STARTING SEEDS INDOORS
Seeds can be started in many ways, such as using old pots or even egg cartons, but the easiest method is to purchase a seed starter kit consisting of tray without holes, another one to place inside it with drainage holes, (or inserts to separate your seeds) and a dome. You may then use either Jiffy 7 pellets to grow your seeds, or fill the inserts with a seeding soil.
The most important factor is light. Here we do not have enough light to produce strong healthy seedlings, so grow lights are a necessity. Position them a few inches above the seeds once planted, giving a minimum of 12 -14 hours light per day.
Scatter seed according to package directions, water carefully, (a gentle spritz with a spray bottle works well) and place the dome over the seedling tray. Make sure to get a dome with ventilation, or remove it daily for a while if you see moisture forming on the dome to reduce the chance of disease, or damping off.
Germination requires bottom heat. Seeds need warmth to start growing. Some seeds need warmer soils than others so consult your seed package. A heat mat is ideal. Seeds germinate and grow at different rates. When your seedlings have grown about 2 inches, it is time to thin them out (remove smaller crowded seedlings), or pot them up into small individual pots or inserts. Once your seedlings have appeared, you can remove the heat mat, and reduce temps to about 55-60 degrees, forcing plants to become more stocky and vigorous.
Once the first set of ‘true’ leaves appear, you may start fertilizing, although if you are transplanting instead of just thinning, don’t feed until after you transplant.
Harden off tender plants for a week or so before planting out, protect from strong sun, sudden temperature changes, wind and rain.
If your seeds don’t germinate, it was likely either too cool or too wet. Too much moisture can promote disease and insects such as fungus gnats, so watch your watering, too much is as bad as too little. Growing seeds can be fun, but can also be hit and miss. Keep a record of what did well or what didn’t, and chart seeds progress.
Our last frost date is about the end of april. Check seed packages to find out how many weeks of growth rate are required before setting outdoors, then count back from your last frost date, and you will have an approximate date for starting seed.
For more information on starting seeds indoors, visit our information desk.