Basic items you'll need to purchase to get your seeds started:
3. Potting Mix
7. Light Source
8. Plastic Bags/Covers
I plan on going into more detail about your supply list throughout this post. You may be thinking why would anyone want to bother starting their own plants from seed?
Here are few good reasons:
1. Starting plants from seed is less expensive
2. There are many more varieties to choose from
3. You can grow higher quality plants
4. You'll enjoy the satisfaction of growing your own plants from seed to harvest
Having a garden journal will help you from year to year, identifying which seeds you want to use that following year by only keeping track of a few different items.
Ideas of what to journal:
1. Variety of seeds planted & where you purchased (important re: viability)
2. Date and quantity of seeds sown
3. Germination date
4. Success rate of germination
5. When seedlings are ready for transplanting
At the end of the season:
1. Evaluate timing of production
2. Note what went wrong or right
This data will help you determine what seeds you'll want to plant the following year. If you don't write down even some basic information in a journal by the following year you'll forget all the important details. Such as what seeds you purchased and what went right or wrong. Then by not journaling you may plant the same seeds you did the year before and run into the same problems.
The first time I bought seeds and started planting, I thought I had to plant every last seed. It wasn't a fun experience at all! I was exhausted from planting because I couldn't stand the thought of wasting them. It never occurred to me that I'd end up with over 30 cucumber plants. A couple cucumber plants would have produced enough cucumbers to feed our family...30+ plants...enough to feed an army! I now know that I only plant as many seeds as I want plants, I add a few more in case they aren't all viable. The rest I store in a cool, dry, dark location with low humidity, like the refrigerator.
If you treat your seeds properly they should be viable for many years to come. When your ready to sow the following year, you can test the viability with a few of the seeds in the pack. Soak the seeds in a glass of water for a few hours. The seeds that are still living will sink to the bottom, while the dead seeds will float on the surface.
Some things to keep in mind:
1. Some seeds should be direct sowed into the ground vs. starting indoors.
2. It's easy to get carried away with the different varieties of seeds out there. First timers should start out with 10 different seed types as to not get too overwhelmed.
3. Check on the back of the package at how early your seed should be planted. Some require 12 weeks prior to planting outdoors while others require only 3-4 weeks. I will go into more detail in the next portion of the blog
To provide optimal growing conditions, and to avoid disease and insect problems, seeds should be started in a soilless growing mix. These mixes contain few to no nutrients which seeds do not need until a few weeks after they germinate. This is because seeds contain enough nutrients to nourish themselves through sprouting. Never plant seeds in garden soil because this hardens into a dense mass that delicate young roots can't penetrate. Plus, garden soil contains weed seeds and may contain disease spores or other possible problems.
You can mix your own soilless mix or buy a ready-mixed blend from the store. If you choose to mix your own, use 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 perlite, 1/3 sphagnum moss.
All I'm going to say on this subject is....trust me, you won't remember what's what...so label it!!
You can start your seeds in almost any container as long as it's deep enough. 2-3 inches deep and has some drainage holes. Any pre-used containers should be cleaned and disinfected by soaking in 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. This will help prevent dampening off.
Square or rectangular containers make better use of space and provide more root area than some of the others. Depending on the container, you may need to transplant them in a larger container for proper root growth. Many use recycled containers such as: milk cartons or yogurt containers. Just make sure you poke drainage holes in the bottom.
This first portion of seed starting should get you thinking about how you want to journal, what seeds you want to plant, if you'll buy ready-mix or mix your own soilless mix, which container you'd like to use and how you're going to label the plants. The next blog will go into more detail on the how to's of seed starting.