Seed Starting Basics!
There is a great deal of information on line on this topic! Seed catalogs on line as well!
Soil- Choose a high quality seedling starting soil. The soil needs to be fluffy and fine so the seeds can easily poke through the soil. Starting soils are sterilized to prevent fungi and molds from attacking tender shoots! Always presoak the soil with water before putting seeds in as it takes a while for the soil to absorb water . Set soil up in containers, soak with water, wait and then plant seeds after soil is moist all the way through.
Seeds- There are so many companies and seeds now available. Choose what you like and experiment! Several local stores already have good supplies- Bedford Fields, County Stores, Home Depot are a few. Johnny’s seed company in Maine is a really good source of hardy seeds all tested for growth in New England. Do not use outdated seeds as you will be disappointed with their germination rates. Read the sowing information on each packet.
Light– You need to plant seeds and put in a south very sunny window! If you do not have adequate light the seedlings will be spindly and feeble and will develop long stems, few leaves and will lean to the light. You can use artificial lights- fluorescent or LED but they need to be placed 6 inches from seedlings and for 12 hours a day.
Warmth- Seed all will germinate at different temperatures but using a seedling heat mat under your trays will speed up germination times if desired. These can be purchased from local hardware stores or on line (Charly’s Greenhouse Supply). If you do not have a seed mat , you can wrap a heating pad in a towel and use that! Or, place the trays in a warm area for quicker results!
Water- Moisture is essential of course and there is a fine balance between too much and too little. Some people like to use a plastic cover over their trays but I have found that often this creates too much moisture. Diligence in keeping the seed trays moist works well and you need to have a watering can with a really fine attachment on it or you will flood your little baby seedlings and seeds!
Patience – Seed starting is great fun but involves a bit of trial and error just like gardening. Experiment with different seed types- some are much easier than others! Just starting out? Here are a few sure bets: marigolds, morning glories, basil, lettuce, cukes and squashes (germinate fast so do not plant to early!), herbs.
Things I have Learned!
-Do not start seeds to early- I have many times and they get too big for their containers and your house!
-Harden off your seeds- It is so very tempting to take them from the house and plunk into ground . They need to be gradually introduced to the outside world!
-Do not plant the seedlings outside too early! Heed frost warnings!
-It is fun and interesting to start seeds and children love to help!