The pictures on the front of the packets beckoned and you bought a big stack of seeds. The thought of starting your own veggies and flowers is exciting (and economically wise) but now what to do? What exactly does this process look like?
Seeds can be started in any small container.
Most commonly used are plastic ‘cell-packs’ and ‘peat pots’. Cell packs are the square plastic containers you are probably used to seeing when you purchase a flat of flowers. Peat pots are small round or square pots that are made out of fiber or paper pulp. Any other small container can be used to sprout seeds provided they have drainage. Limit the diameter of the top of the pot to 2″ or 3″.
Add a well-draining potting mix almost to the top.
Use your fingers to tamp the soil and add a bit more if needed. Lightly water the soil at this stage and allow the moisture to settle into the soil for a few minutes. use a pencil to poke three holes into the soil about 1/2″ deep. Gently drop a seed into each hole and pull soil across the seeds to cover it.
If you plant the seeds into dry soil and water afterwards you might see some seeds floating around and not staying where you placed them. Plant three seeds in each pot as insurance for successful germination. Once the seeds have sprouted use a pair of scissors to cut out all but the one strongest looking sprout. Don’t pull them out, simply snip right at the soil surface.
Place your pots in a cookie sheet or some other tray that will catch the excess water that drains out of the pots. Place your seeds in the brightest window you have. Even in a bright window it might be a good idea to use a grow bulb on the seedlings. Young plants are often tall, skinny, and weak when grown indoors due to low light levels. When the seeds sprout rotate the pots every 2 or 3 days to maintain straight growth. How long it takes your seeds to sprout depends on the type of plant. Your specific seed pack will give you this information.
Watering can be the trickiest and most confusing part of the process.
Overwatering will be a risk and leads to a fungal or mold disease that is called damping off. Seeds need moisture to begin the germination process but the young plant should not be sitting in a waterlogged soil mix. Use room-temperature water.
It can be difficult to keep multiple types of plants differentiated. In other words, label your pots!
The following vegetable seeds can be safely sown directly in the garden now (but will be slow-growing):
- onion sets