Why start from seed?
Plant starts that are ready to transplant in the garden can be really convenient, with many wonderful varieties available from local nurseries and growers. However, starting from seed is not only cost effective in the number of plants you can grow, but also your selection of heirlooms and unique varieties can expand exponentially! Planting by seed can get you ahead in the growing season. Rather than waiting for optimum soil temperature outdoors, you can plant ahead and move up your harvest date. Bear in mind there are some seeds that are best directly sown outdoors. Peas are great for planting outdoors starting early spring, and plants like carrots and radishes that do not like to have their roots disrupted do best when planted directly outdoors, as well as beans and corn.
Planning Your Garden
Acquiring a few catalogs from seed companies can give you a great idea of what it is you’d like to grow. Catalogs often have an image of the crop, along with a helpful description of its characteristics, growth habit and flavor profile. Make a list of the varieties you’d like to grow as you search.
Helpful Items for Starting Seed:
-Seed starting cells/clean containers for starting
-Plastic cover with holes for ventilation
-Misting water bottle
-Grow lights or bright location with 6-8 hours of sun
-Seedling mix (potting mix can be too dense for rooting to occur)
-Propagation heat mat, good for germination (excellent for peppers, melons, and tomatoes)
Planting Your Seeds
When seedlings begin to emerge, remove the plastic covering and move them under grow lights for about 16 hours a day, or to a bright window (note: lettuce and endive need light to germinate.) If you are using growing lights, keep them a few inches above your tallest plant. After germination, an oscillating fan can be used to help strengthen stems and increase the stem girth. Note: use of an oscillating fan will require more regular watering.