Starting from seed
This year, my goal is to start the majority of my plants from seed. After doing a little research, I found many techniques, but really it comes down to a few basic variables: light, heat and moisture. In essence, you need a small vessel in which to start the seed in the soil, a way to keep it warm and moist, and the opportunity for lots of light (natural or otherwise). In this post, I’ll break down how I decided to meet these requirements.
Which seeds to start indoors
The first decision I made was which plants to start indoors, and which plants to sow directly into soil. Good plants to direct sow include: beans, beets, carrots, radishes, spinach and some squashes. More on direct sowing plants later.
Good seeds to start indoors include: peppers, lettuces, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, melon and some herbs (like basil, oregano and thyme). When to plant is dependent on your plant hardiness zone. Take a look at this USDA site to find out your zone by zip code. Once you know your last frost date, you’ll be able to figure out when to plant.
Check the seed packets for the plants you’ve chosen and verify how long before the last frost date you should start the seeds indoors. Based on this information, I broke down my seeds into 3 basic planting time groups:
6-8 weeks before last frost
4-6 weeks before last frost
3-4 weeks before last frost
- Summer squash
This way, I know I am planting seeds every 2 weeks. Like most things in my life, if it’s not scheduled, it won’t happen!
Every plant has a target temperature for germination. For my plants, the optimum temperatures ranged from 75-95 degrees, so I aimed for 85 degrees. Also, the soil needs to stay moist, but not wet. Check the soil daily to prevent it from drying out. As far as light, most sources stated that 12 hours of light was ideal. I have a south facing office that gets sun most of the day. If you don’t have that option, you can get a grow light.
Equipment and materials
I probably didn’t have to invest in a seedling starter kit, but I did. The main reason was for the heating pad, because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep the temperature high enough without it. The kit doesn’t keep as much moisture as I expected inside the container, but I think that’s because I don’t have many of the cells filled. It does, however, keep the soil at a consistent 85 degrees.
Speaking of soil, you have to use special seed starter soil. It’s actually “soil-less” and basically creates a comfy and safe environment for the seeds to germinate. I used Black Gold seedling mix. Some sources talk about making your own, but that is way out of my league for now!
Planting the seeds
Planting the seeds is simple. Fill the cells with starter soil and moisten (not drench) the soil. Take a look at each packet for how deep to plant the seeds and place the seeds accordingly. For plants, I placed 2-3 seeds per cell. The herb seeds are nearly microscopic, so for those I just planted a small pinch of seeds.
Place the planted seeds in an area where you can offer the appropriate light and heat for the seedlings. Additionally, you want make sure the soil stays moist. Some people recommend a spray bottle, others a syringe to avoid drowning the seeds.
If all goes well, you should start to see the baby seedlings sprouting in about a week!
In the next installment, we’ll talk about when and how to transfer those precious seedlings!
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.