Start seeds inside and grow your own transplants to get a head start on your gardening. You’ll be on your way to seed starting success with a little forethought, a few supplies and tools, and some know-how.
Many advantages to starting seedlings indoors include an earlier harvest. While certain crops can be directly sown, others can be started indoors and harvested earlier. Growing long-season crops in short-season settings is another advantage of beginning seeds inside. You’ll miss out on growing days if you have to wait for outdoor soil to reach the ideal temperature. They’ll have a head start on growth if you start seeds indoors and transplant them when the time comes.
Knowing Where To Start
Seed beginning can be made more effective and successful with a little planning. Almost any seed can be started inside, although long-season crops including eggplants, okra, tomatoes, broccoli, and kale are commonly grown indoors. Some plants don’t do well when transplanted, or they need to be transplanted at the correct point of development to avoid stress. Direct seeding peas, beans, radishes, carrots, and corn into the garden produces the best results.
Consider how much space you have indoors for your planted seeds, as well as how you’ll care for them as they grow. Also consider your outdoor space. You’ll need enough transplants to fill your garden area completely. Spend a few minutes drawing out your garden and deciding where you’ll plant each transplant crop.
You can figure out how many seeds to buy and sow after you know how many transplants you’ll need. It’s also a good idea to include a few extra seeds to accommodate for seedling mortality.
During the planning stage, research is very crucial. When starting seeds indoors, germination information, days to maturity, and other growing recommendations are frequently included on seed packs. However, keep in mind that recommended seeding and commencement dates are just that: recommendations. Understand the subtleties of your local climate (for example, a history of late, unexpected frosts) and make adjustments as appropriate.
What You Need to Start Seeds Indoors
Seed starting requires the appropriate tools and supplies. The correct potting mix/media will give the right nutrients for early plant feeding. Your seedlings will spend the first several weeks of their lives in their starting cells, where they will require extra nutrition from compost or liquid fertilizer. Plants, like humans, are more susceptible to diseases and insect infestations if they do not receive adequate nutrients.
However, just because you’re seeding something that will be transplanted in a week or two doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money on potting mix. Compost can also be used to improve a mix. Use at least 20% compost when modifying the soil (35 percent is ideal). Use completed compost rather than raw compost. Compost can be obtained from a variety of sources, including your local government, garden centers, and fellow gardeners. However, check the compost for pesticide residues, which might damage seedlings. Use compost made from grass clippings that have been treated with broadleaf herbicides as an example.
Seed starting containers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and you can be creative and even recycle and repurpose objects like yogurt containers. Make sure the container you chose has appropriate drainage (drill drainage holes if they aren’t already there). A container must also maintain its shape throughout the seed beginning phase. Some transplant containers can be broken down by repeated watering. Seeds that are only starting a week or two before being transplanted work best in purchased or homemade paper containers. Jiffy pots are a popular and effective container. They’re also compostable, but repeated waterings cause them to lose some of their structure.
Nurturing Seeds Indoors
Indoor seedlings, like outside plants, require the correct conditions and habitat to thrive. Keep the following elements in mind while you look after your newly planted seeds:
Check the back of your seed packet to determine what temperature your seeds require. The best temperature for germination is usually 5-10 degrees warmer than the optimal temperature for development, as a general rule. (One exception is onions.)
Seedling containers in front of a window provide enough of light. To promote even plant growth, rotate the containers.
Use an additional light source, such as a grow lamp, if natural light is insufficient. The light should be close enough to the container to prevent the seedlings from becoming spindly, but it should also be adjustable to accommodate the height of growing plants.
Overwatering is more harmful than being underwater. Water the plants once a day, before noon, and at the same time each day.
Humidity can be maintained by covering moistened plants with plastic domes. (Some folks put their containers in zip-top plastic bags.) To allow for good air flow, remove the covering as soon as the seeds have germinated (when you see green sticking up from the dirt).
Fertilizer: Fertilize only as needed (typically four to six weeks after sowing, if you’re using a nutritive soil mix). If you are using compost and have sufficient soil in the pot, you don’t have to fertilize as soon or as often as you would if you are using a peat pot. (Peat-based potting mixes don’t have as much nutrients.)
Heat mats are essential for seeds that get a boost from bottom heat such as peppers, melons, and tomatoes. Bottom heat helps establish the plants roots.
Fertilize a plant that will be removed in a week or so to harden off (the process before transplanting a plant into the garden). Also, select the appropriate fertilizer for your requirements. We use a fish emulsion at Seed Savers Exchange to meet our organic growing criteria. To avoid burning the plants, fertilize only while the plant is actively growing and at a modest rate.