Germinating Seeds Indoors
By Jodi Torpey
Now’s the time to think of the vegetable and flower seeds you want to get started for this season’s garden. The advantages to starting plants from seeds include saving money to buy other garden goods and planting special varieties that aren’t typically stocked as transplants.
It’s easy to start plants from seeds if you keep two important elements in mind: heat and light. Seeds from plants like tomatoes and peppers need both ingredients to speed germination. The faster seeds sprout, the faster the seedlings can start to turn into healthy plants.
Use Heat for Seed Germination
In previous years, folks would place their containers of seeds on top of the refrigerator to give them a steady source of bottom heat. But these days refrigerators are better insulated and more energy efficient so no heat is lost from the top of the fridge.
To make up for it, gardeners need to find another way to keep their trays of seeds and seedlings warm from the bottom up. You can plug in a simple electric heat mat and place trays on top or there are all-in-one planting systems with insulated trays and a built in heat source.
Seeds need the right amount of light to get a good start, too. New advances in lighting, like T5 grow lights, provide super-bright, full-spectrum light, but are energy efficient.
The T in T5 is the size of the fluorescent bulbs used for high-intensity lights. T5 bulbs are a smaller diameter bulb that offers more flexibility than larger fluorescents. Because they’re smaller they can fit into smaller spaces.
T5 bulbs also provide the maximum light intensity, but don’t use as much energy as larger bulbs. Because they’re cooler, you can place them closer to plants.
The long-lasting bulbs could be used for more than just starting seeds, too. Commercial growers use bulbs like these to take plants from seeds to fruit.
For the most efficient seed-starting system, you could plug your grow lights into a power strip connected to a timer to make sure seedlings get the optimal 16 hours of light they need each day.
When to Transplant Seedlings
You’ll probably be surprised at how quickly seeds turn into seedlings with better heat and light, especially if you’ve tried starting your seeds with conventional fluorescent bulbs or just the light from a sunny window.
When seedlings grow two sets of true leaves, it’s time to transplant them from the tray into individual containers. Then it’s just a matter of time before you’ll be moving them outside to get ready for planting.