Seed starting for dummies
Photo credit: Laura Mathews
I have sown my share of spinach and lettuce in containers on my deck. I am proof that any idiot can do that.
But that's the limit of my experience with starting vegetables from seed.
However, we here at Garden Variety strive to be a full-service garden blog. Since it is seed-starting time, I've asked my friend and fellow blogger Laura Mathews from Punk Rock Gardens to share her advice.
She is actually good at this....
"The first time I attempted to start vegetable plants from seed, I grabbed a plastic container, filled it with dirt, tossed some seeds about and watered well. I didn’t label anything. I stuck the tray in the window. A drafty window.
A few days of neglect turned my dirt into concrete. I watered again and noticed a few seeds floating to the top. I quickly forgot what I’d planted where in the container. Basil seeds were mixed in with tomatoes.
Finally, the few seedlings that managed to sprout bent over due to lack of light or under the weight of my inexperience I saw that my attempt had failed and pitched the whole tray. Here are a few tips so you don’t make the same stupid mistakes I made.
- - Read the seed packet. Seed packets will tell you much of what you need to know to be successful. Look for information on seed planting depth and days until seedlings can be transplanted outside. The packet will also tell whether to inside sow or direct sow. Use popsicle sticks and sharpies to label everything.
- - Don’t drown your seedlings. Use a mister or bottom water. Pouring water on your seedlings can crush them, make them float, or push them too deeply into the soil.
- - Consistent warmth and moisture will make your seeds happy. Germination won’t happen if your seeds aren't happy. Seeds need to be in the neighborhood of a toasty 75 degrees to get a good start in life.
- - Sacrifice a few of your seedling babies for the good of the whole. Too many seeds will germinate. You need to thin them out as they grow so they don’t get over crowded.
- - Keep your light kissing distance from plant tops. You’ll need an artificial light source. Florescent light works well. Keep the light very close to your seedlings. They will get thin stemmed or leggy if there isn’t enough light.
- - Fan your babies. Air circulation will help prevent disease and prepare your seedlings to put up with wind once they are on their own in the garden.
- - Keep seedlings away animals – I’ve had cats dig in my seedlings. I’ve had chickens wipe out an entire crop of fully-grown seedlings. "