In addition to saving you money, growing your own herbs, vegetables and ornamental plants from seed is extremely rewarding.
Consider Environmental Conditions
Correct temperature is one of the environmental conditions critical for seed germination. Most seeds require temperatures of 70 to 75˚F degrees to germinate. To keep the medium at 70˚F or above, adding gentle bottom heat is recommended. This heat may be obtained from a warm spot such as the top of a refrigerator or by using a heating cable or tray. If you have the space, consider germination under lights as it is the most productive method.
Before starting seeds indoors, you must first decide what you want to plant outside, where it will be planted and when it will be planted. Then you will need to select the seeds, most vegetables will have several varieties to choose from. Choose the variety that is right for you based on space and light requirements. Once you’ve made your decision you can check the transplant dates to help determine the date you should start the seeds.
Choose a Potting Mix Use a mix that is soilless such as a mixture of peat or sphagnum moss and/or perlite and vermiculite. By avoiding soil at this stage, you minimize the risk of pests and soil-borne diseases damaging your young plants.
Select a Container Whether you choose to use peat pots, plastic trays made for starting seeds or containers you already own, choose containers with drainage holes to avoid damaging your seedlings with standing water. And if you’re worried about transplanting, peat pots are a great choice as they can be planted directly in the garden.
Sow Your Seeds Some gardeners prefer a single-step method of sowing seeds where two to three seeds are planted in individual containers. After the seeds germinate, pinch off the smallest seedling, leaving the most vigorous to continue growing. If you are using a seed tray, the seedlings will be easier to transplant if the seeds are sown thinly. Covering the seeds with perlite will aid in keeping them moist. After the first set of true leaves develop, transplant the seedlings into a tray with more growing room or into individual containers. Containers or trays should be filled with a soilless mix to within ¼” of the top. TIP: Covering the container with glass or plastic minimizes the need for watering – check the medium often to make sure it isn’t drying out.
Transplant Your Seedlings Once the seeds have germinated, remove any plastic or glass from the seed flats. When outdoor conditions are right and your seedlings are more mature, gradually move them into full sun. This process is called “hardening” and prevents sudden changes in light and wind conditions that may injure tender seedlings.