There is something magical about starting seeds indoors. Container + soil + seeds + water + light = flowers and vegetables! It is easy, rewarding and a great learning experience for kids.
One of the benefits of starting seeds indoors is the availability of a wide variety of options. Seeds are also cheaper than plants. It’s also a great way to get your hands in some dirt.
Plan on starting your seeds relative to when you will be able to put them in the ground. Be conscious of which plants prefer cooler or warmer weather. Keep in mind when the average date of your last frost is as well as how quickly your seeds will germinate. Read your seed packets carefully to determine germination time.
You’ll get the best results by using a grow light. By relying on the sun only, they will not get enough daily light and will bend towards the sun. The sun in spring isn’t as strong as summer sun and the days are shorter. Keep the lights a few inches from the top of seedlings to promote strong, thick stems. Your seedlings will need 14-16 hours of light with a dark period between for them to rest.
To grow strong healthy seedlings we recommend using a seed starter mix like Ferti-Lome or Hoffman’s Seed Starter. These light weight mixes provide perfect air space and moisture retention.
It is best to water seedlings from the bottom. For surface sown seeds mist from above to facilitate germination. A clear plastic bag or greenhouse cover will maintain moisture and humidity allowing for faster germination.
Thin seedlings when they start to become crowded. This is usually at 1-2” tall. Find the healthiest and strongest seedling and thin those around it to one seedling per pot. You can begin fertilizing once seedlings have developed their second set of true leaves.
There are some fast growing seeds that will outgrow their pots before they are ready to be transplanted. At about 4” tall remove a seedling from its pot and review the root situation. If the roots appear to be filling the pot it’s time to move it to a larger size to give it room for more growth. A crowded root system will give you stunted growth.
Lastly you need to harden your seedlings off before putting them in the ground. This is acclimating them to life outside. About a week before you plant, start exposing them to the outside environment. Place them in a partially shaded spot away from any wind for a few hours a day. Be sure and bring them in at night. Over the course of a week or so gradually expose them to more sun and wind. Your seedlings are now ready to plant!