How to Start Seeds—Part 2
By Jodi Torpey
Gardeners in our region often start their seeds indoors to get a head start on spring planting. There’s really nothing to seed starting, if you follow a few basic steps.
First, you’ll need a few supplies. Seeds (of course), seed starting mix, a seed starting tray or containers, a trowel, watering mister, plant labels and source of light.
There are at least two ways to start your seeds:
- Start seeds in ready-to-grow peat pellets.
- Start seeds in seed trays filled with seed-starting mix.
You can be successful with either method. Starting seeds in peat pellets means you can plant the expanded pot and transplant right into the garden. In seed trays, you may need to transplant the small plants into larger containers before moving them outside.
For peat pellets, soak the round, compressed disks of peat in water for about 15 minutes or until they expand to their full size. Place the moistened peat containers in a plastic container or tray without any drainage holes.
Use a chopstick or other sharp object to make a larger hole in the top of the planting pot. Then plant at least 2 seeds in each hole. Use the chopstick to cover seeds with the peat at the top of the pot.
Keep the peat pots moistened by adding water to the bottom of the plastic container. Cover with plastic wrap or the tray’s plastic lid and keep warm until seeds start to sprout. Remove the plastic and move them to a bright window or place under fluorescent or grow lights to reach transplant size. (Keep lights close to plants for 12-16 hours a day.)
If you’re starting seeds in seed trays or individual containers, you’ll need to use a seed-starting mix. Seed-starting mixes are usually a lightweight, soilless planting medium that’s sterilized and weed free to give plants a healthy start.
Fill the containers with the seed-starting mix. Water the soil so it’s moist, but not soggy.
Use a chopstick or other sharp object to poke holes for the seeds in each section of the tray or container. Place one or two seeds in each planting hole and cover with soil. Cover the containers with a piece of plastic wrap or tray lid to keep seeds moist.
Check on the seeds as they’re sprouting to make sure the soil is moist; use the mister to water.
When seeds start to sprout, remove the plastic and move the tray to a bright window or place under fluorescent or grow lights until they reach transplant size. (Keep lights close to plants for 12-16 hours a day.) As the seedlings grow into taller plants, you may need to transplant seedlings into their own containers until they’re ready to move outside.
A seedling heating mat, placed underneath the seed tray, provides bottom heat to keep seedlings reliably warm.
For the healthiest plants, wait for seedlings to grow several sets of leaves before fertilizing with a diluted water-soluble fertilizer.
Seedlings are delicate and can wilt and die if the soil is kept too wet, if they’re exposed to cold or hot temperatures or if they don’t get enough light. Take steps to make sure you’re caring for the seedlings properly and they’ll reward you with a beautiful garden this summer.