I always look forward to March. My seed orders have arrived and it is time to get a jump on the growing season by starting my seeds indoors. Starting seeds is relatively easy. In most instances, following the directions on the back of seed packs will lead to a successful garden.
Not sure when to start your seeds? The seed pack will tell you this, too. It says, “Start 8 weeks before setting out in the garden.” Grab your calendar and count backwards. That is the date or week you should start your seeds.
Many types of containers (peat pots, peat pellets, plastic trays, and cell flats) are available in gardening supply stores. A recycled clean styrofoam egg carton is also great for starting seeds.
It is important to choose the correct soil medium such as peat moss, sterile sand and vermiculite or perlite. Mix these (1/3 part each) to create the perfect seed starting medium. A commercial seed starting mix such as Jiffy-Mix or Pro-Mix can also be used. It is not wise to use garden soil unless it is sterilized because disease organisms could be present.
To determine how deep to plant the seeds, check the seed pack for directions. The general rule for proper depth is about three times the diameter of the seed. Label the rows in the starting trays with a waterproof marker.
Find a warm spot in the home to germinate the newly planted seeds. The top of a hot water heater or a refrigerator are good spots. Maintain a 75oF temperature for germination and approximately 60oF for growing the young seedlings. Make sure the area is free from drafts.
Light is not needed on the seeds until they have sprouted. To ensure proper growth and development after they emerge from the soil, move them to a sunny or bright window and turn daily.
Allowing the young seedlings to grow in poorly lighted areas will cause them to grow tall, spindly, and weak (this is called leggy).
Maintain an adequate amount of moisture for germination and growth. Air circulation, heat, and bright light will cause the soil medium to dry out more quickly. Avoid over-watering; this could result in poor root development and fungal diseases, such as “damping-off.”
It is not necessary to fertilize plants until they have emerged from the medium and are off to a good healthy start. Young seedlings should be fed a half-strength solution of fertilizer after they are about 3-1/2 weeks old.
Young seedlings will continue to grow with the right growing conditions and before you know it, March and April will pass. May will arrive and our warm season seedlings will be healthy young transplants,