Ten Tips for Seed-Starting Season
Once Groundhog Day has passed, it is difficult not to start thinking of spring. For most growers out there, thinking about spring goes hand-in-hand with thinking about seed starting. This year, review some great seed-starting tips and tricks with us to make sure you have your best crop ever!
- Don’t take a gamble
The first major decision any grower has to make is what to grow! This can be the most fun part of the growing process, but it also dictates how the rest of your season could go. To be sure you get a great yield, don’t take any chances when choosing seeds. Focus on hearty plants such as lettuce, peppers and broccoli which manage to germinate in less than ideal conditions. Looking to plant flowers this year? Try marigolds, zinnias or hollyhocks! Another important tip? For best results, choose a reputable seed source.
- Timing is everything
Depending on where you are located, your perfect seed-starting time will differ. There are seed-starting charts all over the internet that will help you make a plan for sowing seeds. In order to create a plan, you will need to take note of the first frost-free date in your area. Then take a look at the seeds you want to plant to see how long after frost season you can plant.
- Home is where the heart is
Different growers prefer different containers for starting seeds. You can use whatever you’ve taken a liking to, as long as it’s at least two to three inches deep and has drainage holes. At Growers Supply, we like using Standard 1020 Flats or Grow Plugs. If you decide to use flats, wash them with warm, soapy water and rinse with distilled vinegar so soil and seeds won’t become contaminated.
- It’s all in the dirt
This may be one of the most crucial tips we have for seed starters. The growing media you choose will surround the seeds for the first portion of their life, so choose carefully! If you have experience, you can create your own seed-starting mix with everything plants need to grow. If not, we recommend using a premixed blend. Wondersoil is a great option for seedlings and comes in wafers, blocks and reground varieties. FertilPots are another great option. Both choices promote healthy root growth and lessen the risk of transplant shock.
- Bundle up!
After seeds are planted, they should be kept warm and cozy until germination. If you used 1020 flats, you probably have a plastic top that fits perfectly over the container. If you have your seeds in another sort of container, plastic wrap over the top will do the trick. We recommend keeping seeds at about 70°F to guarantee germination, so if covering them doesn’t get you to this temperature, try a seedling heat mat. Seedling heat mats promote faster, healthier, more uniform germination.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
This one is simple. Plants need water, so make sure your seedlings are damp. Remember, overwatering is just as bad as not watering enough, so don’t overdo it! Try misting the seed starts with a spray bottle or placing them in a tray with a bit of water for them to soak up.
- Let there be light
We’re sure you will be checking on your seeds for the first sign of growth, so when you notice little seedlings popping through make sure the containers have plenty of light. At this point, you can remove the cover you’ve had over the seedlings. Either move the tray to a spot prone to sunlight or use grow lights if needed. Recently, we started some seeds under an LED grow light and it is working out great! Compact fluorescent will also work well. Full Spectrum CFLs are the closest to natural light, making them a great primary light source. Make sure plants aren’t stretching to get to the light or you will have weak seedlings.
- Keep your cool
After germination, seedlings won’t need to be all bundled up. Remove them from your seedling heat mat and keep them away from heat sources such as radiators. These changes should be made as soon as germination occurs.
- Growing pains
Just as children quickly outgrow their clothes, your seedlings will soon be too big for their little grow plugs or containers. We recommend moving repotting them in larger containers so roots have room to expand. Be very gentle when moving seedlings and offer them water as soon as they’ve relocated.
- Plan some “field” trips
Who doesn’t love a good field trip? Before your plants make the scary transition to the big outdoors, give them a taste or two of their new environment. When temperatures are mild enough, take your seedlings outside to a safe place for a few hours. Day by day, increase the amount of time plants spend outside. They should spend at least one night outdoors before you transplant them into the garden.
Happy growing, everyone! Remember, growing is a combination of science and art, so be creative and have fun! For some reason, food always seems to taste better when your grow it and harvest it yourself!
Do you have another tip we left out? Share it with our readers here!