Now is the time to start your seeds indoors, generally 4-8 weeks before the last frost date. Growing plants from seeds is inexpensive and gives gardeners more variety to choose from. There is also a sense of accomplishment and joy that comes from starting from scratch. This would be a fun little project to do with your kids during their spring break.
It’s not as complicated as some people may think. Here is a beginner’s guide to starting seeds indoors:
- Seeds can be purchased from your local garden center and seed catalogues
- The newest hybrids, rare and unusual seeds, and certified organic seeds will be more expensive than average seeds
- For the best results, start with quality seeds (ones with a high germination rate)
- Look for a date stamp. Fresh seeds will be more viable than seeds that have a been sitting on the shelf for a long time; so as such, don’t buy more seeds than you will use in 2 or 3 years
- Annuals are easier to grow than perennials
- These seeds are best for beginner gardeners: zinnia, calendula, marigold, sunflower
- The quality of the soil is just as important; use lightweight, porous and well-drained soil.
- Use sterilized soil to reduce the growth of weeds; garden loam should be heated in the oven to kill any weed seeds
- Or consider using a soil-less mix developed specifically for starting seeds; they are usually a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite and perlite
- Just about any small container can be used as a planting tray, as long as it is clean and has a drainage hole at the bottom
- It’s best to use divided containers to keep roots from getting tangled or injured when transplanting to the garden bed
- Sterilize containers with a mixture of bleach or other disinfectant to prevent diseases
- Sow seeds by following the seed packet directions for timing, lighting requirements, sowing depth, and temperatures.
- If you are growing a variety of seeds, it would be helpful to use plant markers for identification
- If you are using older seeds with lower rates of germination, sow at least 2-3 seeds per container
- Be sure to water the soil thoroughly
Ideal Growth Conditions
- the best spot for the seedlings is one that is warm, free from drafts and excess heat, and has plenty of light
- artificial lights or grow lights are recommended, since windowsills don’t provide sufficient light
- the germination process can be sped up with the help of heating mats underneath the trays
- keep soil moist, but not soggy; misting with a spray bottle is recommended
- seedlings don’t need fertilizer until several sets of leaves start to appear
- seeds should be hardened off before transplanting them outdoors. Start moving them outdoors to a shady spot during the day and bringing them back in at night. Gradually increase the hours of sunlight in day.