Starting your seeds indoors
April 8, 2009
1. Read packet information for seed starting directions: how many weeks to start before last frost, temperature needed for germination, and how many days to germination. Keep a journal of what varieties you started on what date, and how long it took until germination occurred.
2. I use recyclable, disposable aluminum lasagna pans to start my seedlings, they will last a number of years before you have to replace them. Poke holes in the bottom for drainage.
3. Use a seed starting mix to start your seeds. Seed starting mix is sterile and will help prevent damping off disease, and the light texture aids in germination and rooting of the seeds. Add warm water to your seed starting mix, approximately 1 to 1½ cups of water to four cups of starting mix. Mix thoroughly to get soil evenly moist, it should be damp but not soggy; you should be able to squeeze out a few drops of water when you squeeze a handful.
4. Fill your tray almost to the top, patting down to make a firm layer of soil.
5. Make shallow rows in soil about 1 inch to 1 ½ inches apart; using a pen or pencil push down to make an indentation.
6. Cut open seed packet, and evenly distribute seeds in the rows; for very small seeds hold the packet sideways while lightly tapping the top with your finger to control the flow of the seeds.
7. Read packet information to find out whether the seed should be covered with soil. Some require covering and others do not, and it will affect the germination of the seeds. If the seeds require covering, cover with a fine sprinkling of DRY seed starting mix, then press firmly so soil makes good contact with seed.
8. Lightly mist rows of seeds, both covered and uncovered.
9. Label variety of seeds on outside of tray.
10. Place a well fitted cover over the tray, or place tray in a clear plastic bag and seal. Place in a warm area (not in direct sunlight) to germinate, unless your packet directions specify otherwise. I place mine on a shelf with a florescent shop light above it; the lights give off a little warmth that speeds germination. I use one cool florescent lamp and one warm florescent lamp, I read once that using both will benefit the seedlings.
Most seeds require about 70 degrees to germinate, and every seed variety has a different time length to germinate. I try to plant seeds together that need the same germination temperature and have the same length of germination time.
11. Monitor for moisture; you should be able to see moisture on the cover and the soil should appear damp. If watering is needed, always water from the bottom, and don’t over water to prevent damping off disease.
12. Remove cover when most of seeds have sprouted. If growing under lights (florescent shop lights will work fine, no need to invest in expensive grow lights), keep the lights just a few inches above the seedlings, this will produce stockier plants. Set a timer to deliver at least 12 hours of light per day. If growing on in a window, choose a bright window that receives a lot of daylight. Monitor daily for moisture. Transplant when seedlings have 2 or more true leaves to individual pots.