Doesn’t it feels like the end of winter? It’s still cold, it still snows, but you can see the flowers, and the tree buds in the distance. The birds have started chirping more and the days just don’t seem as gloomy. And just because it’s 45 days until spring doesn’t mean you will be waiting until then to start planting!
Before you get started on all your glorious gardening plans, check to see what gardening zone you are in. The zone you are in will highly affect when you plant all your vegetables and fruit. For instance, if you lived in zones 7-8 you can start planting your gardening pea’s in January, whereas if you lived in Zones 5-6 you can’t start planting them until March! Planting zones really do matter! No one wants to have frost bitten peas, I can tell you that!
So for all you folks that live in Zones 5-6, seed starting is coming up! Here is a few tips for starting your seeds indoors.
1- GOOD Potting soil. I really like this company because it’s organic and has no artificial polyacrylamide.
2-Seedling containers. You can use anything from clay pots, plastic containers divided into cells, rolled newspaper, paper cups or even egg cartons. Although, I wouldn’t really recommend the egg shell/carton one, the cells are usually too small for most seed germination and long term growth. I think this year I want to try out the rolled newspaper method, it’s free and they compost well. But with any of these methods just make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom, or a way for excess water to escape.
3-Light and warmth. There are a couple different ways you can successfully do this. You can use the window sill on a sunny side of the house, although you want to make sure the windows aren’t too drafty. If you are starting your seeds in late winter/early spring, make sure that they get enough strong sunlight. You can put them outside in a green house. Or, what we do, you can get one of those plastic or metal shelving stands and tie shop lights under each shelf with wire, and even have heating pads under them (No need to buy the specialty heating pads, just a normal one that has low settings). This specific method works beautifully for us.
4-Growth. Once your seedlings have sprouted make sure they get between 12-14 hours of light a day, keeping the light as close to the sprouts as possible, with out actually touching the leaves. Make sure you take off any sort of dome or plastic covering so the plants get enough air and don’t succumb to fungi. During this growth period trim off any additional seedling sprouts that appear in each sell or pot with a small pare of scissors. Pulling on the excess sprouts can traumatize the root system and weaken your main plant.
5-Transplant. If you started out using small cells or eggshells for your germination process, you’ll need to transplant them into bigger pots once they start to outgrow their environment. Simply peal the outside of the paper off if using newspaper, lift with a utensil or turn to its side if using plastic, or break off the shells if using eggs. Be very careful and gentle during this process, you don’t want to traumatize the plant and send it into shock.
6-Feedings. After about 3-4 weeks, the nutrients in the potting mix will be gone, so you will need to supplement the seedlings to make sure they get all the nutrients they need. Up until this year I have yet to use any type of liquid fertilizer, and always got decent results. But I’ve realized that certain plants never did that well from seeds, especially tomatoes and peppers, and it’s because I didn’t supplement the soil. All gardening stores will offer liquid fertilizers, but if you aren’t into spending the extra money there are ways to make your own: Homemade liquid fertilizer. Just remember, if using liquid fertilizers, double the dilution to water ratio. Seedlings are small and don’t need as much nutrients as full grown plants.
7-Patience. This is sometimes the hardest part. Waiting. But growing plants from seed is one of the most rewarding experiences. Take care of these little seeds and plants in every stage of growth and you will be rewarded with beautiful juicy produce all summer long.