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When I first really got into gardening I read a ton about starting plants from seed. I had done it in the past without really knowing what I was doing and still had success but I wanted to up my game. There are so many options for starting seeds so I’m going to tell you what works best for me.
First you need to start out with some seeds. You can hit up your local Lowes/Home Depot, Walmart/Target or gardening supply store to find seeds. A chain store isn’t going to give you much variety in the way of seeds. This is the way I used to buy all my seeds but eventually I got tired of the same old selection and wanted something more.
Enter the internet. There are some great sites for buying seeds online. My favorite right now is Pinetree Seeds. There is an amazing selection of stuff you will never find in your local stores and you can actually checkout with your Amazon account. (As a complete Amazon junkie that was a special bonus for me this year.) Another site I really like is Gardens Alive. They also carry a lot of other great gardening products too so I order from here on occasion.
Plants that are good to start indoors are ones that require 4-6 weeks to grow before the last frost. This includes tomatoes, peppers, basil and parsley. Plants that are better direct seeded are beans, zucchini, cucumber, carrot, radish and peas. Root, vine and quick growing vegetables do better directly in the soil but you can have success planting inside if you don’t do it too early. I’ve found they do better when planted directly outside so that’s what I will do this year.
Now that you have your seeds you need some soil to plant them in. You want to use a mix specific for seed starting so it doesn’t contain any fungi and bacteria that could sabotage your tiny seedlings. I have used Jiffy seed starting mix in the past but I am not particular to any one brand and you can pick it up anywhere that sells gardening supplies.
My tip for using the seed starting mix is to wet it down before you fill up your containers. It is very light and hard to get it to absorb moisture at first so if you wet it down in a big bowl first it is easier to get it at the right consistency before planting.
Now that you have your seeds and soil you need to put them in something. I have tried just about everything. I was on a big budget gardening kick at one point and made my own containers from newspaper. It worked but I found they started disintegrating after being wet for a while. I also saved yogurt containers and drilled holes in the bottom. I planted in those with pretty good success although they can be a little larger than necessary for some plants. I have also used peat pellets before and they were a disaster. They are wrapped in a fine mesh that I didn’t realize you have to remove and it distorted a lot of the roots of the plants I grew. Plus they are kind of pricey.
My latest endeavors have been with peat pot six packs I got at a garage sale in a brand new kit someone never used. I found I was successful with them but I peeled much of the peat sides away before planting my seedlings outside. Another idea is to use little paper or styrofoam cups to start seedlings. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on containers to get these seeds going and there are a million and one links out on Google for ideas on random containers to use to start seeds.
Something else useful to have is some kind of tray to set all your seeds, a watering can, some kind of plant labels (I am using popsicle sticks right now) and a sunny window with an optional additional artificial light.
Time to Plant
Once you have all your supplies, place the soil in the container and punch a little divot in the soil at the recommendation of your package (you can use a chopstick or eraser side of a pencil for this.) Place 2-3 seeds in the soil because not all seeds will germinate. Cover the seeds with soil and once you have all your seeds planted, wet from the bottom by pouring water into your tray. This is why it’s good to pre wet your soil. You ideally don’t want to pour water in the top because your seeds can wash away and once your seedlings sprout you can drown them.
Now place your seeds in a sunny, preferably warm place. If you have an overhead light to use as an additional grow light this will make your plants grow faster and stronger. I have used one in the past but it’s not a necessity. If you can cover your seeds to help them germinate do that now too. Once the seedlings pop up though you need to remove the cover or they will be too wet.
Now is the fun waiting game. Your seed package will tell you how long a seed will take to germinate. Some happen in a couple of days and some can take weeks.
This is what my seedlings looked like 6 days after planting them.