Growing plants can be tough sometimes.
You want to enjoy the taste of home-grown tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini. You want to watch the beautiful zinnias, and marigolds growing in your garden.
But the cold climate where you live puts a damper on your gardening dreams.
What can you do when the growing season in your area is so short? Is there a way to get a head start on your gardening?
You could just buy seedlings at a garden center and plant them in your garden.
But that’s boring.
Not only do you have to spend money on seedlings but you’re also limited to the varieties of the plants you can buy.
Is there no hope for your gardening dreams?
Yes, there is. With indoor gardening, you can start your gardening way before the growing season. And with our tips on starting seeds indoors, you’ll be well on your way to the garden of your dreams.
What is seed starting?
Watching a seed germinate and grow into a plant is a miracle of nature.
And you can be a part of this when you start your own seeds. You buy your choice of seeds and then plant then indoors. You take care of the plants as they germinate and grow leaves.
And once the growing season arrives you transplant the plants to your garden till you harvest them and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
What are the benefits of seed starting?
It’s a matter of choice.
When you start from seeds, you get a choice of the varieties you want to plant. You can only get a limited choice when you buy seedlings from a garden center.
You might even get lucky and be able to get some rare, hard-to-find seeds that will give you some amazing plants.
Buying seedlings from a garden center means you need to spend a lot more money than buying seed packets. A single seed packet contains dozens of seeds that can give you several plants instead of just one.
When you start your own seeds you know exactly what goes into the air, water, and food that you provide to your plants. You can ensure there are no pesticides or harmful substances being used for your plants. And you can provide the tender, loving care to your plants that might not be there at a garden center.
Starting your own seeds is a great way to keep yourself busy in the winter season. You can enjoy tending to the seeds and plants watching them grow as they ready for the planting season. And there is a mysterious pleasure watching your plants grow from seed to full maturity when you harvest them.
Some tips for starting from seeds
1. There is a time for everything
You want to germinate the seeds at the right time so the plants are ready for transplanting as soon as the growing season arrives.
The packet of seeds will tell you when to start the seeds before the average last frost date in your area.
Different plants germinate and grow at a different speed so you need to be watchful of when to grow them. Plants also have different needs based on whether they like a cool weather or a warm one.
2. Make the right choice when starting seeds
Plants can be tricky.
It’s best to start with some easy plants when starting from seeds. This includes plants like tomato, pepper, zinnia, basil, and marigold that are easy for anyone to start with.
Once you’re experienced in starting seeds you can try to grow more challenging plants.
It’s good to choose seeds that are organic and free from pesticides. You want clean plants that will grow healthy and strong without the need for chemicals.
Pick seeds that are open-pollinating types because this will help you save seeds and plant them in the next season. You won’t be able to do that with hybrid seeds.
3. Give the seeds a proper home
Everyone needs a home. And so do your seeds.
There are a ton of container options available for starting seeds. This could be plastic cell trays, biodegradable pots, and clay pots.
If you’re the DIY type or want to save some money it’s easy to make your own containers from egg cartons, yogurt cups, milk cartons, or berry clamp containers.
Just make sure the containers are about 2 to 3 inches deep and you have plenty of holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain out.
Before you use a new container or reuse an existing one make sure to sterilize it so your seeds don’t end up with diseases. You can do this by washing your containers with warm soapy water. Then rinse the containers with a mixture of bleach or white vinegar and water. And then leave them out to dry before you use them.
4. Don’t put your seeds with bad company
The first thing to consider is the soil for your seeds. You can’t just use garden soil because that can contain a ton of disease-causing pathogens.
You should not be using regular potting soil either because they might not have the right texture to allow air and moisture to move around the seeds.
What you need is a good high-quality seed starting mix that is free from any diseases, provides the proper airflow, and keeps the right amount of moisture while draining away the excess.
Make sure the soil in the container is firm and does not have large air pockets in it. If there are you can damp them down with your finger.
Check your seed packet for how the seeds should be planted in the soil. Some seeds need to be planted about three times their diameter into the soil. But some other seeds need light to germinate and should be planted on top of the soil.
5. Nutrition is the key to your seeds
Plants need food.
The seed is amazing because it contains its own food. But once it has germinated and true leaves have appeared the plant needs to get food from external sources.
If you use a good quality seed starting mix there will be some nutrition in it but that’s not enough. Every week you need to provide a half-strength liquid fertilizer that will ensure your seedlings are growing well.
It’s best to use a low-strength fertilizer made of fish emulsion, seaweed, or worm juice based on what you can get.
You need to keep adding this fertilizer to your seedlings every week till the time they are ready for transplanting to your garden.
6. Your plants can’t grow without light
Plants need light to make their food.
You won’t have much problem before the seeds have germinated but once they have you need to give the seedlings adequate light. This means 12 to 16 hours of good light every day.
If you live in a place that gets plenty of sun you can place the seedlings near a south-facing window and turn them a quarter every day so each side gets sufficient light. If you don’t turn them the stem can grow towards the direction of the light and become weak.
You could even place the seedlings on a cart and push them out in the sun during the day. Then you can bring them back in at night when the temperature drops.
If you live in the north and are not lucky with plenty of sunlight, you will need to invest in fluorescent lights. You can suspect the lights a couple of inches above the seedlings and move them higher as your plants grow.
7. The ultimate life-giving element for your seeds
Water is the source of life.
And this holds for your seeds as well. Give them enough moisture so they can grow into healthy and strong plants. Too much water and the seeds will rot. Too little water and the seeds won’t germinate.
You need to check your seed starting mix every day to check the moisture in them. If they are too dry you need to add water to them. Don’t use heavy watering from the top of the container because it can move the seeds around and affect their germination or damage the seedlings.
You can either use a spraying can to mist water on top of the seed starting mix or you can place the containers in a shallow tray with water. The containers will wick the water from the bottom into the seed starting mix till it has sufficient moisture.
Once the seed starting mix has enough moisture remove the container from the shallow tray to avoid excess moisture.
8. The real reason why you grow seeds indoors
Most life on earth needs warmth. And the same is the case for seeds to germinate.
That’s the reason you want to start seeds indoors when the climate is cold outside. The indoor temperatures can be warm enough to assist your seeds to sprout.
Seeds need a temperature between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit so they can germinate. If you are using fluorescent lights it might be sufficient to give the seeds sufficient heat. If not you will need to place them near a space heater that provides heat.
Or you can invest in a heating mat that can be placed underneath the containers. This will heat up the seed starting mix and provide encouragement for your seeds to germinate.
You can keep the containers covered with a plastic wrap or glass so that the environment is humid and promotes growth. Just make sure to check the moisture every day and add water if you find the seed starting mix is getting dry.
9. Prepare your plants for their real home
Your plants need the outdoors.
You’ve been taking care of the seedlings in your home providing them with the love and care they deserve. But you need to transplant them into your garden eventually.
The problem is your plants might not be ready for this and end up facing temperature fluctuations, change in food quantity, exposure to light and wind, or attack from pests and disease.
You need what is known as the hardening phase before you transplant your plants to your garden.
A week before the transplant you can start moving the seedling containers out into a protected area of your garden for a few hours. This could be an area that is partly shaded from light and wind. You can gradually keep on increasing the duration till the plants get strong and comfortable being outside.
At the end of the week, you can keep the plants outside overnight and then it’s the right time to transplant the plants into your garden.
10. Always keep track of what you’re doing with the seeds
Keeping track of your plants is key.
You can keep a journal where you add the dates of sowing the seeds, when they germinate, and when you transplant them to your garden.
You can also maintain logs of how the plants are growing, whether they faced any problems while growing or during harvest.
You can also add the source of the seeds and whether they produced good results or not.
All this information will help you keep track of how the growth of the seeds progressed and you can use this information when you are starting your seeds the next year.
You can make the necessary changes when it comes to the type of plants you want to grow, the place where you buy the seeds from, and the improvement you should do to get a better result for the next growing year.
Time to start your seeds
It’s going to be exciting.
You’ll be able to enjoy the taste of your home-grown vegetables and the beautiful flowers that grow in your garden.
No longer do you have to worry about the cold climate putting a damper on your gardening plans.
All you need to do is start your own seeds indoors. And watch the miracle of growing plants from seeds to harvest.
Time to start your seeds and achieve your gardening dreams.