I've been meaning to do a gardening series ever since I started my blog. The trouble is, I get so excited to garden come spring, that I don't really think ahead and take photos along the way. I am so excited to get my hands in the dirt that I just jump in. This is the year that I finally have done a little planning and will be sharing some posts in the next few months about how I garden.
I've started seeds indoors for the past 10 years and have learned some things through trial and error, reading articles, and from neighbors/friends who have done it longer than I have. I decided this was the best place to start in my new gardening series.
I have used all sorts of things over the years! Yogurt cups, egg cartons, small terracotta pots, and the seed starting kits with the little peat moss cells. I have also heard of people using K-cups (I don't drink coffee and literally just learned what those are!), toilet paper rolls, newspaper rolled up, and egg shells. I recently bought the 6 cell plastic packs like the nurseries use and have so far enjoyed them. Whatever you choose, it doesn't have to be very big. You will be transplanting them into your garden before they out grow it anyway.
I don't usually start bulbs indoors but when I do I use 4 inch terracotta pots or the cardboard/paper pots.
I bought these tiny terracotta pots at the craft store. They were very inexpensive and came in a large pack.
If something is going to be getting a little larger that the other plants before they are ready to plant outside, I use the 3 or 4 inch cardboard type pot. A 12 pack is less than $2 at most stores.
Here are the 6 cell seed trays I used this year (affiliate). I bought a lot since I plan to start everything from seed that I can including flowers for my flower beds.
I have used dirt from my yard, regular potting soil, and the seed starting soil and I have had the best luck with the organic seed starting soil. It is sold in bags just like regular potting soil. It is formulated (for lack of a better word) to make it so the soil doesn't stay too wet. While the seeds need to stay moist, they don't do well, generally speaking, if they are soggy. Also, the problem with using dirt from your yard is that there is a chance it could have things in it that could cause your seeding to get diseased and not thrive.
Not all seeds are good candidates for starting indoors. Some seeds do better if started outside directly. Think "root" and "bulb" veggies. Carrots, potatoes, radishes, garlic, onions, and that sort of thing. Lettuce and spinach also do better if directly sown outdoors. The seeds that need to be started inside are those that have a long growing season. If you live in an area with colder weather in the winter, you probably don't have a long enough growing season for things like artichokes for example. I had to start mine inside very early to get them big enough to transplant come mid May when us Utahans can finally plant. I found a great link on the farmer's almanac site where you can put in your zip code and it will give you a chart telling you when to start each type of seed.
Another tip for when you are planting seeds is that the larger, more developed seeds will have a better chance of germinating. If you have more seeds than you need, pour them out and pick the best ones to plant. They usually grow better produce as well.
A lot of times the seed packet will tell you a temperature range of when that type of seed will germinate. If you are starting seeds indoors, make sure they have a warm spot like a sunny window sill or the top of the refrigerator. Some of you are thinking "The fridge?" but while germinating they don't need the sun but warmth is crucial.
I highly recommend getting a warming mat. They are inexpensive and will increase the likelihood of germinating.
As soon as you see green peeking out from the soil, you will need to make sure they have adequate light. Not giving them enough light when they are starting out will result in a weak seedling that will not thrive. I have always used a sunny window but with the ever increasing amount of seeds I start indoors, I decided to invest in a grow light (aff). Funny story, I thought I was buying the 4 foot one and not the 2 foot light. I was so excited it was such a good deal. I really thought it was on sale or something. I found out then it arrived. Oh well, it fits nicely under the shelving unit :)
Here is my set up this year. As soon as they sprout they go under the grow light and then when they have grown pretty big I move them up to a shelf. By mid May I should have full shelves and hopefully my desk will be covered too!
My office has two large windows and is sunny. Plus, it is always a good idea to put the seedlings where you will remember to check on them. If you put them in the basement or an out of the way spot, you will forget to check on them. Seedlings are needy! They need to be watered regularly.
You can also use a fluorescent light like a shop light. Incandescent lights get too hot and since the light needs to be close to the seedlings that would fry them before they had a chance to grow bigger. My grow light has a cord that is adjustable and is easy to use. A shop light could also be hung with rope or chain.
I water my seeds and seedlings with a spray bottle until they start to root themselves pretty well. When they are bigger they can handle me pouring a little water in their container.
When the time comes to plant outdoors, some of your plants may need to be hardened off. That just means that they will need to get use to the outside air a little at a time before permanently living there. I put them on cookie sheets and set them on the porch for a few hours at first. Every day increase the time a little. Do this for about a week and then you should be okay to plant them. Don't get too antsy and plant them before your weather is ready. All that hard work of growing them from seed will be over if you plant them and then a frost comes. We have to wait until mid May before we can plant and I sometimes wait even a tiny bit longer before planting my seedlings outside.
Keep the seed packets as a reference. They have such good info on them!
If you are new to starting seeds indoors, start out small with maybe only a few different plants.
If you have extra seeds, share them with a neighbor! You could even start a seed swapping group!
Do you start seeds indoors? Do you have tips or trick that I missed? I would LOVE to hear!
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