Starting Seeds for Your Garden: A Beginner's Guide
Growing your own garden from seed is a fun and rewarding experience that can provide you with fresh produce, beautiful flowers, and a deeper connection to nature. However, if you've never started seeds before, it can be a little daunting to know where to begin. In this beginner's guide, we will cover everything you need to know to get started with seed starting.
(Photo by MaryCarl)
Why Start Seeds? Starting your own seeds allows you to get a head start on your garden before the outdoor growing season begins. By starting seeds indoors or in a greenhouse, you can extend your growing season, grow a wider variety of plants, and save money on buying pre-grown plants. Additionally, starting your own seeds gives you greater control over the growing conditions, which can lead to healthier plants and higher yields. When purchasing seeds, you'll want to choose varieties that are well-suited to the climate and growing conditions in your growing zone. Plus the quality of the seeds itself. Yes, not all seeds are equal, and make sure you buy seeds from a very reputable seed company that germinate test regularly and also that is selling you fresh seeds, and not last year or older seed stock, and how they store and house their seeds. Buying seeds from a big box store is always a gamble, because typically those seeds are older and are sitting in a display rack for months and months in no controlled climate of any sort, and it is a roll of the dice when it comes to germinating those seeds. We are a huge fan of Hoss Seeds because of the high quality seeds they sell and their awesome customer service they provide. Link: https://bit.ly/31BmNbZ (Promo code COGSQUAD23 gets you a free pack of seeds when you spend $25 or more). Plus if you have any issues with seeds from Hoss Tools, they will make it right.
When to Start Seeds? The timing of when to start your seeds will depend on the plant variety, your local climate, and the date of your last expected frost. As a general rule, most vegetable and flower seeds should be started 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost date in your area. You can find your last frost date by searching online or contacting your local Cooperative Extension Service.
(Photo by MaryCarl)
How to Start Seeds? Here are the steps to start your own seeds indoors:
Choose your containers: You can use plastic pots, peat pots, egg cartons,. or trays with individual cells. Make sure your containers have drainage holes to prevent water from pooling and causing root rot.
Prepare your soil: Use a seed-starting mix that is sterile and lightweight. Do not use garden soil as it can contain pests and diseases that can harm your seedlings. You can also make your own seed starting mix by combining equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite, but the biggest tip I can give if you do this, is to sift it and so that you will have a super fine growing medium.
Plant your seeds: Follow the instructions on the seed packet for how deep to plant your seeds. Most seeds should be planted at a depth equal to twice their diameter. Now a little thing that I do a little different, is once I get my seeds in my trays, I cover them with perlite. Which is the little white balls that look like tiny pieces of styrofoam, but are actually naturally occurring volcanic glass that is formed by the rapid cooling of lava, and is extremely lightweight, making it a perfect medium to top your seeds with. Plus it helps with a disease your seedlings can get called damping off. Perlite is very inexpensive and can be found even at your local Wal-Mart now. All that being said, you can also just cover your seeds with your seed starting mix.
Water your seeds: Now what I like to do prior to planting my seeds, is to pre-water my soil mix before I load my seeds trays. This helps prevent my seeds from floating off because typically your seed starting mix will be extremely dry at first, and it will take a good bit of water to moisten. Once planted, water your seeds gently with a spray bottle or watering can. Do not overwater, as this can lead to the damping-off disease that I mentioned earlier, which can kill your seedlings.
Keep your seedlings warm: Seeds need warmth to germinate, so keep your containers in a warm location, or you can use germination mats that you can find at either Hoss Tools Or Growers Solution.
Provide light: Once sprouted, seedlings need 14-16 hours of light per day to grow properly. If you do not have a greenhouse, you can use a grow light, or an LED light, or you place your seedlings near a south-facing window. If you do use grow lights/LED lights, be sure you have the lights close as you can to your seedlings, and raise it s they start to grow taller. This prevents your seedlings from being too leggy, which happens when there's not quite enough light and they start to reach for a light source. As for using a window, just be sure you rotate you seeds in the window, so they too do not become to leggy.
If you planted more than one seed per cell or pot, be sure to thin your seedlings: Once your seedlings have sprouted, thin them out to one per cell or pot to give them enough room to grow.
Fertilize your seedlings: After your seedlings have their first true leaves, fertilize them with a half-strength liquid fertilizer. You will do this every time or every other time you water.
Harden off your seedlings: Before transplanting your seedlings outdoors, they need to be hardened off by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions. You can start off by setting them outside for an hour, and just gradually increase the time each day, until they are ready to planted in the ground.
(Photo by MaryCarl)
Tips for Success:
Label your containers with the plant variety and the date you planted them.
Keep your seed-starting mix moist but not waterlogged.
Use a fan to circulate air and prevent mold and disease.
Keep a consistent temperature of around 70°F.
Do not fertilize your seedlings until they have their first true leaves.
Do not transplant your seedlings outdoors until they are strong and healthy.
Conclusion Starting your own seeds is a fun and rewarding experience that can provide you with a bountiful harvest and a deeper appreciation for nature. By following these tips for success, you can grow healthy and robust plants that will thrive in your garden. Happy seed starting!
(Photo by MaryCarl)