Starting plants from seed is an easy way to grow flowers and vegetables on the cheap. For the cost of a seed packet (a couple bucks), you can enjoy oodles of flowers and vegetables. Plus, you get to experiment with unusual plants that aren’t commonly sold in containers or cell packs.
A bonus to those raising or mentoring kids: Starting seeds is a great activity for children. Witnessing the transformation from seed to plant helps young minds understand the growth cycle—and they may even be excited about eating the vegetables they’ve grown.
Here’s what you need to get started:
A container: You can use a seed-starting flat, peat pots, discarded cell packs, or old containers such as yogurt cups and egg cartoons.
Seed starting mix: A special mix that provides the right medium for seeds to set root. You can buy a prepackaged mix or make your own with equal parts peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite.
Light: Use grow lights or set your seed trays in a sunny window. Grow lights need to be placed within 8–10 inches of plants for photosynthesis.
1. If you’re reusing old cell packs, scrub them with soap and water, rinse, dry, and then spray with a 10-percent bleach solution to kill any pathogens.
2. Once the cell pack has dried, fill it with the seed-starting mix and tamp gently to remove air pockets.
3. Sow seed following packet directions. Large seeds, such as beans and peas, are easily placed by hand. For tiny seeds, such as lettuce, you may wish to use a folded piece of paper and a toothpick to help distribute seed more easily.
4. Irrigate with lukewarm water. Use a watering can with a gentle flow so you don’t wash the seeds out of the soil. Keep the soil moist, not wet.
5. Set near a light source. You can use grow lights or a south-facing window. Be sure the area is warm. Seeds germinate best in temperatures that range from 70 to 85 degrees. Seeds will germinate in two days to a week, depending on species.
Transplanting: Seedlings can be transplanted to larger containers or directly to the garden when danger of frost has passed. It’s best not to transplant seedlings until they have developed at least one set of true leaves in addition to the tender growth that originally emerged from the seed.
Sharing: Seed starting is so easy. And it’s a cost-effective way to grow all the plants you want. In fact, you may end up with MORE plants than you want. In that case, simply share them with friends and family. You’ll be an instant hero!