Starting plants from seed has many practical benefits. You save money, get a head start on the growing season, choose from varieties far beyond those locally available, and can control the organic environment from start to finish. You also get to experience the joy of watching a seemingly lifeless seed sprout into a living plant.
Varieties such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, perennials and some annual ornamentals really benefit from an early start indoors. Understanding when to start seeds indoors takes some backward thinking. Find out the average date of the last frost in your area and the number of weeks before that date you should start a particular seed. The number of weeks varies and is listed on the back of each seed package. Then count back on the calendar from the average last frost date.
As a general rule, start most seeds six to eight weeks before your average last frost date. If you start seeds too early, you'll have to keep the seedlings inside too long, and they will be weak by transplant time. Ready to grow? Check out these simple indoor seed sowing tips.
Almost any container can be used to start seeds including milk containers or egg cartons. I chose fiber pots because they are the most biodegradable way to start seeds indoors. When it's time to transplant, set pot and all right into the soil! To retain soil moisture until the seeds germinate, cover the container with a clear lid. Remove the cover immediately when you see the first seedling sprout.
Invest in high quality organic seed starting mix. I typically use growing pellets. Place one pellet in each cell and add warm water, the growing media expands in seconds, and no mess (plus kids love it!). The pellets are an excellent soil alternative derived from coconut fiber–a renewable resource.
Seedlings must be kept moist but not soggy. If they completely dry out just once, the seedlings will die. On the other hand, if they're too soggy, fungal problems can occur.
Insufficient light is the most common mistake that rookie seed sowers fall victim. Long, tall, skinny seedlings which eventually fall over and die are the result of not enough light. Seedlings crave 14-16 hours of light per day.
Harden the seedlings off for about a week by taking containers outside and placing in a filtered sun/shade location away from harsh winds during the day. Gradually increase time outdoors and then plant them in their new "digs".
Nurturing the plants as they grow is physically engaging and provides stress relief. The best reward is cooking with the "fruits" of your own labor. Sow…get growing!