You may get a head start on your spring and summer gardening plans by starting seeds inside in the winter. In the long run, seed starting may save you money, and it’s a terrific opportunity to learn about how plants develop for anybody, young or old.
If you live in a colder region, starting seeds inside may be a delightful late-winter pastime, and for some gardeners, it’s essential. The reasons why gardeners choose to start seeds inside are as follows:
- To get a head start on planting in the spring and summer.
- To gain knowledge of and practice with various growth methods.
- In comparison to purchasing transplants.
- To teach youngsters about the process of seed germination and plant growth.
- Gardening in the winter is a great way to feel better about yourself.
The goal is to keep seeds (like sunflowers) out of the hands of birds and other wildlife before they have a chance to germinate.
Gardeners in short-season climates, where the summers aren’t long enough for some plants like tomatoes and peppers to mature, may find that starting seeds inside is particularly useful (Zones 5 and above). By starting your seeds inside, you’ll have a head start on the growing season, allowing your plants more time to blossom and set fruit before the fall frosts return.
When it comes to starting seeds inside, those who live in areas that don’t suffer freezing temperatures or considerable frost may not feel the need to do so. As for those of us in the middle, it’s up to us to decide.
- 1 When to Plant Seeds
- 2 How to Start Seeds Indoors
- 3 Assemble Your Seed-Starting Equipment
- 4 Assisting with Seedlings’ Development
- 5 Fertilizer and water are necessary for the growth of plants
- 6 Seedlings That Are Too Thin
- 7 Adjust the Light
- 8 Reduce the Temperature in the Room (Maybe)
- 9 Typical Problems and How to Solve Them
- 10 Transition Seedlings to the Garden
- 11 Preparation for Transplantation
- 12 Seedlings should be moved
When to Plant Seeds
Find out when the last spring frost was in your location, and then consult your seed packs for information on when to begin seedlings inside based on that information. To get the most out of your seeds, you should plant them as soon as possible after your last frost date.
In the case of pepper seeds, for example, the package may state, “Sow indoors 8-10 weeks before typical final frost.” Since my final frost date is approximately April 15, I may plan to start sowing pepper seeds inside around the end of February if I go back 8-10 weeks on the calendar. The frost date is your starting point, regardless of where you reside. If the information on your seed packages isn’t helpful, try looking for a “planting timetable” for your specific gardening zone online.
How to Start Seeds Indoors
Early spring is an excellent time to start inside a variety of vegetables including cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and other greens like kale. Early spring is an ideal time to sow seeds for summer vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. You may also start annual flowers indoors, such as zinnias, marigolds, and sunflowers.
However, not all seeds need to be started inside because they develop quickly or because the plants don’t transfer well, making indoor starting unnecessary. Cucumbers, summer squashes, winter squashes, and watermelons, to name a few, are members of the squash family, as are root crops like beets and carrots, as well as beans and peas. Despite the fact that many perennial flowers may be grown from seed, the process takes a long time and isn’t worth the effort for most home gardeners.
Assemble Your Seed-Starting Equipment
Plants require the same things to thrive indoors as they do outside: light, warmth, and water. In the winter, you’ll be lucky if you can locate a place indoors where you can get at least eight hours of sunlight a day, with temps about 70 degrees or higher, and with water nearby. The majority of individuals don’t have all of these essentials, therefore they’ll need to supplement them with additional goods. Before you start your seeds, here are some supplies you’ll need.
- Mixture for Seeds
- Tray Covers and Seed Starting Trays
- Pots for Planting Seeds
- Lights for Plant Growth (optional but highly recommended)
- Thermostat (optional but recommended)
Using a seed starting mix that is lightweight and drains effectively can help germinated seeds and sensitive roots grow quickly and avoid rot. Fungus-free seed starting mix helps prevent seedlings from developing typical fungal issues. Using a beginning mix rather than standard garden soil is critical. Make your own seed starting mix or buy some.
Keep your counter or window sill free of dripping water by using trays, which may either be purchased or made from anything flat with a lip, such as a sheet pan or baking dish. To aid in the germination of seeds, most pre-made trays include a tray cover, a plastic cover that mimics the warm, humid conditions of a greenhouse. When utilizing household objects, you can use plastic wrap or other transparent coverings.
There are a variety of materials that may be used to make seed pots and seed trays; you can use plastic, metal, peat, or coir, or you can upcycle objects like eggshells and newspapers. If you’re going to use something like a seed pot, make sure it has holes for drainage. Pellets of seed beginning mix sitting on a tray may also be found in seed starting kits. Kits like this, which are readily available, are an excellent choice for those just starting out. Growing experts employ a technique known as soil blocking to create compact soil blocks that keep their shape without the use of a container, therefore reducing waste throughout the seed-starting process.
If you don’t have access to a lot of sunlight, grow lights are a must for seeds starting inside. Light is essential for seed germination and seedling development. Choose LED or fluorescent grow lights that use less energy. Red, blue, yellow, and green light can all be found in certain full-spectrum bulbs, whereas others only emit one of these colors. Plants, on the other hand, do not require full-spectrum light, hence certain grow lights that only emit red and blue light will appear pink when turned on.
If you’re planting summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant inside, a heat mat will come in handy. Using a heat mat, you may increase germination rates and warm the roots of young plants. Temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees are required for the germination of most seedlings. Seed trays may be placed on warm surfaces in your house, such the top of a refrigerator, to germinate seeds.
- Seed Germination Instructions
- To start seeds and nurture seedlings inside, follow these simple instructions.
- Make sure the seed starting mix is evenly moistened by adding a little water and fluffing it.
- Place the pots in the trays with seed starting mix.
Seeds should be sown in accordance with the directions on the packaging. The majority of seeds are sown equally broad and deep. Plant a few seeds in each container, with the intention of eventually thinning them out.
Streams of water are drenched from the sky. Cover the trays to keep out the moisture and heat.
Place the trays on a plant heat pad or in a warm location. You don’t need a powerful light source at this phase because seeds don’t need light to germinate, but they do need warmth.
Be on the lookout for signs of seed germination. When a seed germinates, the plant’s genetic material emerges from the seed coat as a sprout and begins to grow.
Remove the tray cover as soon as you detect sprouts to facilitate airflow, and make sure plants continue to receive enough light. Light requirements for seedlings in the early stages of growth range from 12 to 18 hours each day.
Assisting with Seedlings’ Development
To mature into genuine seedlings, sprouts that have germinated need some further time. The first leaves to develop are known as cotyledons, and they consist of only two simple leaves. The following set of leaves, known as “real leaves,” resemble the mature plant’s leaves and are called to as such. When a seedling sprouts genuine leaves, it has begun the process of photosynthesis, the conversion of light energy into nutrient-rich food (also known as chemical energy).
Fertilizer and water are necessary for the growth of plants
Keep the soil equally wet and avoid letting it dry out at any point during the process. Early on, watering from the bottom might be helpful. The seed pots or pellets in your tray will gently and equally absorb the water from the tray. You may also begin treating seedlings with a balanced liquid fertilizer mixed with water according to the package recommendations at the beginning of the seedlings’ development.
Seedlings That Are Too Thin
A pot of seedlings will need to be thinned down to one or two before it is ready to transplant. It is impossible for seedlings to grow if they are packed together. A pair of tiny scissors can be used to cut off any excess material. Pulling out seedlings might harm the roots of the ones you’ve chosen to remain and flourish.
Adjust the Light
For the time being, keep your seedlings under grow lights. As the seedlings develop, you’ll probably need to adjust the lighting. It is possible for plants to get sunburned if their lights are too near to them. The soil will dry out more rapidly if the lights are too close to it.
Reduce the Temperature in the Room (Maybe)
After seedlings begin to develop, you may need to switch off or remove heat mats if you’ve been using them during germination. It is possible to overheat the soil, causing it to dry up too soon. If your interior space is cool, on the other hand, the mats may be beneficial.
Typical Problems and How to Solve Them
“Damping off” is the most prevalent fungal disease that affects seedlings during the germination and cotyledon phases. Once they’ve sprouted, you’ll see a fungal fuzz on the seeds. These can’t be saved, therefore get rid of them.
- If you don’t want to be dampened off:
- Get the best seed starting mix you can.
- If your tray cover has a vent, make use of it.
- Pop off the plastic cover once the seedlings have grown.
- Make sure there’s lots of air moving about.
- Keep the soil moist but not soggy by watering it from the bottom up.
It is common for seedlings to be “leggy” if they have long, thin stems, which indicates that they are struggling to obtain adequate light. If you try to grow indoors without grow lights, this is most likely to happen. You may also observe seedlings bending toward a window or other source of light if that is the most convenient location. The same thing might happen if seedlings are not thinned out sufficiently and are vying for nutrients. Seedlings may also be a darker shade of green than usual.
To keep your seedlings from growing too long, follow these guidelines.
As much light as possible, preferably from an effective LED grow lamp, should be provided every day for at least 12 hours.
The light source should be placed directly overhead, not to one side.
Thin seedlings so that just one or two seedlings are developing in each pot, depending on the size of your seeds pots.
Seedlings should be fertilized as soon as their first set of leaves develops.
Transition Seedlings to the Garden
You should be able to transplant your seedlings outside by the time your last frost date arrives, or, for summer crops like cucumbers, when the weather is warm enough to do so (usually 50 degrees or more at night). Seedlings need a time of “hardening off” before they can be transplanted into the garden.
Preparation for Transplantation
For a few weeks, gradually increase the amount of time that seedlings are exposed to the outside, starting with a few hours each day and working your way up. Begin by placing them in a shady area, and then gradually move them into the sun after a few days.
Be attentive to the weather, especially rain, and don’t leave the seedlings out in a downpour if you need to water them more frequently. Bring the seedlings inside every night until they reach a temperature of at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Seedlings should be moved
It’s time to transplant your plants into the ground once they’ve become used to the weather outside. In the morning when the temperature is cooler, transfer seedlings into the garden so that they can get used to their new environment before the heat sets in. Plants should be watered regularly after transplanting, and specific growth and maintenance instructions should be followed.