Seed starting isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. Any gardener with a curious brain can do it.
The first thing you need to successfully start seeds is to create, or buy, a good soil mix. Mother Earth News recommends using an easy-to-mix soil that has equal parts peat moss and vermiculite. If you’d rather not use a handmade mixture, you can buy a seed starting soil mix at a local gardening center.
After you’ve got a potting soil mix, invest in a few seed starting trays. You can buy seed starting trays at a gardening center, or you can make your own. All you have to do is get a fairly flexible cup (like an old yogurt cup) and drill a hole in the bottom of the cup. Place a few of those cups inside a tray of some sort (like a baking pan) and you’re ready to start planting!
When picking seeds, always pick organic and non-GMO varieties. You can find seeds at gardening centers, or online. (Click here to read about 5 non-GMO seed providers.) Also: If you’re starting seeds indoors, make sure you have a light timer that’s set to give plants 18 hours of light every day.
When you go to plant your seeds, make sure you add two seeds per seed compartment. (You'll end up cutting away the weak part of the plant.) Cover the seeds with a quarter inch of seed starting mix and pat down the material. Your seeds will get their moisture from the bottom tray (or cake or bread pan you’ve placed your yogurt containers into). However, according to Mother Earth News, you can water your seeds directly from the top at first with a gentle spout:
“Water lightly once, wait about an hour, water lightly again and so on until the seed mix is nice and moist. Also, fill the bottom tray up with about three-quarters of an inch of water (adjust based on the tray materials you’re using; you want to make sure the holes in the bottom of your primary seed trays or cups are surrounded by water).”
Once seeds have sprouted, get them as close to the grow light as you can. As your plants start to grow, move the trays down.
Now that your seeds have grown into small plants, make sure you continue to keep an eye on the water in the bottom of your trays. Keep the temperature of the room containing your plants in the 50 to 60 degree range. After your plants have grown a bit, you need to thin them out. Cut away all of the small and weak plants, and keep the strongest part of the plant. Cutting the weaker parts of the plant will keep the root system intact. Also: Consider petting your plants or setting up a small fan in your grow room to help stimulate growth. Next, you'll want to take your plants outside for a few hours a day. Again, Mother Earth News:
“After a few weeks of growth, you can start setting your plants outside in the shade for about an hour per day. Just make sure you don’t expose them to rain, direct sun or heavy winds at this point. Setting them out will help your plants “harden off” — prepare them for their upcoming lives in your garden.”
What are your favorite seeds to start? I’m partial to peppers and tomatoes.
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Seedling image via Shutterstock