Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Starting Seeds Indoors by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy gardeningknowhow.com
Starting seeds indoors gives you earlier vegetables and flowers, and your cultivar choices will be endless. Relax, the  task of seed planting is reassuringly simple. Just take it step-by-step, and you’ll soon be marveling over a healthy crop of seedlings. Planttalk Colorado offers the following tips for successful seed starting.

Seeds can be started in containers found around the household – plastic trays or cups, egg cartons, and the like – or in seed starting trays or peat pots from the garden center. Regardless of what container is used be sure it has holes for drainage.
Photo courtesy CSU Extension
A commercially available seed starting mix or fine textured potting mix will provide a sterile, weed-free medium in which to start the seeds. Pay attention to package directions for different varieties of seeds. It is generally recommended that most seeds be started four to eight weeks prior to the last killing frost in the spring. 

After planting the seeds, water them in with a fine mist hand sprayer and cover lightly with a layer of plastic. Until the seeds germinate, keep them in a warm location away from bright sunlight. Most seeds prefer temperatures between 70-75°F to germinate. As the seedlings emerge, remove the plastic and move the container closer to a bright window or light.

Photo courtesy igardendaily.com
For proper growth, seedlings require adequate light. If a bright window location is unavailable, suspend a fluorescent light fixture three to four inches above the new plants. A combination of one cool white fluorescent tube and one warm white tube will provide the broad spectrum of light needed. For best growth, keep the lights on 12 to 16 hours daily.

After seedlings grow and develop true leaves, fertilize with a quarter-to half-strength water-soluble fertilizer to stimulate healthy, even growth. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, carefully transplant seedlings into their own small pots to provide them room to grow.

Take care not to expose seeds and seedlings to cold drafts, or allow them to wilt. Watch for signs of disease. Too much moisture, high temperatures and poor light weaken the plants and make them susceptible to the damping off fungus.

About two weeks before transplanting into the garden, start the hardening off process. 

Starting seeds indoors is a great way to chase away the winter blues. Happy growing!