10 Tips for Seed Starting
These tips for starting seeds indoors are a great way to jump-start your garden.
- Seed companies get busy in winter and early spring as they fill orders on a first-come, first-serve basis. So if you want the best selection, order seeds as early as you can.
- If starting seeds indoors, grow in an area that's out of the way of household traffic. Try ot sett them in a spot that's warm and draft-free.
- The top of the refrigerator is an excellent place to sprout seeds because it generates warmth. You could even place your seed containers on top of a radiator, so long as it's not too hot and the heat is consistent.
- Seedlings started indoors require between 12 and 16 hours of light per day. Artificial, fluorescent light is best, and a timer will help you regulate the amount of light your seedlings receive.
- Don't sow too many seeds. This can lead to a forest of seedlings that grow too thickly for you to thin without damaging them. Make little furrows if you're using flats, spacing seeds up to an inch apart (closer if they are tiny seeds).
- Make sure planting mix does not dry out. The best way to keep seedlings consistently moist is to cover the flat loosely with plastic. Some gardeners prefer bottom watering. Set the container in a few inches of water (n the sink or a tray) and let it wick up the water it needs before returning it to its spot.
- When the first true leaves appear, use sharp scissors to snip some of the weaker seedlings at soil level. The seedlings you leave gain better air circulation, and their roots won't have to compete for precious nutritional resources.
- Fertilize developing seedlings with a diluted, half-strength flowering houseplant fertilizer every week or so until you begin "hardening off" outdoors. Proper care means more robust plants.
- When seedlings are well rooted, harden off transplants 2 weeks before moving them into their permanent location outdoors. Set pots and flats in a sheltered spot (under a tree, on the porch) and gradually increase light received for a week or so—bring them in at night or cover them if frost is predicted.
- When planting seeds (or seedlings) outdoors, it's important to check the soil first. Just scoop up a handful and squeeze it. If it's wet and soggy, wait a bit longer. If it crumbles in your hand, it's time.