TIPS AND TRICKS FOR STARTING SEEDS SUCCESSFULLY
Starting seeds properly can make or break your entire growing season! Here are our best tips and tricks for starting seeds.
BEFORE YOU START SEEDS
- Be seed savvy. Obtain seed catalogs from several companies and compare their offering and prices. Some of the regional companies may carry varieties better suited to your area.
- Make a list of what you’d like to grow. A good rule-of-thumb is to imagine your garden one-quarter the size that it really is. This allows for good spacing practices!
- Prepare for some losses. Though it’s good not to plant too much for your garden space, it’s also good to assume that some of your seeds won’t germinate, or that they will inexplicably die off later. Plant a few extra, just in case.
- Team up with a neighbor and share seeds if you have leftovers!
- Don’t start your seeds too early, especially tomatoes.
- You may have to soak, scratch, or chill seeds before planting, as directed on packet.
- Use clean containers. Most seed catalogs offer seedling flats, peat pots, and other growing containers, but egg carton compartments make good containers, too. Be sure to poke holes in the sides near the bottom of the containers you use in order to allow excess water to drain.
- Label your containers now! There’s nothing more frustrating than forgetting what you planted.
HOW TO START SEEDS
- Fill clean containers with a potting mix made for seedlings. Use soilless mix in equal parts with vermiculite to hold enough water and allow oxygen to flow. Don’t use regular soil.
- Pour soilless mix into a large bucket and moisten with warm water. Fill your containers to just below the rim.
- Plant your seeds according to your seed packet. Most seeds can simply be gently pressed into the mixture; you can use the eraser end of a pencil to push in seeds. When planting seeds, plant the largest seeds in the package to get the best germination rate.
- Cover containers with plastic. Prick holes with a toothpick for ventilation. Water as directed.
- Water newly started seedlings carefully without causing too much soil disruption.
- Find a place in the kitchen where there is natural bottom heat—on top of the refrigerator or near the stove. (Move the tray if the oven is on, as it may become too hot.)
- Seeds sprout best at temperatures of 18 to 24°C.
- When seedlings appear, remove the plastic and move containers into bright light.
- When the seedlings get their second pair of leaves, prepare individual pots filled with a potting mix with plenty of fertilizer. Move the seedlings carefully to the new pots and water well. Keep pots out of direct sun for a few days.
MOVING SEEDLINGS OUTSIDE
Before transplanting seedlings to your garden, you’ll first need to do something called “hardening off.” This will prepare the seedlings for the harsh realities (i.e., climate) of the outside world!
- During their last week indoors, withhold fertilizer and add water less often.
- Seven to ten days before transplanting, set the seedlings outdoors in shade that is protected from winds for a few hours each day, gradually increasing their exposure to full sun and windy conditions. This is the hardening-off period.
- Keep the soil moist at all times during this period. Dry air and spring breezes can result in rapid transpiration. If possible, transplant on overcast days or in the early morning, when the sun won’t be too harsh.
- Set transplants into loose, well-aerated soil. Such soil will capture and retain moisture, drain well, and allow easy penetration by seedling roots.
- Soak the soil around new seedlings immediately after transplanting.