Both seasoned and emerging gardeners are often confused about seed starting, especially because this process takes place indoors, oftentimes during the cold winter months. The confusion is compounded by the fact that different locations have different climates, which means someone starting seeds in California will have a completely different experience with seed starting than someone in Montana. The appropriate time to start seeds also depends on the type of plant you are trying to grow. Read on for tips on how to decide when to start seeds from the landscaping experts at Whittier Fertilizer.
Factors to Consider When Starting Seeds
While starting seeds indoors may seem complicated, the benefits are many, including earlier fruits, vegetables, and flowers, as well as the vast expanse of options available when choosing what to grow. Plants will also prove to be of a higher quality and, ultimately, cost less in the long run. There are a few logistical considerations to take into account, however.
First, choose the right container for your seeds. Options for this include sections of a market pack, individual pots, or open flats. It’s usually best to separate the seeds into individual containers so you don’t have to disturb the roots of each plant as you transplant it into your outdoor garden.
Second, consider the kind of substance you’re planting in. Regular garden soil will not work for starting seeds for a number of reasons, primarily because it will harden into a mass that can kill fragile young roots, especially in a compressed space like in a small flowerpot. Consider an organic, soil-less substance like planter mix that includes peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and other organic matter.
Timing the Planting Process
Again, it all depends on what you’re planting and location. Fortunately, seed companies often include instructions for growing each individual plant. However, if you’re getting seeds from a distributor that doesn’t label their packages, or if you have a seed package that has lost its label, it can be extremely useful to separate and categorize by plant type. Here are some of the plant types to keep in mind as you start your seeds indoors.
Many flower species need stratification, which means they need time in the freezer, in order to properly germinate. This process mimics the frost they would experience out of doors. Most flowers should be started indoors and then sown directly into the ground. Similarly, herbs should also be seeded indoors and then sown. Nightshades like eggplant and tomatoes, as well as leafy greens like cabbage, lettuce, and kale, should be started indoors and then transplanted.
For more information about when to start each different kind of plant and how long to wait to sow or transplant, here is a seeding chart provided by Common Sense Homesteading; www.commonsensehome.com/wp-conte … Charts.pdf.
Caring for Seedlings
While most seeds don’t need light to germinate, they will definitely need sunlight or grow lights in order to grow properly and avoid becoming weak or “leggy.” Temperature is another factor to consider, and when starting seeds, refers to soil temperature rather than air temperature. The rule of thumb is about 78 degrees Fahrenheit, but different seeds require different temperatures. Finally, consistent moisture and humidity is important. Keep your starter soil moist but not soggy and the humidity level at about 60%.
Once your seedlings have grown their second set of true leaves, the fertilization process can begin. You can learn more about fertilizers at Whittier Fertilizer.
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