Seed Starting 101

The birds are chirping and Easter Lilies are blooming, it’s officially spring. While spring has sprung, my mind is on the garden. Its seed starting time here in good ol’ KY and my heart is rejoicing. There is nothing I love more than getting my hands in the soil after a cold and very long winter.

This is my second year starting my vegetable garden, and most of my flower garden from seeds. Starting a garden especially from seed, can be extremely rewarding. Which is why I want to share the basics of seed starting with you.

What You’ll Need to Know

You will need to know your last predicted frost date. This is important because depending on what plant you’re growing, determines when you start your seed indoors. For example, tomato seeds need to be started indoor 4-6 weeks before the last predicted frost date. If your predicted frost date is May 4th then you’ll want to start your seeds the end of March or beginning of April. Cold hardy plants like cabbage, kale, and broccoli prefer colder weather and needed to be started earlier, it just depends on the plant.

If you don’t know you last first date, find that here: https://www.almanac.com/gardening/frostdates

If you’re unsure when to start your seeds, I’ll link below a great resource to help you: https://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/seed-planting-schedule-calculator.html

Supplies

  1. Seeds
  2. Potting Soil
  3. Pots/Tray
  4. Labels
  5. Heat/Water
  6. Lighting

You can find seeds or potting soil just about anywhere. I’ve seen both at Tractor Supply, Walmart and even the dollar stores. If shopping online for seeds MIgardner or Bakers Creed Seed supply are both good options. Also check your local library for seeds, they usually have some kind of seed swap or seed library in the spring. 

Now, lets talk about pots. I’ve seen people use milk jugs, old toilet paper rolls and even eggshells to start their seeds. Use what you have, get creative.

The pots linked below are like the ones I’m using. I had some left over from last year and they worked well. I like using these for plants that need plenty of root space to grow before transplanting into the ground, like peppers and tomatoes. 

Augshy 130 Pcs 4″ Plastic Plants Nursery Seed Starting Pots for Succulents Seedlings Cuttings Transplanting

Its important to keep up with what you’re growing, especially when growing multiple varieties. You want to make sure you label each plant, Whether you write it on the side of the cup or like me scribble on a popsicle stick and stick in each pot. We’re going for functional not fancy here. 

Germination requires no light at all, its all dependent on heat and moisture. You want to make sure that your seeds are kept about 70-80 degrees to promote germination. Not only does heat play a big part in germination, but so does water. You want to make sure that your seeds stay moist. Not too, moist or they will rot. Just a feel the soil and you should be about to tell.

Once your seeds germinate you’re going too need some lighting to help them grow. Unless you have a fancy heated greenhouse where you can rely on the sun for light, which I don’t. You’re going to need an alternate light source. I had a hard time finding lighting in stores but amazon came through once again.

Steps

You’ve gotten your supplies together and you’re ready to start some seeds. Here are the steps to get those suckers in the dirt and get them germinated.

  1. Get your supplies together & moisten your potting soil.
  2. Put your pots in their trays, fill them full of soil and label each pot.
  3. Make a shallow well in the center of the each pots potting soil.
  4. Drop at least two seeds in each well and cover with soil.
  5. Place in a warm area.

Now, you’ve sown your seeds but there are still a couple things you need to know. Your seeds are going to need to be kept warm and moist in order to germinate. Check them every day or so, if the soil is dry add more water.

Those first couple of sprouts are really exciting, but in order to survive they are gonna need a good source of light. If not you risk getting “leggy” seedlings. Legging sprouts means they are putting all their energy into finding light and putting less energy into forming a good root system. When they are trying to find sufficient light they will grow thin and tall reaching for the closest light source. Not something you want, you want thick and strong sprouts that will grow healthy roots systems. Thats why I suggest investing in seed starting lights. It’s worth it, linked below is the lights that I have used for the past two years.

Winjoy Grow Light, 30W LED Grow Lamp Bulbs Plant Lights Full Spectrum, Auto ON & Off with 3/6/12H Timer 5 Dimmable Levels Clip-On Desk Grow Lamp, Triple Head Adjustable Gooseneck for Indoor Plants

With that being said, get out there and grow some food. Give that green thumb a work out. Gardening is not something that you learn overnight, it take practice and patience.

Good luck!

-Katie

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