How to start seeds indoors
In this entry we are going to explore how to start seeds indoors to get a jump on your growing season. In our last entry we covered all of the necessary ingredients to start seeds indoors (Starting Seeds Indoors). We also provided an idea as to where to get them and how much they cost. Now that you have all of those Supplies, let’s get started planting some seeds.
Getting your soil ready
Pre-moisten your seed starting mix. I cannot stress the importance of this step enough. Seeds need A moist starting mix in order to get started also the seed cells or cups will not properly wick water up from the bottom (more on that later).
Take a Rubbermaid tub or bowl and pour in the desired amount of starting mix for what you will be starting. This mix will come straight out Of the bag completely dry. You will need to pre-moisten the mix using warm or even hot water.
Don’t overdo it with the water. You want it just moist enough that you can take some in your hand, squeeze into a dump without water coming out. You want it to clump but not be overly wet.
Pick your container
Once your starter mix is pre-moistened you are ready to put the mix into your containers. If you are using pre-made seed cells great, but if you are starting your seeds directly in cups or other containers remember to put drainage holes in the bottom.
This will allow for watering but also allow the cups to drain easily. I use and would recommend the seed cell packs as they take less of the seed starting mix to fill them as that can get expensive if planting a lot.
Filling your containers
As you fill up your cell packs gently thumb press the mix into the cells. You want to make sure that the mix has good contact with the bottom of the container but this also provides a firm planting base for your seeds.
You want that firm planting base to prevent seeds getting lost or pushed down too far can and will inhibit germination. Add more mix to the top and gently press down again making sure that you do not compact the soil too much which prevent oxygen from getting to the roots effectively. Roots need oxygen!
Planting your seeds
Now, you are ready to start planting your seeds. When planting your seeds remember to wash your hands thoroughly before and after.
How many seeds do I put in a cell? That is a great question. When I plant seeds I usually plant multiple seeds per cell. For example, things like tomatoes/peppers, eggplant I put two or three seeds per cell but for larger seeds of things like melons or cucumbers I only one or two.
There are a ton of plants that have tiny seeds such as leafy greens, brassicas and herbs to name a few. For those with small seeds I over seed and put fifteen or twenty seeds per cell. The basic idea when you start seeds indoors is that you don’t want to be waiting for a seed to germinate because you are starting them to get a head start on your season.
The over planted cells can always be thinned or separated into multiple plants if you cannot bare to throw away innocent seedlings like me!
Position your seeds in the corners and gently press them into the soil to the depth that is specified on the seed package. One vegetable I never seem to plant deep enough is Swiss chard so plant those seeds to at least a depth of ½ inch.
Once you have pressed the seeds down sprinkle a little starting mix on top. All you have left is labeling your containers which you can do however you want.
Labeling & Storing
You can print labels or use a sharpie marker. I write on a popsicle stick with a sharpie marker the variety and the date I started them. Then place your containers on the heat mat or whatever warm place you have picked out and wait until they sprout.
Be patient when waiting for seeds to sprout. There are some seeds that seem to sprout overnight but then others that can take forever. Hot peppers and herbs can take as long as a month to germinate. I have been impatient before and started more seeds.
It is super easy and does not take long to get overwhelmed with seedlings.
It is incredibly important that if you are using a dome lid or plastic wrap that as soon as even one seed sprouts that you remove the cover and place your seeds under the lights you have chosen to use. It is not an issue if there is only one seed sprouted, the light will not stop the other seeds from sprouting.
They will become “leggy” if you do not give them the light they need. This light helps them process the nutrients that it gets in order for it to grow. This light should be placed no more than 4-6 inches from the top of the seedlings.
Keeping the plant too close to the light can cause the leaves to get burned and the light being too far away can and will cause leggy plants. If you end up with leggy plants it is best to throw them out and start over in my opinion.
As far as the type of lights you use is up to you because there are numerous options out there. There are varying costs associated with each so keep that in mind. With a little research you can find out all their pros and cons. There are some simple setups that work great and are cost effective if you are on a budget.
I use a simple T8 shop light fixture that you can find at your local big box store or Wal-Mart for roughly $15.00. It uses two T8 bulbs and puts out a decent amount of light. I use Daylight bulbs with 2900 lumens and 6500k. I have used this cheap setup and have had great success. We will cover lights more in depth in their own article but here is a picture of my grow rack.
There is no perfect set-up for starting seeds, only what works for you. Get creative, experiment with all the parts to make a system for you. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune or have to be stressful. Have fun and enjoy your gardening. Grab some seeds and get to planting. Here are some resources for seeds and seed starting supplies.
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