Starting Seeds from the Soil Up
Starting annual flowers or vegetables from seed can be very rewarding. The process is easier with the proper materials and following the correct steps. The reward will be vigorous plants flowering earlier and an earlier harvest of vegetables than those started directly outside.
Growing plants from seed has practical benefits:
- saving money!
- getting an early start on the growing season
- choosing from a large selection of seeds
Seeds for heritage plants are increasing in popularity (imagine tomatoes with old fashioned taste & texture). These plants are less susceptible to diseases and are becoming popular with the change in chemical usage.
Choosing the Right Containers:
Seeds can be started in almost any type of container as long as it is at least 2-3” deep and has some drainage holes. Wide, shallow containers prevent both overcrowding of seedlings and excessive moisture around fragile, young roots. Regardless of the containers used, they must be clean or sterile.
- jiffy pellets and kits with individual growing cells.
- plantable pot made of coca husks (These degradable pots are environmentally friendly and 100% peat free, saving the peat bogs from further depletion.)
The Best Growing Medium:
In order to provide the optimum growing conditions, and avoid disease and insect problems, seeds should be started in a soilless growing mix, not in a garden soil. A good growing mix for seedlings is a moist spongy blend of sphagnum moss, vermiculite and perlite. An alternative and earth friendly growing medium is made from coconut fibre. It is clean, lightweight and easy to use. It can be mixed with a potting mix or used alone.
Choosing Your Seeds:
Purchase high quality seeds packed for the current year. Older seeds have reduced germination rates. Read the back of the package for sowing times. Most seeds should be started four to eight weeks prior to planting outdoors. As seeds are planted, write it down! Planting date and seed varieties should be written on a label with a permanent marker and placed in each individual pot. This information added into a garden log would be a quick reminder for seeding for next year.
Planting and Caring for your Seedlings:
1. Prior to planting the growing mixture should be thoroughly moistened with warm water.
2. Fill the containers to within 1/2’’ of the top, pack gently and fill again.
3. Check seed packages for special germination conditions such as soaking seeds.
4. Seeds can be scattered on the soil surface or placed into each individual growing cell. Most seeds should be covered with a fine layer of soil.
5. Gently moisten medium to ensure good contact between seeds and soil.
6. Cover with a clear dome.
Temperature: an important trigger to seeds.
Nature causes each seed type to germinate at a certain temperature. Refer to the seed packets for the exact soil temperatures.
Lighting: critical factor when starting seeds indoors.
Most seeds don’t require light to germinate. When they sprout put them into a south facing window. If one is not available, use specific grow lights.
Seeds must be kept moist after planting. Allow the seedlings to dry out slightly before watering. When seeds have sprouted, remove any plastic covering to reduce moisture and humidity levels. Soilless mixes contain few, if any nutrients. Feed seedlings with a weak liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer (fish emulsion) solution three weeks after germination and continue weekly feedings until they are transplanted into the garden.
Before planting seedlings in the garden, they need to be hardened off. Gradually at least one week before planting, place seedlings on a sheltered porch or under a tree for a couple of hours each day. Protect them from too much wind or hot sun. This process prepares the plants for harsher outdoor conditions and ensures better survival rates in the garden.