Planning on growing vegetables this spring from seed? It is not too late to start indoors. Here are 10 easy tips to get you started.
1. Find the perfect location. Make sure you have a bright sunny location to place your seedlings once they are planted. A South facing window is ideal with plenty of ambient light. If you are placing trays on a windowsill make sure you fully rotate trays 180 degrees to avoid your seedling becoming too leggy.
2. Containers and trays. I recommend using a tray with a liner for starting seeds. The liners are divided into 4 or 6 cells about an inch wide. You can easily find seed starting kits at your local garden center. They usually include the tray with the liner and a clear plastic cover that acts like a mini greenhouse. This allows heat and humidity to build within the trays to help with germination.
3. Add an artificial light source to extend daylight. I recommend a grow light kit, by Hydrofarm that contains a 60 or 150 watt bulb with a clamp lamp for easy attachment. They are easy to install and extremely affordable for a small windowsill garden.
4. Soil. Choose a premium bagged seed starting mix. Espoma Organic seed starting mix is a sterile potting mix fortified with Mycorrhizae to promote strong root growth which is essential when germinating seeds.
5. Select your vegetables. There are many varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and other veggies to grow. Choose the vegetables you know you and your family will enjoy eating.
6. Sow your seeds. Fill your seed trays with potting medium and moisten the soil. Carefully begin sowing seeds directly into the soil. Depending upon what vegetable or flower seeds you are using you can sow 3 to 4 seeds per cell. Lightly cover the seeds with a thin layer of potting medium and with a mister bottle water in seedlings.
7. Heat things up. As we have mentioned earlier keeping a clear plastic cover on the tray provides a warm cozy environment that encourages germination. You can also place trays on a heat mat that increase the ambient soil temperature by 10 – 20 degrees. Seedling heat mats are affordable and can be easily found at your local garden center. Once your seeds germinate remove from heated mat.
8. Feed your seed. When the seedlings begin to produce their primary cotyledons begin fertilizing. Use a high quality liquid fish / seaweed emulsion. Use half the recommended rate mixed with water and feed once per week.
9. Keep the air moving. Make sure your seedlings are in a well ventilated area. If the air is too stagnate add a small circulating fan to gently move the air around your seedlings.
10. Harden off. When you are ready to bring your seedlings outdoors you want make sure you harden off the tender new plants. Gradually introduce natural sunlight and temperature changes by moving the seedlings outdoors on an overcast day or a shaded porch for a few hours at a time. Increase the amount of light light each day and then transplant into the ground when the last threat of frost has passed.
Hope you find these quick and easy tips helpful and encourages you start your seeds today.
Let me know what seedlings are you planning to grow this spring.
Tina Sottolano-Cain is a horticulturist with 17 years experience in the gardening industry and owner of Gardens on the Go, a gardening and consultation firm.
She is host of Garden Minute for Calkins Media.