Photo: Via Pixabay.com
Growing your plants from seeds can be moderately difficult, but as any practiced gardener will tell you, “the satisfaction you receive from seeing something so tiny, grow into an actual plant, is a reward within itself.” Also, think of all the different variety of plants you can grow and of course, the money you will save by growing your own plants.
Depending on your growing area and seed type, there are some seeds that have to be started indoors. Please make sure you read your seed packets for accurate instructions. To sow your seeds, a sterile seed starting mix is recommended, however you can use a potting mix, which typically consists of perlite, vermiculite and peat moss. You will also need the following:
- plastic cell trays or *pots and flats without drain holes
- clear plastic domes or plastic bags
- plant labels
- a permanent marker
- a watering container
- a seed heating mat
Most seeds need darkness to germinate and should be covered but there are some that require direct light to germinate. These seeds should be pressed gently on top of your medium. I suggest bottom watering until the seeds have germinated and grown there first true leaves. This should prevent the seeds from being dislodged or tiny seedlings from being uprooted, but can also help prevent over-watering which promotes mold and “damping off” disease. Make sure you drain any excess water from the trays after watering plants.
Some perennial seeds need cold treatment, or stratifying, to aid with dormancy. Basically, mimicking the natural winter to spring growing cycle. You can provide this stage but using your refrigerator for a short period of time.
Make sure you label all of your trays/containers for identification. Pre-moisten the mix before adding it to your trays/pots. Once the medium and seeds have been added, your containers should then be covered with a clear plastic dome or inside a clear plastic bag and placed on a reliable heating source such as a seed heating mat. The medium should be moist, but not wet. During the germination period; check daily.
Remove plastic covering as soon as the seeds sprout. Remember, tiny seedlings have to be water daily but not over-watered. There are numerous ways to provide your newly emerged seedlings with light such as a sunny, south facing window sill or grow lights. However, my preferred method is lighting provided by fluorescent bulbs which are cool white tubes attached to an overhanging light fixture. This will promote tough stems and prevent leggy seedlings. About 12 to 16 hours of lighting will be needed and the plants should be placed two inches below the lights.
As your plants grow larger, less water is required and you may have to pot up some of your vigorous growing plants. A diluted mixture of liquid fertilizer such as compost tea or seaweed/fish emulsion may be needed after your have potted up.
Before you place your seedlings outdoor, they have to be hardened off over a period of two weeks. Simply place them outside it a shaded, sheltered spot each day for an hour and bring them back indoors. Each day gradually increase their outdoor time until the two weeks is up. Do not water them during this time unless needed. On planting day, make sure the weather is mild and overcast and plant in the morning. Make sure you mulch your plants to prevent weeds and retain water. Vegetable and herb plants benefit from organic mulches such as compost, shredded leaves and grass clippings and flowers thrive well in bark mulch.