Are you a seed starter? Here is a quick tutorial on how I start my seed indoors before transplanting them in their forever home.

Now all gardening advice needs to take into consideration the zone in which you live.  Obviously someone planting in Minnesota isn’t going to have the same issues or overcomes as someone planting in  Florida.  But everyone can start their garden indoors from seeds.  Lets get started!

So starting vegetable seeds indoors allows you to get a jump on the season + extend your harvest. If you live in a location with a very short growing season, typically the northern states, starting your seeds ahead of time is highly recommended in order to have a variety of crops in your garden  like tomatoes, peppers, and squash. Of course there are a few other reasons to start your own seeds like saving money since buying seeds rather than seedlings is cheaper, you’ll have a wider selection of plants to grow, and it’ll give you a bit more control over the germination.

You also need a few thing to help your seeds grow well.  Make sure you have a warm, dry place to put your seeds. Potting soil that has a light, texture with a blend of vermiculite + peat moss. Pots and plant trays are obviously a must =). You can find these materials at any garden store or you can recycle materials like yogurt containers, egg cartons, or cut-off milk cartons. You want to make sure that your starter containers are at least 2-3 inches wide and 2-3 inches deep for proper growth. 
Eventually you will need slightly larger pots to transplant your seedlings into but whatever method you use to start, make sure that your containers are clean and have adequate drainage holes. And don’t forget garden markers so you know what you have in each container. 
Now that you’re ready to begin planting.

  1. First, take your potting mix and moisten it evenly with plain water. You don’t want your soil to be soggy, but moist like a damp sponge.
  2. Next, fill your pots or tray evenly with soil. Make sure not to tamp the soil down, as you want it to remain light and fluffy in the container. You can make an indent in the soil with my finger where you plan to put the seed, or just rest it on the soil as is.
  3. Using dry hands, open your seed packet and drop 1-2 seeds in each cell of your tray, or in each pot. Make sure to read the seed packet be clear on whether your seeds need to be deeply or shallowly planted. A rule of thumb is to plant seeds 4 times their diameter. Tiny broccoli seeds are planted less deeply than larger cucumber seeds.
  4. If you are using a tray without individual cells, make sure to sow the seeds 1-2 inches apart in the tray to help give them proper growing space. 
  5. Once your seeds are in your container, sprinkle more soil on top, enough to cover the seeds
  6. Next, you will want to label your ice cream sticks or plastic butter knives with the variety of vegetable, and date planted, and place them in the appropriate container. You can use other labeling systems as long as you can keep track of what was planted and where. If not, it will be difficult to provide your seedlings with the conditions they need once they’ve been transplanted to the garden. 
  7. Finally, put the planted container inside a clear plastic bag and tie it loosely around the container. You can also cover the tray with plastic wrap making sure the wrap stays off the soil surface. Placing the plastic around the containers keeps the temperatures warm and the soil moist so you most likely won’t need to water it again until the seedlings sprout.

Situating your seeds requires a safe, warm place like on top of the frig (you don’t want direct sun all day long as it can get to warm and dry out your seeds). Depending on your seeds, they can sprout anywhere from 7 days to 2 weeks but don’t worry if they take a little longer. Now if for some reason, your seeds don’t sprout or you get much fewer than you wanted, simply replant your container and maybe alter the growing conditions.
Once the seeds sprouted, remove the plastic and place containers in a window where they can get as much sunlight as possible. At night, you might want to move them to a warmer place if they will get to cool in the window. 

Now you are going to start caring for your little green plant babes. Seedlings need watering, feeding, and temperature control and make sure check on them daily. The goal is to keep the soil evenly moist, you don’t want them to dry out too much but actually having them dry out a little is okay. I recommend watering with room temperature water to reduce shock. When the seedlings are very small make sure not to drown or disturb them with a harsh water spray, the easiest way to water very small seedlings is with a mister. 

Once every couple of days you will want to rotate your seedlings to ensure that they are getting even amounts of sun from all sides. Two weeks after your seedlings have germinated, when the plants are well established, you can add a liquid fertilizer to your water. A good rule of thumb is to water the seedlings once a week until they’re ready to go into the garden because at some point, they will need a more space to grow.  No plant likes to have its roots disturbed, but you will find your seedlings are hardy for their small size and will bounce back just fine afterward, as long as they continue to receive care.

Your seedlings will be ready to transplant if and when they look too big for their current position or if you can see their roots making their way out of the bottom. So, take your little seedling leaves in between your pointer finger and thumb, and with a butter knife gently guide the seedling’s root ball out of the flat and into it’s new place. Fill around the little guy with soil, tamping it down gently to help the seedling feel secure in its new home. Water and care for your plant babies according to their package instructions. Happy Gardening!

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