12 March, 2013


Are you excited about starting you plants from seeds? I definitely am; it's such a fun process, probably as fun as picking homegrown flowers or tasting your first homegrown tomato. It is also almost as simple but I will give you a step-by-step of the process.

Here is what you'll need:
  • seeds
  • planting medium
  • watering bottle
  • containers/tray
  • lights


One of the easiest solution for the first-year seed starting set up is a ready made system (ex. Jiffy greenhouse) - a tray with inserts for pellets.  Most of these systems come with pellets filled with compressed seed starting mix.  The set up is efficient and will provide you with everything you need to begin your seed starting experiments.
There are a couple of things to know about seed starting pellets.  First of all, this is not the cheapest seed starting option.  I try to stock up on Jiffy pellets when I see them on special in our home improvement store but if you are buying them online make sure to compare prices.  Another downside is their size.  These pellets are great for smaller plants that will get transplanted rather soon.  If you are growing plants that need to develop a large root system (like tomatoes) pellets will not do.
If you are looking for a cheaper solution or if you want your seedlings to grow big before being transplanted, consider buying a bag of seed starting mix and use large containers for planting.  You can use any medium sized container as long as it has a couple of drainage holes in the bottom.  Consider planting your seeds in milk cartons, yogurt containers, plastic mushroom containers, or even Styrofoam cups.  Containers made out of toilet paper rolls is another very popular alternative among gardeners - you can find lots of tutorials online.


Next you will need to provide your seedlings with lots of light.  You can try windowsills but I've never succeeded with this method.  Seed starting lights set ups get quite pricey so feel free to improvise with table lamps or other lamp fixtures.  Please remember that light is a crucial element for healthy, successful seedlings.  Weak, tall (leggy) seedlings may not survive transplantation and will die after the first rainfall.


The last thing you will need is seeds.  Your nearby home improvement store or gardening center may carry seed envelopes.  You can also find a broader selection of seeds through seed companies.  This year I have ordered my seeds from:
  • TERRA EDIBLES - organic and heirloom vegetables and flowers
  • WEST COAST SEEDS - organic and heirloom seeds 
  • VESEYS - a wide variety of seeds, including some organic
  • I might get a couple of herb seeds from RICHTERS
Most of seed companies share their catalogues online and would even send you a paper copy.


All you need to do now is get your planting medium ready (moisten your seed starting mix or let you pellets soak up water), follow instructions on seed packets to determine the depth of planting, decide on how many seeds you would plant per container, and cover seeds with soil.  Place your seedlings in a warm dark spot but make sure to check on them daily.  Lightly moisten soil if needed.  As soon as first tiny seedlings appear - place your seeds under the lights.  Keep checking on your seedlings and lightly watering them to keep soil moist but not too wet.
If you provide adequate conditions you baby plants will keep growing and eventually develop the first set of real if tiny leaves.  Most flower and herb seedlings can be transplanted as soon as the second set of real leaves appears, however before planting your plants outside you need to harden them off: gradually expose to outside conditions.  This process takes about a week and I will discuss it in the upcoming posts of GARDENING ADVENTURES.
Meanwhile stay tuned for the next post with seed starting tips and tricks.

In case you've missed previous Gardening Adventures here are first 3 posts:

Let me know if you have any questions; drop me a line or leave a comment.

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