The best part about late winter/early spring is starting your summer garden now by planting seeds indoors. It's a great feeling knowing how your plants started, but also the tremendous amount of money you save by starting your own seedlings instead of buying them along with the variety of seed available compared to plants that are sold.
The seed packets that you have will tell you the recommended growing time before you can plant them outside, which is usually after the frost date in your particular area. You will then want to count backwards from your area's last frost date to get the suggested planting time.
Well enough of that yapping...let's get our hands dirty! But before we can play in the dirt, we have to make sure we have everything we need to complete this project.
- Potting soil or seed starting formula
- Containers and trays
Now that we have everything we need, let's get started.
Add your potting soil to the bowl and mix in enough water to make the mix moist but not soggy where the water is pooling up. Now fill your seed container and lightly press down the soil - add more soil until the container is about 2/3" to 3/4" filled.
Look at the back of your seed packet, it should tell you how deep the seed should be planted. Make an indent in the soil with your finger to the appropriate depth of the seed packet instructions. I usually make a few holes per tray cell so I can grow more than 1 seed at a time in the same cell. Drop the seed into the hole and cover with additional soil.
You do not need to plant all the seeds that come in a seed packet. Only plant what you think you will use plus a few more. I usually grow a little bit more than what my plan is to allow for some seeds that might not make it, seedlings that are weak and die off, or if I'm lucky enough to have extra I can give away the additional plants.
Once your seeds are planted, cover the container with either plastic wrap or a plastic dome that sometimes comes with the tray. This helps keep the moisture in, assisting in germination. Place the seed container/tray in a warm location away from the direct sunlight. Some people use heating mats specially made for seed starting.
Your seeds should start to sprout after a few days, the seed packet will give you an idea of how long to expect. Once they have sprouted, remove the plastic cover and move to a bright area. I have shelves in my cellar with fluorescent lights to shine down onto the seedlings. This is great because it not only adds the necessary light but also warmth. I set the lights on an automatic timer so I don't have to worry about making sure they get enough light, which I set them to be on for about 12 to 14 hours.
Keep an eye on the soil to be sure it doesn't dry out too much. Add water from the bottom by adding to the tray that the cell packs sit in or mist the top with water. Now is a good time to add a little liquid fertilizer to the watering can.
Some seedlings, like tomatoes, should be transplanted, or replanted, into an individual larger pot by themselves once they have several sets of leaves on them. This will give them more space so their roots can grow stronger and not get tangled in with other plants.
Now you have your summer garden started and you're that much closer to getting outside and working that soil!
Have fun with this and enjoy...it's good for the soul.