Hopefully you’ve already been thinking about your garden plans for this year. Growing healthy seedlings indoors, while not hard, means your seeds are going to need a little attention as they grow into seedlings.
Even though it may require a little work, starting all, or most, of your plants from seed is a good way to keep gardening costs down.
When to Sow
The first thing to pay attention to is your last estimated frost date in your growing zone. Once you know that, your seed packets will tell you when to start sowing indoors.
Supplies you will need for seed sowing are pretty basic.
- Organic Seed Starting Medium
- Containers to plant in
- A good source of light
- Clear plastic to cover seed containers after planting
There are a variety of containers you can choose to plant in. I have purchased biodegradable containers.
You can reuse plastic containers from previously purchased plants. Or even empty yogurt or butter containers as long as you poke holes in the bottom for drainage.
They have entire seed starting systems available to purchase which look like they would be great! But they also come with a little higher price tag than I am willing to spend for my own home use purposes.
Things I would suggest not using, are egg cartons and egg shells. They look cute, but I tried the egg carton thing many years ago and they just aren’t deep enough to get a good root system going. So I would delete that Pinterest post.
Once you have your supplies together and have read the back of your seed packets, you’re ready to plant.
Put the seed starter mix in the containers and dampen with water.
Then scatter a few seeds and cover as directed on the seed packet.
Then I cover the seeds with a sheet of clear plastic that will serve as sort of green house for the seeds. This will stay in use till most of the seedlings are about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in height.
As far as lighting goes, there are those who feel a south facing window is sufficient. I have not found that to be effective. At least not where I live.
I use shop lights with bulbs to mimic the sun. There are such things as “grow lights” but when they have that title, that means they will probably be more expensive. They reason I start most of my veggies from seed is to save money. So I bought one shop light and found a couple of shop lights in my dads garage that he no longer used.
You do need to be sure to get the appropriate T-5 bulb. You want one bright enough to trick your seeds into thinking they are basking in sunlight.
I have done this in my basement in the past but it does get a bit chilly down there at night since I like to lower my thermostat at night. They always seem to do well but this year I thought I would see what happened in a warmer area of the house.
I found a spot on the main level of my house and set up a table to spread the containers out on. A shelving system would work great too. I may build one some day. But this is not the year for that.
The lights should be about 2 – 3 inches from the seeds and you can raise the lights as the seedlings grow.
The light should be on for about 12 – 16 hours per day, or at the most 18 hours. You can use a timer to turn them on and off if your schedule is too hectic to manage that.
If you purchased a seed starting system, you may have gotten something with a self watering system included. This is a good thing as they usually water from the bottom.
I don’t do use those, but they would allow for more even watering if you’re worried about not checking the containers often enough.
The growing medium should stay damp but not too wet. I check the containers daily when I turn the lights on to see if I need to add water. Some container types dry out sooner than others so it will depend on the type of container you have used on how often you need to add water.
Ventilation And Wind
The latest thing I have learned about planting indoors is the need for adequate ventilation and wind.
When seeds are planted outdoors, there is naturally a certain amount of air and wind that you don’t get in a controlled environment inside.
These help the plants grow a stronger stem. Just like when we work out to get our muscles in shape, the wind does this for plants. It keeps them in shape by forcing them to develop a stronger stem to stand upright.
The problem with that is if you start blowing a fan to offer the wind factor to your indoor seedlings, you will have dirt blowing everywhere and they will dry out much quicker.
The solution to that is to occasionally run your hand gently over the seedlings to mimic the wind. This will help strengthen the stem to stand up against the elements. I do this when I’m turning the lights on and off. I don’t make an extra attempt to do this multiple time a day. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Thinning Your Seedlings
It’s important to thin your seedlings once they get a set of true leaves. True leaves are considered the second set of leaves that form on your seedlings.
Here is an example of a true leaf. It’s the one in the middle.
When you see the true leaves you know it is safe to thin out your plants.
Since you planted multiple seeds in each container, they will need to be thinned out. The reason to plant more than one seed it to ensure that one of them will germinate and grow. But you don’t want all of them to grow in your small little container or they will all be fighting for the same nutrients.
So the strongest plant gets to stay. All the others need to be thinned out. You can do this by carefully pulling out the unwanted seedlings but making sure that the soil is damp first so as not to disrupt the roots of the seedling you want to keep.
If the seedlings are too close together, you can use a scissor to snip them off at the soil line.
Depending on the seed growing medium you have, this may or may not be necessary. Your seedling will not need any additional fertilizing until the true leaves start forming. Until then the first two leaves called codyledons are what the plant gets all it’s nutrition from. They are actually part of the seed and you will notice do not look like the true leaf of the plant.
Here is an example of the codyledons.
Once you have true leaves you may add fertilizer. Fish fertilizer is organic and when diluted by half the labels recommendation is a great source of organic fertilizer.
Growing Healthy Seedlings Indoors
Spindly seedlings is a common problem when starting your own seed.
The main causes of spindly seedlings:
- Too little light. Keep your light source 2-3 inches about the seedlings.
- Over crowding
Avoiding Dampening Off
Dampening off is the sudden death of seedlings by a fungal disease. They may look healthy one day and be dead the next.
Sometimes it looks like the stem has been pinched off at the soils surface.
- Use sterile potting mix
- Use clean containers
- Don’t crowd the seedlings. Leave room for air circulation
- Water from the bottom. Or at least don’t dump the water on top of the seedling.
- Don’t over water.
- Remove affected plants immediately to avoid spread.
- Some say a light sprinkling of cinnamon to the soil around the seedling will help. I have not tried this but it can’t hurt.
I know this seems like a lot of information. But there is a little more to gardening that just throwing a seed in some dirt. Sometimes that works but not always. It’s best to give your seeds the best shot at a healthy season. The more to give to your plants, the more they will give you in terms of produce.
Considering all the unpronounceable things in processed food today, it’s worth it to me to grow and preserve as much as I can on my own.
“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”
© 2017, Pamela Rinell @ MyTurkey Hollow Twilight Zone. All rights reserved. On republishing you must include the link to original post