Seed Starting Success
Even if you don’t own a greenhouse, starting your plants from seeds can be a fun and easy way to save money on the plants you normally purchase. With some minimal equipment and a bit of practice, anyone can inexpensively grow their favorite vegetables and flowers.
Almost any retail garden center has a wide array of seeds to choose from, which is perfect for those who are looking for familiar favorites. However, if you're looking for something more unique, seed catalogs (easily found online) are the best option. There are literally thousands of varieties available, many of which you cannot find in nurseries. These unique plants can add character to your yard or garden and/or add some new flavor to your palette. If you are just getting started, be sure to look for seeds that are easy to grow so you don't get discouraged. Now that so many websites have customer reviews, you can use that information to help decide if a seed is right for you.
Getting the Right Tools
There are many tools that will be helpful to get your seeds off to a healthy start. Start with a good soilless growing media, like coir. Coir is nice and airy and holds in moisture to help prevent your seeds from drying out. If you don't have coir, look for a soilless mixture or something specifically labeled as a seed starting mix.
Choosing a container to plant your seedlings will depend largely on what you are growing. For larger seeds like radishes, sometimes it is better to just plant them evenly spaced in a trough. Our seedling inserts work nicely to allow a good root base and easily separate your seed roots when you transplant your seeds into a larger pot. You can set a humidity dome over your seedling tray to help hold in the moisture as it evaporates. This will help keep your soil from drying out.
To quicken the seed germination time, set your seedling tray on a seedling heat mat. Don't forget to put your plants under grow lights as soon as they germinate to keep your sprouts from getting leggy. The lights should be place just a few inches above the seedlings or they will try to reach for the light and get leggy. Finally, one of the easiest tools to overlook is a circulation fan. Without a constant fresh circulation of air to your plants, you risk losing them to disease and damping off. It also helps make the stem stronger as the seedling grows.
Transplanting the Seeds into Larger Pots
Once the roots of the seedling have grown enough to reach the walls of the seed starting insert, they need to be transplanted. It is best to transplant the seeds into 4" pots, into a good potting soil, compost mix. Continue to protect the plants in a greenhouse or indoors. During this time it is important to lightly fertilize regularly, but be sure to limit the nitrogen you provide because it can cause “leggy” growth, instead of healthier, bushier growth.
When the seedlings have begun to outgrow their home in the 4" pots, they can be transplanted into a larger container in the greenhouse, or planted directly into your yard. Smart Pots are a good container to use if you plan on keeping the plant in as a container plant. If the seedlings are going to be put into another container, be sure that it is large enough to allow the plant to continue to grow throughout the season. The Smart Pots are a good option, they are easy to transport and they help keep your plant from getting root bound in the pot. Only transplant the seedlings into your yard once the danger of frost has passed and temperatures are warm enough for any fragile plants. Be sure to harden off you plants before transplanting. Slowly introduce your plants to the outside weather. You can stick them in a cold frame, set them under a covered porch or just take them out for the day and bring them in at night.