When I started gardening several years ago, I felt so overwhelmed at all there was to know and do. As the years have worn on, I have mastered the basics of gardening and would consider myself an advanced gardener. One of the advanced skills I have been working on is seed starting.
In a previous post, we talked about seed catalogs and buying seeds. If you have that step down, seed starting is your next step.
Why do we start seeds at home instead of buying plants?
- We start seeds indoors because we have a shorter growing season in Colorado. We can have freezing night temperatures until the middle of May. Therefore, we start seeds indoors so they have a longer time to grow.
- We start our own seeds instead of buying plants at the nursery because we want certain varieties of seeds not normally sold at the store (I discussed types of seeds in the above mentioned post).
- It is cheaper to buy seeds and start them yourself than to buy plant starts at the store.
What materials do I need to get started?
- containers (you can buy seed starting containers at the store or you can use egg cartons from home)
- potting soil or seed starting mix (do not use soil out of your garden)
- water (spray bottle works nicely)
Seed starting instructions:
- First, fill your containers most of the way full (depending on how deep the container is) with soil.
- Second, moisten the soil with water.
- Next, read the back of the seed packet to see how deep the seed should be planted. Plant one or two seeds in each section of the container.
- Then, cover with soil. Use a spray bottle to water daily to keep the plants moist.
- Finally, cover the container with a clear shell or plastic wrap until the plants can be seen above the soil. This keeps the moisture in for the plants to grow. Once the seedlings can be seen, uncover the plants so they can get air circulation.
Remember to rotate your containers daily so the plants grow straight.
Transplant into larger containers once the plants start to get tall and leggy. You can move them to a bigger pot and put the plant deeper into the soil to protect it. Don’t forget to label your seeds so that you know which ones are which!
Do I need a grow light?
I haven’t used a grow light, although I have considered it. I have my seedlings in front of a sliding glass door that is south facing. This window gets a lot of sun and the seeds seem to do fine there. You can use a normal flourescent light above your plants if you don’t have a good light source. Here is a tutorial to show you how to set this up.
When should you start them?
You need to find out what the last average frost date is for where you live. Mine is May 24th. You can enter your zip code here and it will give you this information.
Once you have this information, you can look on the back of the seed packet to see when each plant should be started. Count back that many weeks and you know when you should start your seeds.
Which seeds need to be started indoors?
Not all seeds need to be started indoors. Some seeds like corn, sunflowers, squash, beans and others do better when planted straight in the ground even in cooler climates.
Again, you can look on the back of your seed packet to be sure, but here are a few that should be started early:
Onions, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, broccoli, swiss chard and celery to name a few.
When do we need to transplant them?
About a week before you are ready to plant outside (after your last frost date), start hardening off your plants. This means that you put them outside a few hours a day to get used to the elements.
Start with a shady, protected spot and then gradually move them to a sunnier, windier spot. This helps them do better when they are put in the ground. Otherwise, the shock of being moved outside could be too much for the young plant.
I hope this information has been helpful to you in starting seeds for your garden. Seed starting is an advanced gardening method, so if you are starting your first garden you may not want to seed start.
But with a little commitment to caring for your seeds early on, you can grow many heirloom varieties of vegetables with minimal cost. It is so rewarding to have these plants grow and thrive in your garden. I love to eat food I have grown myself, and seed starting is the beginning of that journey.
Do you start your seeds indoors? Do you have a method or tip you would like to share? Please comment below and let us know. Thanks!