Garden Seeds – Sowing Indoors

If you live in a colder climate with a shorter growing season, starting your vegetable seeds indoors will not only extend the growing season, but will also protect your plants from harsh temperatures while they are still extremely vulnerable. If you live in a warmer climate, starting your vegetable seeds indoors will give you a head start on the growing season so that you will end up with a larger harvest. Keep in mind that you don’t want to start the seeds too far ahead. 6-8 weeks before the projected date of the last frost for your area is ideal.

Dedicate a particular area inside your home to being a plant nursery. A large window facing south should provide plenty of sunlight and warmth. Building or buying shelving to house your seed trays in that window will extend the space and therefore increase the number of plants you can start indoors. If you don’t have an area that provides plenty of natural light, purchasing full-spectrum grow lights will provide a substitute under which your plants can grow. They will need to be placed 2-4 inches above the plants, so this may take some engineering on your part.

Choose a plain seed tray where you will sow your seeds either in small rows or grids, or a modular seed tray where you will plant one seed per square. Mastergardening.com has a complete line of seeds to get your garden started this spring.A large selection of organic seeds and seed starter trays and kits are available. You can find them in the Garden Growing section on their website. The seed trays are in the “Container and Indoor Gardening” subsection.

If you are cash-strapped at the moment, cut the lids off of cardboard egg cartons, but keep the bottom portion with its individual egg cups. These are perfect for starting plants indoors. You will, of course, need to poke a few holes in the bottom of each cup and set them in a plastic tray. They’re not pretty, but they’ll get the job done

You don’t want to use soil from your garden to start your seeds – no matter how well-tended your soil is, it still has grass and weed seeds, insect eggs, and other substances you don’t want your baby plants having to contend with until they are much larger and stronger. You want to purchase potting mix that is specifically for starting seeds, which is usually a combination of compost, peat or sphagnum moss, perlite and vermiculite. This mixture provides nutrients, bulk, moisture, air, and proper drainage. It is also light enough for the seeds to push up through without struggling.

Fill your seed trays with your potting mix until it overflows. Do not press down on the mix, you want it loose. Use a straight edge (a board, or a piece of cardboard) to level the potting mix, saving the excess and returning it to the bag. With a fine spray, thoroughly water the potting mix and let it drain for no more than a half hour. Place your seeds at measured intervals on top of the moist potting mix, then sift a very thin layer of dry potting mix over the top of your seeds. Cover the trays with plastic and place in your nursery area. Keep the soil moist and as soon as the seeds have sprouted, remove the plastic to let air circulate and avoid fungal growth.

Rotate your trays daily so that your plants are evenly exposed to sunlight (if you are using evenly-spaced grow lights, this may not be necessary). Mist your plants daily and feed them every two weeks with liquid organic fertilizer. If you are having an unusually long winter and your plants are growing quickly, use a weaker fertilizer mixture; on the other hand, if spring seems to be occurring earlier than usual, use a stronger fertilizer mixture – without burning your tender plants. The goal is to match your indoor plant growth with the turning of the season, so that when weather conditions are ideal, your young plants are ready to go outside in your garden.

We will cover hardening off and transplanting your seedlings next.

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