planting time for your area:

  • Go to the Farmer’s Almanac calendar and type your state or region into the search box. Follow the guidelines for different types of plants you might be starting early (some seeds have a longer germination time than others, so you want to plan them earlier).
  • If you know your last frost date already, just use this table to find the right time for starting seeds indoors.

2. Get your seeds and supplies.

You can order almost any kind of seed from online suppliers, and you’ll get a lot of choice for organic seeds as well. You can also visit local nurseries, many of which start stocking seeds after the first of the year. Peruse Etsy for small-scale (and usually very high-quality) seed suppliers, or call your local gardening club to find out about seed swaps or the best places to buy seeds locally.

For supplies, the list is simple: you’ll need small containers, dirt and some sort of flat surface to hold all of your containers. For your containers, you can use recycled food containers, egg cartons or even egg shells. Or you can make your own biodegradable planting pots out of newspaper using a tool like this wooden “Paper Pot Maker”. Small peat pots, found at any garden center, are always an easy and popular choice as well.

3. Meet the planting requirements for each type of seed.

The process of planting seeds indoors is essentially the same as that of planting seeds in the ground outdoors. You’ll first want to find a location that provides the correct amount of light for each seed. For most fruits, vegetables and herbs, it’s going to be full-sun, so locate a Southern or Western facing window in your home. You can also supplement with bright lamps or growing lights.

The other essentials for plants are space and moisture. The space requirement you can ignore at this point; you’ll be transplanting your seedling before it gets too big and cramped. The moisture requirement you’ll be taking care of yourself. After planting 1-2 seeds in each container and covering them with a thin layer of dirt, use a spray bottle to mist clean water over the seeds. You want just enough to moisten. Repeat the misting every day and watch for signs of life.

image: Fluffgar