Successful Seed Starting Indoors

Hey Everyone! Hope you’ve all been well since my last guest blog. I know I have! With the news that the groundhog did not see his shadow, I have been gearing up for spring planting. To tell you the truth though, I would be preparing for spring planting regardless of what the groundhog saw—you can’t trust those little guys!

Something I always stress to my friends and family is that every plant is different, and therefore, needs different growing conditions in order to thrive. There are some types of seeds that you can just sprinkle in the ground and basically forget about, and 4-6 weeks later, you have plants popping through the soil! However, most plants need a little more tender love and care. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few general tips and directions on how to start seeds indoors in the late winter/early spring.

Some of the best seeds to start indoors are:

  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Chard
  • Cabbage
  • Squash
  • Cucumber
  • Tomato

And here are the best tips I can offer my readers:

1. You need a good indoor location where the temperature will stay consistent and around 65-70 degrees. Try to pick a place where the seedlings will not be disturbed, there’s no breeze or draft, and you can access electrical outlets, as you will most likely need to use artificial lighting.

2. Choose your containers wisely. I will often use biodegradable egg cartons or even the actual egg shells to plant in. You may also use newspaper cups, toilet paper rolls, or if you want to use re-usable containers, tiny terracotta pots will do the trick or plastic seed flats. Whatever kind of container you use, make sure there is proper drainage at the bottom.

3. Soil is so important in the young life of a plant! Don’t skimp and buy the bargain brand—go for the expensive, nutrient rich potting soil! Just like a newborn baby who needs nutritious formula or its mother’s breast milk to be healthy and grow strong, what you feed your baby plants in their first few stages of life will affect the plant for the rest of its life!

4. Now, when it comes to actually sowing your seeds, each plant is different, so you will want to do a little research to determine how deep to bury the seeds. Some seeds prefer darkness in order to germinate, while others need moderate light, and yet others need full light. Knowing how to care for your seeds will be vital.

5. In addition, most seeds like to be toasty in order to germinate, so what I do (and many other gardeners also do this) is cover the containers with plastic wrap in order to create a greenhouse effect. Leave just a little opening so that the air is not totally cut off, but so that the containers will stay plenty warm underneath. I do not do this, but some gardeners will actually get heating mats you can place under the containers to keep the soil warm.

6. Water your seedling pots daily with a spray bottle. The potting soil needs to be moist at all times in order for your seeds to germinate, but not wet! This is very important. Overwatering will simply drown the seeds and may even cause them to rot.

7. Once your little seedlings begin to emerge, you can remove the plastic wrap and heating mat (if you are using one), and now is the time to give the seedlings plenty of light, 14-16 hours each day! Most of us do not get that kind of direct sunlight in our homes, so this is when artificial lighting will be used on all types of seedlings. I have a few old desk lamps with the bendy necks that I use. I wouldn’t recommend light bulbs higher than 60 watts. Keep the light on your seedlings throughout the day, and turn the lights off at night—plants need to sleep too!

8. Once your seedling leaves begin to open, it’s time to start feeding them with fertilizer. Add liquid fertilizer to the water in your spray bottle at half the strength! If the directions call for a tablespoon per gallon, add half a tablespoon per gallon. Because your plants are in containers, there is nowhere for excess fertilizer to leach—that’s why it’s important to not over-fertilize them.

9. By now, it is probably April and hopefully the last of the winter’s frost has come and gone. Your seedlings are most likely thriving by now, and you need to begin to prepare them to be transplanted outdoors. The way you do this is by placing them outside each day for a few hours, eventually increasing the time to 4 hours, then 5, and so on. By the end of April, they should be strong enough and ready for transplant!

Maybe in my next guest blog, I’ll provide tips on how to successfully transplant seedlings outdoors! I guess you’ll just have to “stay tuned” to find out!

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