Starting Plants from Seed
What to Start from Seed
Herbs, vegetables, annuals, perennials, and wildflowers can all be grown from seed in your own home. All seeds are different; some seed varieties require different amounts of time to germinate and grow before taking them outdoors
to plant in the garden. Some even need special pre-treatment before sowing, like chilling, nicking the seed coat with a sharp knife, or soaking overnight. Read the back of each seed package carefully to learn its particular preference.
How to Start Seeds
The first step is to know when to start your seeds indoors. This information is clearly indicated on the package.
- If you start too early they'll become tall, leggy, and root bound before they can be planted in the garden.
- Other seeds, if started too late, will have a lot of catching up to do in the garden.
- Remember that perennials started from seed shouldn't be expected to bloom until their second year.
You will need something to grow your seeds in. There are a few options:
- A Mini-Greenhouse Kit that consists of a drainage tray, plastic cell-pack inserts, and a clear humid-dome lid.
- Jiffy Peat Pellets that are soaked in water until they have expanded to seven times their size. Each pellet becomes a small growing sack with peat soil large enough for sowing two to three seeds. The advantage of Jiffy pellets is that you plant the seedling in its Jiffy right into the garden in spring so there isn't any root disturbance. This is also the case with individual peat pots and peat cell-packs that are biodegradable. When you don't have to pull a plant out of its growing container, there is virtually no shock to sensitive roots and they take off quickly without sulking.
- Choose a soilless mix or Agro-Mix™. These soils are very light allowing fragile young roots to grow easily. They also allow easy air penetration and they're sterilized to eliminate insects and disease.
- Do not use topsoil, 3 in 1, or houseplant soil. The first two aren't sterilized and the latter is too heavy of a mixture.
- When you're ready to start your seeds, it's a good idea to slit open the top of the bag of soil, add some water, and let it stand overnight. Otherwise, the soil is dry and dusty.
- Fill your plastic or peat cell-packs or pots with the pre-moistened soil and spread two, or three seeds over the surface of each compartment or pot.
- Lightly cover the seeds with more soil or, if specified on the package, leave the seeds exposed to direct light.
- Set your cell-packs or pots into a drainage tray. The Mini-greenhouse has a plastic cover that can be put over the drainage tray. Don't snap it onto
this tray. Rather, leave a small gap for air circulation. This is left on until the plants touch the cover, then it's permanently removed.
- All seeds want to grow in warmth, especially bottom heat from being placed on a refrigerator or radiator, with natural bright light or under fluorescent lamps that are kept 15 cm (6") above your seed flats.
- Be sure to identify what's sown in each flat by writing on seedling labels with a permanent marker like a Sharpie™ pen. You'll need several labels if there's more than one variety in a flat.
- Don't allow your seedlings to dry out.
- Water them from a mister bottle when the soil surface is dry. Watering with a watering can gives too forceful a spray and will probably dislodge the seedlings and the soil.
Planting Your Seedlings in the Garden
To plant young seedlings outdoors, you need to "harden" them off to ensure they can withstand fluctuating temperatures and wind.
- A week before the May long weekend, place the trays outside in light shade for a few hours each day, bringing them back in at night.
- Each day move them into a bit more light until they're finally in full sun. If you put the flats in direct sun, the foliage burns and the leaves will have to be plucked off. To minimize transplant shock at the time of planting, use a transplanter such as Parkwood® Transplanter 5-15-5 as directed.
- Some seedlings can tolerate frost and can be planted earlier than the May long weekend. These seedlings will have the earlier transplanting date on the seed package.