One of the biggest questions home gardeners have when planning their garden is planting seedlings or starting their plants from seed. Each has its own benefits but starting from seed is a great way to ensure your plants have a solid foundation from start to finish.
Starting plants from seed, however, can be touchy. That is why it is recommended you take the time to learn how to start plants from seed before attempting to do so.
Compared to buying a transplant from a store, growing from seeds has many benefits. There are many varieties of seeds available to choose from that growing from seed is often the best option.
For instance, are you aware that there are over 100 different varieties of carrots? Seeds provide the advantage of being able to plant as many types as you wish.
Once you have decided to plant seeds, you will have to purchase the seeds you need.
If you are planting a garden from seed for the first time, it is recommended that you only buy seeds from trustworthy companies. Try to only get seeds that are heirlooms or non-GMO as this allows you to receive the nutrition you need without any extras added without your knowledge.
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When is the Best Time to Start Seeds Indoors?
Plan on starting your seeds indoors 4–6 weeks before you plan on transplanting them outside. Taking this step gives them time to take root before you begin the process of hardening them for outdoor transplantation.
Almost all seedlings need to be transplanted outside after your last frost date. If you don’t know this date, you can usually find it at your local AG extension.
Try not to start your seeds earlier than this date. Doing so may cause them to grow too large before the temperatures are warm enough to put them outdoors.
Using the average last frost date is typically a safe bet for when it is safe to start each type of seed.
What Tools are Needed to Start Seeds Indoors?
Before you begin, be sure you have the right gardening tools at your disposal. You’ll need a seed starting tray, soil for seed starting, and perhaps a heat mat. It is entirely up to you whether you choose to use the heat mat, but keeping them warm will help them grow well as they germinate.
Plant grow lights are also used by some people to ensure that their seeds receive adequate sunlight. If the place where you keep your seedlings is gloomy or dark, you might want to consider them as well.
You can also start them in an indoor greenhouse tray if you don’t want to mess with potting soil and a seed starting tray. Peat moss pellets may sometimes be included in your greenhouse tray.
Using these is as easy as wetting them down, splitting them open, planting the seed, and covering them again. Using them is quick and easy, and most have success with them. It is possible to purchase these pellets separately if your tray does not come with them.
How Do I Germinate Seeds?
In a seed starter tray, fill it with seed starting potting soil mix or open the netting on each peat moss pot. After you’ve filled the tray’s cells all the way to the top, take the tip of a pencil and poke a tiny hole in the top of each cell about 3 times as deep as the seed’s length.
Place 1 or 2 seeds into each hole, and cover with soil using your fingers. The bottom tray should be filled with water and the seed trays placed in it. By doing so, water is drawn up into the seedling tray.
For those without this lower tray, you can gently water the seeds from above, but be careful not to overwater since the seeds can easily be washed away.
When the seeds have been watered, place the dome back on top of the tray and lay the whole thing on your heat mat. Please make sure you read the instructions thoroughly so that you don’t overheat the mat.
As your plants grow, keep the potting soil moist to the touch. Lightly mist it with a spray bottle so that you never let it get completely dry. It takes 5-7 days for your seeds to germinate and for them to grow. A grow light can come in handy here because it helps them germinate and become strong.
How to Harden Seeds Before Transplanting
Plant your seedlings inside until the temperatures outside are in the 50-60 degree Fahrenheit range at night. You can begin to harden your plants when the weather starts to warm up.
Over time, gradually increase the amount of time they spend outdoors until they can spend all day outside in the sun. They can be transplanted as soon as the temperature is warm enough and they have spent at least one day in the sun. When that time comes, your plants will be 4 to 6 inches tall.
To transplant your seedlings:
- Loosen them in the seed-starting tray and gently pull the plant out.
- In your garden, dig a hole for each seedling and place them in it. You will need to consult your seed packet to determine how deep each hole should be since different plants are grown at different depths.
- Fill the hole with soil and surround the plant with soil to keep it upright.
- Water the soil gently until it is damp.
From here, your seedlings will stretch their roots out and grow into the tall, bountiful plants you hope to be. Give them proper light and keep them watered. Soon, you will have the garden of your dreams with a big harvest to feed your family!