Starting seeds weeks before you can plant outside in Spring is easy and beneficial because it gives your plants a head start for the growing season. You can use a grow light like I am doing this year or if you have a window that creates a bright position in a warm room then this is perfect too.
What container do you start your seeds in?
This time I have chosen to use peat pots because the seedlings don’t get disturbed as these get planted pot and all straight in the garden area that you have chosen. Other great environmentally friendly and free options are to use egg cartons, egg shells or empty toilet rolls. These too can be planted container and all in the garden or pot of your choice.
The above You tube clip is thanks to thriftyfun.com and shows how to recycle toilet rolls for seed starting pots.
What growing medium do you use?
I am using a seed raising mix in my peat pots but you can also make your own. If you want to make your own seed raising medium you can checkout the following link for information on how to do it.
How do you sow the seeds?
Firstly fill your peat pot, toilet roll or whatever your chosen container is with your seed raising mix. Then use a couple of fingers to press down lightly to remove any air pockets in the mix and top up the container again with you seed raising mixture.
Wait, hold on… don’t forget to label your chosen container so you know what you are growing and I also find it useful to add the date of sowing too. Next you need to make a hole the correct depth to plant the seed for the particular plant you have selected. You can check the depth recommendations on the seed packet but what if you have lost it or you were given the seeds. The guide to follow in these cases is no deeper than 2 times the width of the seed. So for lettuce seeds for instance which are very small you basically need to make a very small impression in the dirt and lightly put a bit on top. Sunflower seeds are bigger so need a small hole. Finally spray your sown seeds with water from a spray bottle like a mist. Check daily and mist as required, do not let them dry out completely.
When do you plant outside?
Seedlings must have at least 2 sets of what are known as true leaves. The first leaves you see when the seed sprouts are called cotyledon. Actually they are not really leaves but part of the seed and provide a food source for the seedling until true leaves form and the plant is able to begin photosynthesis.
It is important to make sure if you are in a frost prone area that you ensure the last chance of frost has passed before planting outside. It is also essential to harden off the seedlings before you plant them in your chosen position outdoors. I know, I know, it is so hard to wait; planting outside for me is like being a child on Christmas morning but this is such an important step that the wait is worth it.
How do you harden off seedlings?
This process of hardening off seedlings is vital to ensure they don’t experience stress related to the change in temperature, direct sunlight and wind; we don’t want our precious plants to wither and die before we have had a chance to enjoy them.
To begin the hardening off process start about 7 days before planting outside. In the afternoon choose a sheltered place outside to leave your seedlings for an hour or 2 away from direct sunlight and then bring them back inside.
Repeat this each day leaving them outside an hour longer than the previous day and slowly moving them to a less sheltered position with more direct sunlight as the days move on.
Your seedlings must also become used to being outside at night so this time also needs to be extended until they are outside the entire night. Keep an eye on the weather and if it is going to rain lots or there is going to be frost then bring the seedlings in. Also keep a check on the moisture level and spray as needed.
The day has finally arrived to plant your precious seedlings outside. Chose a cloudy day to help your plant with the transplant shock by not having to deal with a hot sun. Dig a hole about 2 times as big as the root ball of your seedling. Next if you want to add a sprinkle of Epsom salts to the hole and then lightly sprinkle soil over the top before planting. This aids in reducing the shock of transplant and provides plants with a source of magnesium and some other minerals too. Now put the plant in and fill with soil to the base of the plant covering the roots and pressing down firmly with your hands. Lastly water thoroughly and keep a good eye on the new plants over the next few days. Some wilting can be expected in the first day but the new plants should perk up quickly with adequate water. If there is a big dip in temperatures they may need covering and I have found a soft drink bottle with the bottom cut off and placed over the new plant works a treat for this and it is a great way to reuse an item before it gets recycled. Otherwise you can make row covers if needed from clear plastic.
Hopefully this is just the beginning of your seed starting journey and you get a kick out of seeing the seeds sprout and grow, I know I do. The best part is when your vegetable plants grow and produce food that you harvest and eat or your flowers bloom and make you smile. My garden is my happy place, until next time happy gardening. 😀