In many parts of the country there are certain seeds that need to be started ahead of time due to shorter growing seasons. Seeds such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants must be started inside; they cannot be directly sowed into your garden. Starting seeds indoors is not a complicated process and for the most part no special equipment is needed. If you have a sunny window or simple grow light that is sufficient. My first grow light was a shop light that I put special bulbs in. Later I inherited a wonderful grow light from my mother. My husband made a special table out of plywood to support the lights and the growing seeds. For me a sure sign of spring was starting seeds indoors!
The first step is to set up your growing area. You also want to keep track of the seeds you’ve started, the date you’ve started them and write down the progress. This will help you in future years. There are several sources online to help you keep track. Little House in the Suburb has a wonderful little booklet that you can download. By determining your last day of frost you work backwards to determine when you should start your seeds.
The second step is to set up your containers to start your seeds in. Anything works from eggshells to gardening containers! I have plastic containers that I re-use each year. You also want to have a suitable growing medium, you can make your own potting soil or buy a commercial seed starting mix.
One rule of thumb is to plant the seeds 2-3 times as deep as the seed is wide. Leek and onion seeds are rather small and are pretty much sprinkled on the top of the soil.
Use only the best seeds. Old seeds or seeds that have not been stored properly may not germinate. If you have time do a seed germination test to determine the viability of your seeds. Check my video on the seed viability test I did on some pepper and tomato seeds.
Once my seeds are planted I make sure the soil is moist. One way to do this is to fill a plastic bin with water and float the pot in it until the surface is damp. I then label each container with the date and the name of the plant. This will help me keep track of how many days it took the seeds to germinate and will also help me when it comes time to plant the vegetable plants in the garden. I may be able to tell leeks from broccoli but it is very important to keep track of the variety of peppers and tomatoes.
Cover the seeds with a plastic or glass cover to create a mini greenhouse. I use recycled lettuce containers, I save them year to year and they make a great little greenhouse!You need to keep the seeds warm; a heating pad may be necessary. You do not need a grow light until the seeds sprout. Once you see the first seeds sprouting remove the cover and place under your grow light. Keep a close eye on the seedlings, as you don’t want them to dry out. Eventually you may need to transplant them into larger pots before they are ready to be planted outside.
Starting seeds indoors is always a good feeling. It’s a sure sign of spring and lets me know that it won’t be too long before I’ll be able to be outside working in the garden!