The excitement is near! The large push for indoor seed starting has arrived. What a wonderful time of year of planning, designing, creating and sowing.
Let us share some simple and easy ways to make your seed starting a success. We have started seeds in every way possible so let us share our experience and knowledge. Our seed starting classes offer even more in depth information to make your garden dreams come true.
There are many ways to arrive at the same goal- we honor expertise of all kinds.
What type of container will you use? There are many options available…using what you have on hand makes seed starting cost effective and accessible for all. Drainage is the most important aspect here. Trays, cell packs, soil blocking, recycled yogurt containers (the possibilities are endless). Drainage is the key!
What medium are you going to use? We are a long way away from outdoor transplanting where plants can mine the nutrients, fertility and water needs naturally. You must supply all of these needs for the next roughly three months. Choosing a growing medium that is sterile will require the addition of fertility. Growing mediums that have fertility built in may still require additional nutritional needs. Purchase what you can afford and support local. Make sure that the medium you choose offers a guarantee as many growing substrates can harbor unwanted living materials…also keep your receipt.
What is the light source? Plants must have light…where is the supplemental light coming from? A window? Grow lights? There are so many options to choose from. For years we used good old fashioned T5’s purchased locally. If you are using a window, you may need to turn your trays several times per day. Determine how much time, effort and energy you have to dedicate and then decipher your light source.
Second: Location: Providing a micro climate for your seedlings to thrive! Seeds needs the right conditions to germinate: moisture, temperature, light (for some) and proper seed planting depth. A “warm” location with air movement is ideal. Where within your home can you place your seed tray away from cats, pets, kids and spouses? Scope out the ideal location that offers protection and the proper amount of air circulation.
Third: Days to maturation: Starting the right seeds at the right time… plants should be transplanted at a specific size that is not too big nor at critical points of growth if this can be avoided (flowering and fruit set). Certain plants grow VERY slowly depending on their type. A quick example: Certain Brussel Sprouts require 180+ days to grow. This seed would need to be started indoors in the darkest days of winter for a fall harvest. On the other hand, some cucumbers finish their lifecycle in 60-70 days and grow very quickly. If we started cucumber seeds for our garden now, the plants would be too large for indoor growing and would be transplanted during a critical point of growth. Cucumbers are a seed started closer to our target transplant date. Look at the days to maturation, plus the days to germination, plus some time for plants to adapt to transplant shock: that is your goal seed starting date.
Fourth: Depth Seed depth is critical for success. Think of how plants disperse their seeds naturally…many lay on top of the soil until the conditions are just right for germinating. Others pass through the digestive system of animals and spend their time in dung waiting for the optimal time. Seeds know what to do! Give them their best chance of success by planting them at the proper depths. Unless you are growing VERY large seeds, most seeds should be planted at 1/8″, 1/4″ and 1/2″ and some just lightly pressed into the soil (the smaller the seed, the more shallow the planting). If you plant too shallow the seed cannot use the depth to remove its hull and could break. If you plant to deep the tiny seed doesn’t have the energy to push through that much depth. When in doubt 2x the height of the seed is a good measure. Certainly seeds have to have light for germination…your seed packet should outline this clearly.
Fifth: Needs: Indoor growing requires all the input to be placed on the grower. The food, water, shelter and air must be supplied by us. Feeding seedlings and transplants is a part of this! We use granular or liquid amendments that have a low scent, a mild amount of fertility and are “natural” in nature. Making your own countertop composts (stay tuned for that growing guide) is another simple solution.
Alaska sown-Alaska grown