Seed Starting -- Tips and Tricks
Spring is here and for most of us we've started seeds already. Some of us maybe even a little too early and we're impatiently waiting for that last frost date. Some of you it may be your first time ever starting seeds and you're wondering where to even start and how to ensure that once you transplant them that you don't kill them. Here's some tips and tricks to help you!
1. Make sure that you have a designated area with plenty of light.
- The LAST thing that you want is your plants getting super leggy (tall) and reaching for light. This will make things super hard when you go to transplant them. It can also cause them not to produce fruit or die. An easy set up is a bakers rack and LED shop lights from home depot. Attach a light to each row and ensure that all your seedlings get the proper amount of light. If you are using a window sill or kitchen table by a window make sure that you rotate your seedlings daily (maybe even a couple times a day) to prevent them from reaching for light.
2. Do not let your seeds/seedlings dry out.
- This stresses out your seedlings. Make sure that your seedlings (and seeds) have plenty of water and your soil is staying wet, not soaked, but wet. Depending on your climate and where you live you may have to water them twice a day to ensure proper moisture or you may have to take longer between watering. I recommend checking on your seedlings at least twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
3. Make sure that you check the seed packet for instructions.
- Most seed packets will tell you exactly how the seeds need to be planted. They will tell you when the best time to start them and how deep they should be planted to start. A lot of times they will also tell you if it is recommended to start them indoors or direct sow them!
4. Feed them well.
- Make sure that you are fertilizing your seedlings. They need lots of nutrients consistently to grow. Most seed starting mixes will have a small amount of added nutrients but when your seedlings get their first true leaves you'll want to start fertilizing more consistently. For us, we've found that once a week works best.
5. Thin them out.
- Make sure that you don't let your seedlings get to crowded. This will make them compete for nutrients. Some gardeners will just take scissors and trim out the seedlings that are not as strong as the others. Some gardeners will transplant everything into their own pots after germinating. The choice is really what works best for you but you will get stronger healthier plants by making sure they do not get crowded.
6. Harden them off.
- This is VITAL. Slowly introduce your seedlings to the outside elements a few weeks before the last frost date. Take your seedlings outside for a couple hours and then increase the time in the coming weeks. Then once you are out of danger of that last frost they will be ready to go outside and live permanently in your garden. This helps to prevent them from shock and ensures that you have the majority of them survive the transplanting process.
I hope that this helps answer some questions for you and makes you feel a little more confident when it comes to starting seeds! No harm though if you go to your local nursey and pick up already started plants also. Do what works best for you and your lifestyle. Happy Gardening!