How to start seeds for your garden
Spring means flowers, tree buds, birds singing, peepers peeping at the pond, and starting seeds indoors for your garden. There are many methods you can use-this is just one of them.
Container for holding the soil and seeds
Chart for recording your data
Light such as a grow light or a shop light
1. Choose your seed starting container. Make sure it has some drainage holes in the bottom of it so that water doesn’t collect inside and make the soil too moist. You will also need a bigger container to put your seed containers in so that the water doesn’t run out onto the surface when you water your seeds.
2. Put some of your seed starting soil into a large bowl or container. Add a small amount of water and mix it into the soil. The soil should be slightly moist, not dripping with water.
3. Fill your seed container with the soil, allowing about an inch of space at the top.
4. Read the directions for planting the seeds. Some seeds need light to germinate so these seeds will be sprinkled on top of the soil. Some seeds need to be planted in the soil at a certain depth-1/4 inch, ½ inch, 1 inch, are common depths. Make a hole for your seed. I use a pencil to make mine.
5. Put one seed into each hole. You can plant more than one seed in the container if it is a bigger one, such as a milk carton or even a recycled Styrofoam cup. I put 2-3 seeds in these.
6. I put a thin layer of the seed starting soil over top of my seeds, except those that need light and are sprinkled on top of the soil.
7. Water your seeds from the BOTTOM only. How do you do this? Put your seed container into the larger container, such as a cake pan or other tray with sides on it. Add water to the bigger container to a depth of about ½ inch. WHY water from the bottom only? I have found that this prevents the seeds from developing mold or fungus when they sprout (damping-off disease). If there is too much moisture on the surface of the soil, the seedlings will get a white mold on them and die.
8. If you can put your seeds into a plastic bag, or cover the tray with a plastic top, it will create a small “greenhouse”. The seeds will be warmer and sprout faster.
9. Place the container out of direct sunlight. Keep the container in the same spot until the seeds sprout. Check the water every day. If the soil feels dry on the surface, add more water to the bottom tray.
10. As soon as the seeds sprout, remove the plastic bag or top. This keeps the young sprout from getting too warm and too moist.
11. I always put my “babies”, the newly sprouted seedlings, under a light. I use fluorescent shop lights. I put the lights right down over the seeds so they are almost touching the seedling, maybe ½ inch above the seedling. This keeps the soil surface warm, and the seedlings LOVE it!
12. Every day, check the bottom water and the distance from the light to the seedling. When the seedling has grown enough that it almost touches the light, move the light up to maintain the ½ inch or so distance.
13. I keep my seedlings under the lights until they develop their second set of leaves. I keep the lights on 12 hours and off 12 hours every day.
14. When the seedlings have their second set of leaves, I put them on the windowsill or in sunlight on tables until I am ready to set them outside.
Raising your own plants from seed is a lot of work. You have to check them everyday and make sure they have water and light. They are like little babies and need tender love and care. But watching them sprout and grow is so much fun and so rewarding. When visitors come to see your garden, it is so wonderful to be able to tell them that YOU grew the plants from seeds.
What kinds of seeds do you want to start?