With the weather this week, who among us is NOT thinking about warmer temperatures, gardening, and spring?
It seems like the entire country – with the possible exception of Florida – is in a big deep freeze! I’m daydreaming about my garden for the coming year.
One way to get ahead on the growing season is to start growing your seeds indoors.
For us gardeners, it’s wicked cold outside. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get an early start on getting your garden going for the New Year and the coming spring.
You’ll want to start your seeds indoors so that you can make the most out of your space when the weather finally starts getting nicer.
You won’t have to wait for germination in the ground. They’ll already be ready to put into your garden.
This will help you get quicker to harvest when the season comes around and you’ll have the opportunity to select the biggest and strongest of your seedlings to start out with. There’s also the caveat that you can start extra and share them with someone who might not have the room to do seed starting. Perhaps a senior who would like to try their hands at container gardening.
Here are some simple tips to get those seeds started indoors:
Nearly all the packets available will tell you the time it will take for the seeds to sprout and germinate. The packets will sometimes also say when is the optimal time to put the plant outdoors, although many of they have the ubiquitous “Plant outside after the last danger of frost has passed.” Pay attention to what it says for your area and start your seeds accordingly. I don’t think you’ll want to have seedlings and no place to put them. If the weather goes wonky on us this year, be prepared to transplant your seedlings into somewhat larger containers.
Much like the food you buy, you’ll also want to know the source of where your seeds are coming from and how they were treated.
Some seed companies that you can trust are Tomato Growers Supply Company, Annie’s Heirloom Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, and Baker Creek Seeds (my personal favorite!). All can be found on the web, and all offer good, old-fashioned paper catalogs. There are also a variety of seed savers and seed exchange groups around and they are – in my experience – fabulous groups to join up with. Check in with the Master Gardeners for more information on that.
We all think that we will remember what we planted where, but let’s be serious all the seeds look nearly identical and so do the sprouts. That’s why you’ll want to mark them. You can use a Popsicle stick and a Sharpie to do so.
Here are some easy tips to avoid the most common seed starting mistakes:
1. Over or under watering planting media and young seedlings.
Using a media like coconut pith or coir is a wonderful way to control the moisture content-especially if you water from the bottom. The coir wicks water as needed so seeds don’t get soggy. Don’t forget to add diluted fertilizer within 72 hours after the first leaves appear.
2. Growing in low-light conditions
South facing windows may work well, if the spot isn’t drafty and daylight lengths are greater than 12 hours. Supplementing with grow lights (up to 18 hours of light) will speed up growth. Make sure to read the directions for each grow light as it’s a common mistake to place the light source too far away from the plants.
3. Temperatures too cool for optimal root growth
Cool temperatures on the surface encourage compact growth, but roots need warmth. Adding bottom heat with a seedling heat mat encourages healthy root growth, which makes for healthy plants. Make sure to use a media that won’t dry out too quickly with bottom heat.
4. Plant more than you’ll need
It’s also a good idea to plant more seeds than you will need. This will allow you to pick the healthiest starts to plant.
With these tips, you should now have enough to get your seeds started indoors this year. Besides all that, focusing on the coming gardening season will keep you from focusing on the fact that it’s freezing cold outside!