Seed starting is a fun activity that can help you save money on little seedlings. Also you can grow rare varieties that are not easily found in stores.
Here are a few essentials you will need for seed starting.
Seed Starting Mix
This is a special mix that is light and contains a sterile growing medium for your seeds. This usually contains vermiculite, peat moss, or coconut coir. Coconut coir is more sustainable and many brands are moving away from peat moss. Each brand will have its own formula. This will usually not contain garden soil, as that is too heavy and can contain pests or contaminants that will make it difficult for the seeds to germinate.
This should be pre moistened and mixed with water until it resembles a brownie mix. Not too wet or too dry.
If you are doing this for the first time then you should know water will not easily mix with this material. Dump some seed starting mix in a large plastic container and add in water slowly and mix with a big spoon. It will take some time to absorb and this is to be expected.
You want to buy your seeds from a reliable vendor with a reliable germination rate. You don’t want old seeds that are not going to sprout. Do some research to find the ones you like. Ask your local nursery and look at the dates on the back of the packet. They often will say the germination rate or when they expire. The expiration date is not a hard and fast one but can be used as a guide.
Use 2-4 seeds per container and follow instructions on whether seeds should be covered or pressed lightly into soil. It is a good idea to note and follow the planting depth as well.
I recommend using proper seedling containers. Eggshells, toilet paper, egg cartons are too small and can be a fun activity for kids but not for serious seed starting.
You can reuse containers from your nursery purchases the year before. Make sure the pots have been thoroughly cleaned and dried. Plastic disposable cups from the store are ones that I have used and work well. I like the Solo brand cups because they are sturdy and generous in size. I use these for larger plants like tomato seedlings. Don’t forget to drill 4-5 holes at the bottom. These can be washed and stored for repeated use for many seasons. Also the small 6 pack nursery seed containers can be easily bought online.
This creates a humid environment for your seedlings to sprout. You can reuse a large salad container that has no holes. Place your seed containers inside and close the lid. This way water won’t evaporate and a humid environment is easily created for seeds to sprout. Once they sprout, remove them from the humidity dome to prevent any diseases from setting in.
Some seedlings benefit from heat, especially peppers seeds. You can use the top of your fridge or if your stove pilot light stays on this may also provide the right amount of heat. You can also buy a heat mat with or without a temperature dial. This is the way I like to add bottom heat to my seeds to help them in sprouting. This is not needed for all seeds!
Grow lights are very important for seeds to become healthy seedlings. You can use LED, shop lights, or fluorescent lights. The important thing is for them to be 3-4 inches from the top of your seedlings. They will make a huge difference when seed starting. They come in all different price points. You don’t have to spend a fortune on lights to find some good ones.
I hope you find these tips helpful and please follow me on instagram @culinarygardensco for more gardening tips!