Sowing seeds in the ground is a simple way to get flowers and vegetables growing in the spring. To get a head start, cultivate your seeds indoors. You’ll have early blooms and fresh vegetables as a result.
Seed Starting Necessities
Gardeners sow seeds inside to get a head start if their growing zone has a shorter growing season. Gardeners in any region like an early start in order to reap the rewards sooner. Regardless of your reason, here’s a guide to starting seeds indoors.
Here’s what you need:
The perfect container
Peat pots or planting trays are best. However, cups, milk cartons and yogurt containers work fine. Just make sure the container drains well and is large enough that it won’t dry out between waterings.
This is more than just a fancy name for dirt. A seed-starting potting mix is the best. However, regular potting soil will suffice. Never use regular garden soil for any type of seed starting or container.
There are lots to choose from. Check the growing time on the packet. You don’t want the seeds to be ready too early or too late. For most plant varieties, plan on growing them 6 – 8 weeks indoors. Also check the packet to see if pre-soaking is recommended. Some seeds should be sown directly into the ground.
The right location
Seeds need warmth in order to germinate. One method is to put the containers on top of a refrigerator. After they sprout, sufficient light is critical. A sunny windowsill works fine, as long as it isn’t too hot.
Step-by-Step Planting Guide
Once you have all of the above accounted for, it’s time to plant the seeds.
Fill the container/tray with potting mixture. Pre-moisten the mix or peat pots as directed by the instructions on the package.
Plant larger seeds individually in a tray or peat pot. Smaller seeds can be difficult to see. Sprinkle 3 – 4 seeds over mixture in each pot. Press in or lightly cover seeds with potting mix. Do not cover too deeply with soil.
Cover the tray with a plastic wrap or top your container. Place in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. Make sure that your soil is always warm and moist.
When the seeds begin to sprout, take the top off.
Place the seedlings in a warm spot to grow. Turn the tray every two days to keep the plants growing straight, as plants always grow towards the sunlight.
Thin or transplant the seedlings when they get 2-in — 3-in tall and have developed true leaves (usually after 2 – 3 weeks). Thinning is when you gently pull up the young plant or pinch off the stem. Transplant to slightly larger containers to allow root growth. Lift seedlings carefully by digging them out of the tray with a fork or spoon, taking care not to disturb the tender roots. Keep transplants out of direct sun for a couple of days to prevent wilting.
Feed with a liquid soluble plant food diluted to half strength.
Keep your soil moist but not soggy.
Planting Seeds Outdoors
When the danger of frost has passed, transplant your seedlings into the garden, after they’ve been “hardened off.” Set the tray outdoors in shade for 2 – 3 hours.
During the following week, set the plants out a little longer each day, slowly exposing them to full sunlight. After the week is over, transplant the seedlings into the garden. A cold frame is an excellent tool for gardening and seed starting.
Before planting the seeds, here are some helpful tips:
- Choose a spot that gets plenty of sunlight and drains well.
- Prepare the soil by raking the area clear of leaves and other debris. Dig the garden to loosen the soil down to about 12-in. Add any necessary fertilizer at this time.
- Make planting rows with a garden trowel. If you are planting flower seeds in groups rather than rows, use a pointed object (a pencil will do) to make indentations in the soil.
- Plant the seeds according to the spacing directions on the back of the seed packet. Large seeds can be planted individually. Some seeds are quite small and can be mixed with a bit of sand and sprinkled over the area. Do not cover them too deeply with soil.
- When planting flowers, plant the tallest varieties in the back, medium-sized flowers in the middle and shorter flowers in the front. This adds a layered look and allows each flower to receive ample sunshine.
- Attach the empty packet to a stick at the end of the row to identify what is planted there. This will also remind you of how each flower should be cared for.
- Water the area with a gentle flow from a watering can or hose. Keep the garden moist (not wet) until the plants are up and growing. Supplement natural rainfall by providing water if needed.
Watering Your Garden
After setting up your garden, the most important thing you can do to keep it happy and healthy is to make sure your plants get enough water. Since plants are composed of more than 80% water, keeping them hydrated is crucial. Here are a couple of tips to ensure your garden is never thirsty:
- Monitor water levels. If it doesn’t rain for several days, water the base of your plant, hitting the roots and avoiding the leaves.
- Apply water in the morning or the evening. If you apply water during the middle of the day, it may evaporate rather than absorb into the plant.
- Provide an inch of water a week to your plants.
- Make sure the top of the soil is dry before watering. If the soil remains too wet, diseases can grow in the soil and eradicate your crops.