There’s nothing more rewarding than starting your own seeds. The benefits include getting a jump on the season, having access to hundreds of specialty varieties that you won’t find at your local nurseries or garden center and it’s the most inexpensive way to fill up your cutting garden fast.
What You Will Need
- Top quality seed
- Potting soil
- Seed trays
- Seed flats
- Plant tags
- Clear acrylic dome lids
- Shop lights
- Before you get started, it’s important to gather the proper supplies. You’ll need seed trays, pots, bottom trays, potting soil, vermiculite, clear dome lids, shop lights and plant tags.
- Moisten potting mix until it is thoroughly damp, but not dripping wet.
- Fill seed flats to the top with soil, tapping firmly against the table as you go, so the soil settles and there are no air pockets trapped in the tray cells.
- Label the tray with the variety name and date sown.
- Make holes in each cell using your finger, a pencil or a dibbler. A general rule of thumb is to plant the seed twice as deep as it is big.
- Drop 1-2 seeds into each hole until the tray is completely full.
- Cover the tray with a light dusting of fine vermiculite or seed starting mix, making sure all seeds are covered.
- Set freshly sown trays into a plastic tub with an inch of water in the bottom and let them soak up the water from below. Remove once the soil surface is evenly moist. Seed trays should not be watered from overhead until the plants have their first set of true leaves, as one strong blast from the hose will wash tiny seeds away.
- Cover trays with a clear plastic dome and set onto a 70* heat mat or in a warm corner of the house, consistently above 65*.
- Check trays daily, and once seeds have sprouted, remove plastic dome lids and move the tray off of the heat mat to a bright space such as a greenhouse or under florescent lights. If using lights, make sure that they are suspended a few inches above seedlings and put them on a timer, making sure to give plants 14-16 hours of light a day. As the plants get taller, be sure to keep raising the lights so that they are 2-3 inches above the tallest plant.
- Check seedlings daily and water when the soil appears dry. As young plants grow, they need to be fed. Following the label instructions, add the correct amount of liquid seaweed and fish emulsion to your watering can and drench plants weekly.
- When seedlings outgrow their trays, either repot them into larger containers, or if the weather is warm enough, start transitioning them outside.
- It’s important to “harden off” young plants before putting them into the garden, otherwise they will be shocked by the sudden change in temperature. Set trays in a sheltered spot outside, increasing the amount of time they are out each day. This helps the young plants acclimate to outdoor temperature fluctuations. Once all danger of frost has past they can be planted into the garden.