Growing plants from seeds is an excellent way to cultivate plants earlier in the growing season. With the right light and some simple equipment, you can grow them from seed to harvest.
Some seeds, namely tomatoes and marigolds, are particularly easy to start indoors. Because each flower has unique seed-starting requirements, it is best to start small by starting only a few varieties. Other good seed options for a beginner include basil, zinnia, coleus, nasturtiums, and cosmos. If you are a beginner, give these a shot before moving on to more fussy seeds like petunias.
Understand The Timing
Starting a specific type of seed inside during spring is ideal because the seedlings can start outside as soon as the weather is right. Begin by reading the seed packet carefully, which should show you the best time to start seeds indoors. A typical plant label will state something like this: “Plant indoors 6-8 weeks in advance of the last frost.”
Different types of seeds of some vegetables, such as beans and squash, should be started outdoors. Growing them indoors does not offer much benefit, because the seeds germinate and grow rapidly. The best place to plant certain flowers, such as poppies, is outdoors. Poppies usually have seeds labeled “direct sow.”
Get A Good Container
Seeds can be started almost anywhere as long as the seed containers are at least 2-3″ deep with drainage holes. It might be better to plant seedlings in yogurt cups, milk cartons, paper towels, or paper cups if you’re into DIY methods. In general, we prefer seed trays made specifically for seed starting. They are easy to fill, the watering system makes sure that the plants have good moisture levels, and can be moved easily.
Preparing The Potting Soil
Plant seeds in soil that is formulated for that specific purpose. Don’t reuse houseplant potting soil or soil from your garden. Be sure that you are starting your seedlings in a healthy, disease-free mix.
Keep the soil moist in a bucket or tub before filling your containers. Let the soil have optimal moisture content but not sopping wet, crumbly, not gloppy. Fill your containers and pack the soil tightly to eliminate gaps.
You will need to feed your seedlings with liquid fertilizer once a few weeks after they germinate and until they can be transplanted into the garden. This type of soil contains few, if any, nutrients, so you will need to provide them with liquid fertilizer.
You’ll find more information on how deep to plant larger seeds on the seed packet. Small seeds can be planted right on top of the surface. Don’t spread them more than 1 inch deep. Large seeds need to be planted several inches below the surface. Planting two seeds in each cell (or pot) helps us ensure that both seeds will germinate. If neither will germinate, we will snip one of the seeds while letting the other grow. Make one or two small divots in each pot so that you can accommodate each seed. Once the seeds are in place, you can smooth the top to cover them.
Seeds should be sprayed with a sprayer or a watering can to keep them damp until they germinate. Covered pots with plastic wrap or a plastic dome make germination faster. Once the seeds sprout, remove the covering.
Feed, Water, and Repeat
As one of the important aspects of seed growth, water them lightly with a mister or water in a small watering can, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings. The grow lights we use are connected to the same timer as the fan we use to ensure air movement and prevent disease. Please remember to feed your seedlings with liquid fertilizer regularly, mixing according to the instructions on the package.
Let There Be Light
Healthy plants need a lot of sunlight. Select a south-facing window if you are growing in a window. Plants should be rotated regularly to avoid leaning into the light. Plants that don’t receive enough light will be leggy and weak, so if you’re growing them under lights, adjust them so they are just a few inches above the tops of the seedlings. Install a timer on your lights to turn them on every 15 hours. Keep in mind that the seedlings need darkness to rest, too. As they get taller, turn the lights up.
Gradually Move Seedlings Outdoors
The indoor environment must be removed gradually from your seedlings before moving them outdoors in the garden. These seedlings have been coddled for weeks in a protective environment at home. You will need to harden off seedlings about a week before you want to plant them in the garden by placing them in a spot outside (partially shaded, away from the wind) for a few hours. Then bring them in at night. Experiment with gradually increasing sunshine and wind exposure over a week or 10 days. A cold frame is an ideal place to harden off plants.
An integrated watering system in a seed starting tray makes seed starting foolproof. Potting soil specifically formulated for seed starting has no soil in it. A sterile, moist mix like this is perfect for seedlings.
My vegetable seeds didn’t germinate. Why did that happen?
The conditions for seed germination can be affected by numerous factors. Check the seed packet to see if the conditions for temperature and light are satisfying. If the soil is cold and excessively moist, the seeds may have rotted. You can examine a seed by digging it up and examining it. If it is soft and swollen, the seed has rotted, and you will need to start over. Seeds that are too dry usually fail to undergo seed germination or may dry out before they can grow roots. If seeds are old, they may not have viable roots, so you should try again with consistent moisture.
How can I prevent my seedlings from being spindly?
You need to make sure they receive enough light each day by using grow lights. If your plants are tall and leggy, you may need to increase their amount of lighting. Try reducing the amount of fertilizer you apply and lowering the room temperature to prevent leggy growth.
What’s happening to my tomatoes? I notice purple streaks along the veins and undersides of the leaves.
If your seedlings are turning purple, they may not be receiving enough phosphorus. You may want to increase the dose of fertilizer if you have been using half-strength fertilizer for the first three weeks. in fertilizer analysis, the phosphorus content (the middle number) should be at least 3.
After growing well for a while my seedlings all of a sudden fell over. Why?
A fungal disease called “damping off” probably caused young seedling stems to become withered and topple over. Once it has become established in the soil, this fungus is difficult to eradicate, but it can be avoided by growing in a sterile, dust-free environment and by providing good air circulation.
There is mold growing on the top of the soil surface. It does not seem to be hurting my plants, but should I be concerned?
If your growing medium is too wet, mold will only harm your plants if you do nothing to address it. You can also try removing some more of the mold by scraping off the tops and replanting the seedlings into the fresh soil after withholding water for a few days.