Planting seeds has its rewards. You control the cost, size, and selection of each plant. You can use this information when planting seeds in flats or directly seeding containers or windowboxes.
Tips to use before even getting your hands dirty
- Now is the time to start slow-growers like Petunnias, pansies, begonias, lobelia and seed geraniums.
- Tomatoes and most herbs can wait until mid-March for late May planting.
- Medium-growers like Ziennas, Marigolds and Sweet Alyssums seeds can wait until late March.
- Check maturity dates on the package backs and match them to your frost -free planting dates for your zone. Work backwards and start seeds 6 to 8 weeks before you plan to plant outdoors
- Cole crops should be started also; cabbage, broccoli, some peppers and eggplant.
- Remember to start with the most resistant varieties for problems in your climate. Most seed catalogs list a resistance code. Check with your County Extension Office for the latest variety suggestions and prominent diseases. This is a free service from your state Agricultural College.
What equipment you will need
Starting seeds indoors can be done small scale or using an elaborate set up and anywhere in between. Here’s the basics:
You can use starter trays with lids for best results if you plan to transplant seedlings into pots before planting outdoors. the lids hold in the humidity to give your seeds optimum sprouting conditions. If you prefer using recycled containers like yogurt containers or milk cartons be sure to wash it in hot soap water and air dry to remove food bacteria. Dipping plastic containers in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water and allow to air dry is also recommended.
Potting Soil or Seed Starter
Commercial seed starter contains extra nutrients to help seedling roots grow and establish. Standard potting soil will work but it may take longer for seeds to sprout and you will need to add fertilizer. Garden soil or soil from your yard is a bad idea for starting plants because it may contain harmful bacteria and weed seeds and will compact too easily.
Most seeds don’t need light to sprout; some do. All your seedlings will need a consistent light source. Your best bet is artificial light. Most seedlings need about 12 hours or more of light per day to thrive. A [amazon_link id=”B0001XLSGQ” target=”_blank” ]Hydrofarm JSV4 4-Foot Jump Start T5 Grow Light System[/amazon_link] grow light set up works best but any fluorescent light or shoplight will work. Keep plants at about 4-inches from the light source to avoid leggy growth.
Heating mats are a nice addition to your seed starting kit. A [amazon_link id=”B0001WV010″ target=”_blank” ]Hydrofarm MT10006 9-by-19-1/2-Inch Seedling Heat Mat[/amazon_link]heating mat under your starter tray warms your soil to the optimal temperature for sprouting.
Next Monday Part two: Getting your hands dirty and seeds planted.
Questions about seed starting or gardening in general? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org