It’s not as complicated as you might think. You’ll need some seeds (then plans as to where your going to eventually plant them), peat pots (I often use cardboard egg boxes), starter mix (how to make your own), water, a tray with an edge (to keep pots on and help with any water run-off), plastic wrap or a plastic ‘dome’, a warm place and an area (relatively warm) which gets indirect sunlight throughout the day. And most importantly, patience.
I don’t have any gadgets or anything fancy from ‘specialty’ garden shops – I just use what I have.
I buy the seed starter mix from a local gardening shop (the bigger bag usually lasts me two seasons). I typically (though not for these photos) re -use egg cartons (cardboard) and pierce small holes in the bottoms of each holder for drainage.
A large sheet pan (picked up at the dump) comes in handy for storing all the pots while the seedlings are emerging – it also makes moving them around very easy…I picked up a spray bottle for $1 and use it just for watering the seedlings (year after year) and while I did re-use a plastic dome for years, it finally gave way and now plastic wrap is what I use (and re-use). I know, plastic wrap? I haven’t been able to find a suitable (and earth friendly) substitute…any ideas?
So that’s what you’ll need and here’s what you’ll need to do;
1. Place pots on a large tray (with sides preferably, but not necessary). I fill each ‘set’ of pots on a smaller tray, first, then move onto the bigger tray once complete.
2. Fill each pot (peat pots, seed trays, or pierced egg cartons) with the seed starting mix . I use an old metal measuring cup to scoop and fill…be sure to fill each to the top, the mix will settle once moistened.
2. Water thoroughly.* This will take a bit of time…I water the mix and then let it rest awhile before planting. The water may rest on top for awhile before finally settling, fully into the pot. Do be sure the entire pot is moist before planting and then be sure to keep it moist once the seeds are planted.
*I sometimes use a watering can with a very narrow spout for this. It allows more water, quicker, than the spray bottle. Though, if you try this method, do go slowly as the water will quickly accumulate on top and spill over the edges if done to rapidly…seed starter is made to absorb and hold onto water, it’s different than soil, thus absorbs it differently – at least at first…
3. Take a pencil or pen and use its’ bottom to create holes (at the recommended depth) in each pot of soil, for each seed to be planted in. No gadgets necessary…
4. Read the planting instructions for each seed type (some like to be deep, others do not) and plant accordingly.
I typically place two to three seeds in each pot to ensure one will sprout…I then usually end up with three seedlings, though I simply ‘thin’ once big enough and keep the strongest looking one. If I have the space, I’ll even re-plant the ones I’ve ‘pulled’…it’s hard ‘throwing’ those little ones away…above is a coriander seed I had saved from last year…
5. Cover with soil, gently (if necessary – some seeds need to sit right on top).
6. Water thoroughly with a fine spray mist.
7.Cover the pots or trays with a clear plastic bag, plastic wrap or dome and be sure to label each set of pots with the date and seed type. It can get confusing after awhile…
8. Place in a warm location with indirect sunlight. I keep mine next to the wood stove at night and then once morning arrives, I move them onto an ottoman in the dining room
and once the sun comes ’round to the sunroom (which we can now start to use!!) I move them again, onto the ottoman in there. Yes, I am busy with these seedlings, but it’s worth it. If your lucky enough to have a spot which receives indirect sunlight all day, all the better.
If you don’t have a warm spot to overnight them, consider using an electric blanket (do be cautious and mindful about possible fire hazards!) or making your own. Check out what Kate over at The Museum of Forgotten Pickles has done to make her own heating mat.
9. Lift plastic daily and check moisture levels. I check them first thing in the morning and then just before I go to bed. You want to be sure to keep the seedlings properly moistened. Try not to let the ‘soil’ dry out or the seeds won’t be able to grow. Using your spray bottle, moisten daily (if needed).
10. Remove plastic when seedlings emerge. Oftentimes a few will emerge, though others haven’t yet. This is where the plastic wrap comes in handy, because I can pull back the area where the seedlings have emerged and leave the others covered…sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. These are baby tomatoes…
11. Keep seedlings moist until they are big enough to transplant. Want to learn how to transplant? Read here.
12. ‘Thin’ seedlings to one plant per pot, once big enough… Meaning gently remove all but one plant; best to do after watering, as the water will help keep the seedling you want to keep in its’ place.
13. Keep growing the seedlings in these beginning pots until each grows the first set of true leaves. Once they have this set of leaves they are able to be transplanted into bigger pots before going outside.
14. Keep in mind, plants which have started off this way will need a time for ‘hardening off’ before being able to be planted outdoors.
Hardening off simply means allowing the little tender plants time to get used to be outdoors while still in their transplant containers, before they make the ‘big jump’ outdoors…
Starting seeds is not a complicated process. It usually takes anywhere from a week to a few weeks to see the first seedlings sprout (my tomatoes above popped up after only five days!) and when they do, it’s so exciting!
You’ll not only be proud of the fact that you’ve started your plants from seed, but you’ll also know what’s in them. If possible, avoid any Monsanto tainted seeds and go for organic or locally procured seeds…there’s enough GM seeds out there, let’s not add to them!
Have you started any seeds lately?