Sowing seeds in the ground is a simple way to get flowers and vegetables growing in the spring. To get a head start, cultivate your seeds indoors. You'll have early blooms and fresh vegetables as a result.
Gardeners sow seeds inside to get a head start if their growing zone has a shorter growing season. Gardeners in any region like an early start in order to reap the rewards sooner. Regardless of your reason, here's a guide to starting seeds indoors.
Here's what you need:
The perfect container
Peat pots or planting trays are best. However, cups, milk cartons and yogurt containers work fine. Just make sure the container drains well and is large enough that it won't dry out between waterings.
This is more than just a fancy name for dirt. A seed-starting potting mix is the best. However, regular potting soil will suffice. Never use regular garden soil for any type of seed starting or container.
There are lots to choose from. Check the growing time on the packet. You don't want the seeds to be ready too early or too late. For most plant varieties, plan on growing them six to eight weeks indoors. Also check the packet to see if pre-soaking is recommended. Some seeds should be sown directly into the ground.
The right location
Seeds need warmth in order to germinate. One method is to put the containers on top of a refrigerator. After they sprout, sufficient light is critical. A sunny windowsill works fine, as long as it isn't too hot.
Fill the container/tray with potting mixture. Pre-moisten the mix or peat pots as directed by the instructions on the package.
Plant larger seeds individually in a tray or peat pot. Smaller seeds can be difficult to see. Sprinkle 3 - 4 seeds over mixture in each pot. Press in or lightly cover seeds with potting mix. Do not cover too deeply with soil.
Cover the tray with a plastic wrap or top your container. Place in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. Make sure that your soil is always warm and moist.
When the seeds begin to sprout, take the top off.
Place the seedlings in a warm spot to grow. Turn the tray every two days to keep the plants growing straight, as plants always grow towards the sunlight.
Thin or transplant the seedlings when they get 2-in — 3-in tall and have developed true leaves (usually after 2 - 3 weeks). Thinning is when you gently pull up the young plant or pinch off the stem. Transplant to slightly larger containers to allow root growth. Lift seedlings carefully by digging them out of the tray with a fork or spoon, taking care not to disturb the tender roots. Keep transplants out of direct sun for a couple of days to prevent wilting.
Feed with a liquid soluble plant food diluted to half strength. Keep your soil moist but not soggy.
When the danger of frost has passed, transplant your seedlings into the garden, after they’ve been "hardened off." Set the tray outdoors in shade for 2 - 3 hours.
During the following week, set the plants out a little longer each day, slowly exposing them to full sunlight. After the week is over, transplant the seedlings into the garden. A cold frame is an excellent tool for gardening and seed starting.
Before planting the seeds, here are some helpful tips:
After setting up your garden, the most important thing you can do to keep it happy and healthy is to make sure your plants get enough water. Since plants are composed of more than 80% water, keeping them hydrated is crucial. Here are a couple of tips to ensure your garden is never thirsty: