Starting seeds indoors can make all the difference for some plants. If you live in an area with cold weather or short growing seasons, it may be the only way you can grow vegetables with success. Learn all about seed starting indoors.
Starting Your Seeds Indoors
Getting started is easy and fun. In just a few simple steps, you can get most of your plants sprouting indoors and get a head start on planning, designing and growing your own vegetable gardening.
Picking Out Seeds
Before you can start your seeds indoors the first thing you will need to do is pick out what kind of seeds you would like to plant. Consider flowers, herbs and vegetables you want in your garden.
Buy seeds based on your gardening zone and how well you understand planting in your area. If you purchase seeds locally, they will likely have the plants that will grow in your area.
Perennials Versus Annuals
When seed starting, it’s always good to have an idea of what you are going to plant before getting started.
Perennials can take months to even sprout, and have a much lower germination rate than annuals. It also takes much longer for them to grow to maturity. Many times, it’s easier to propagate perennials.
Annuals are easier to grow and have a high germination rate. If you’re a beginner, I would suggest starting with annuals.
Read the Seed Packet
The seed packets will have very useful information relevant to your seeds, such as seed starting dates for your gardening zone, sun requirements, planting depth, and maturity size. It will even have information on germination dates and water requirements.
Choose the Right Soil
Once you have your seeds picked out, you will need to choose seed starting soil. This is different than potting soil or garden bed soil. It is available for purchase online or at any home improvement store during the growing seasons.
It’s also possible to make your own seed starting soil. Two parts compost, three parts peat moss, and ten percent perlite. This combination helps to retain moisture which is paramount to seed starting success.
There are many options out there when choosing where to grow your seeds. You can make some of your own seed starting trays or containers or you can purchase them online.
Mini-greenhouses are small seed trays with plastic coverings to allow the humidity to rise when seed starting. These can be available for purchase online or home improvement stores. Some can be as simple as a tray and a plastic covering, while others can have additional benefits like heated pads and grow lights.
You can also make your own mini-greenhouse with a seed tray made out of cardboard egg cartons and a plastic lid to a store bought cake. Feel free to be creative as many “trash” items can be re-used for seed starting.
Seed Starting Trays
Seed starting trays are large plastic or sometimes cardboard trays that hold tiny amounts of soil or seed starting medium for getting your seeds started off on the right foot. These can be really cheap or very expensive depending on their size and what additional items are included with them.
You can make your own seed starting tray by using a cardboard egg carton. This is a cheap and easy option and a useful way to upcycle your egg cartons.
Please note that seed starting trays usually have very little soil or room for growth and will have to be transplanted a few weeks after sprouting occurs to maintain the healthy growth of your seedlings.
The depth of your seeds when planted is crucial. Every seed type is different and the best thing to do is to read the back of your seed packet to get the right depth.
If your seed packet does not have the information needed, or seems confusing, do a quick internet search for seed starting for your particular variety.
Seeds need to be planted near the top of the soil. Planting seeds too deep in the soil can cause them to use up their energy and resources before reaching the sunlight.
Watering and Moisture
Watering your seeds frequently and correctly is extremely important. Seeds need to be consistently wet in order to germinate. However, too much water will drown them, preventing them from sprouting.
One of the best methods to watering your seedlings is with a spray bottle. This will get the soil damp enough for the seeds to germinate but not so wet that you drown the seeds or move them around because of excess water.
Another option is to purchase a watering tray for your seedlings, this allows water to be absorbed through the bottom of the seed tray and also prevents excess moisture as well.
“Damping off” is when your soil grows a white fungal fuzz. In large amounts this fungus can be detrimental to seed growth. In order to prevent damping off, spray your seedlings with a spray bottle of water that is 3% hydrogen peroxide.
Too much humidity can also add to this problem. Remove your greenhouse lids if it continues to be a problem.
Starting seeds indoors requires warm temperature to grow. It’s why seeds sprout in the spring and not in the middle of winter. Each plant requires a different temperature for germination. Read the seed packet before planting to find out the best temperature for growing.
Heated lights and heating pads can both provide the temperature necessary for germination and seed starting success. When planting your seeds in large batches, plant seeds with similar germination requirements in the same tray.
Keep track of your soil temperatures, as soil that is too warm will hinder germination, but soil that is too cool will prevent seeds from sprouting.
Seeds will need ample light once they have germinated. Most seedlings will need enough light to last anywhere between 13-17hrs a day.
If you don’t have enough sunlight yet, grow lights are a great option to getting your seedlings growing. Be sure to place them as close to the seedlings as you can without touching them.
This will prevent “leggy” seedlings. Leggy seedlings are seedlings who have grown too tall without leafing out, becoming weak and less likely to survive.
As the seedlings grow, move the light up with them so that they don’t burn your newly growing plants.
Hardening Off Your Seedlings
Seedlings will need to be “hardening off” before being transplanted outdoors. Hardening off your seedlings is when you toughen your seedlings up enough to withstand the unpredictable weather outdoors.
One way to help with this process is to have a fan blowing in the room where you grow seedlings. As they grow, they naturally build stronger roots and stems.
Once your plants are large enough to be transplanted, an easy way to harden off your seedlings is to leave them in a sheltered place outdoors for a few hours, gradually increasing until you reach a full day outside.
Starting your seeds indoors is a great way to give your garden a head start on the season. Especially if you live in cooler climates where starting outdoors isn’t feasible. It’s a fun activity to do with children too!
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