Chris is a non-certified greenish thumb. He enjoys growing produce for his family and small collections of pollinator plants for his bees.
Starting Seeds Indoors
One thing that needs to be put out there, it helps to have the mentality that mistakes are learning opportunities. I have tried starting seeds in egg cartons, cups, store-bought seed germination trays, eggshells, and so many other things. I have tried putting them in window sills, lights, grow lights. And from each of these, I have discovered how to be repeatable without spending money for the same products year in and year out as well as how to treat leggy seedlings and how to prevent my seedlings from becoming leggy as well.
Admittedly, I grow food for my family to enjoy and then I also have some things such as apple trees, dogwood trees, blackberries that are for my honey bees and admittedly there is sometimes a snack at the bee yards for me to enjoy while I am enjoying the buzz.
So have some fun, decide what your goals are and I hope that some of the things I have learned help you out.
Know It to Grow It
You need to decide what you are going to grow and you will need to know when you should start the seeds indoors. This will inform you if what you want to grow is realistic to grow in your area or if you have the means to grow it. I have manuka seeds that I would love to grow, but in northern Ohio, it is not realistic to grow outside.
There will be plenty of times when you will try something new, but read the packaging and understand when it is a good time to start it indoors. Generally, the seed packet will tell you how many weeks before the last frost to start the seed indoors.
There is an important window that you will need to understand. If you start too early your will have a plant that doesn't grow as well and produces less in many cases. And if you start it too late, then you won't take advantage of the full growing season and this is why you are starting the seeds indoors in the first place.
Read up on the plant you are planning to start and understand the area it can grow, when to start it, the range for germination, and the harvest time for the fruit or vegetable.
There are some plants that grow fast enough and are cold hardy that it isn't necessary to start them indoors. These would be things such as peas and radishes, I will be honest though, there are times that I start peas indoors just for the fun of watching them grow.
Root vegetables usually do not transplant too easily. These are things such as carrots and beets. If you want to try this, try it. This is one of the things about gardening, try things and find out what works and have some fun doing it. But it is common to avoid these because of the transplanting loss.
Usually, people will start plants that have slower growing roots and/or are cold sensitive. By starting them indoors, there is a time advantage and increases grow time for better yields. Some of these plants would be broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, eggplant, peppers, as well as tomatoes.
Planning the Planting
One of the most important issues when it comes to starting seeds indoors is planning. You need to know what you are going to grow so that you can start it on time. This will be on seed packets or you can find it online. I do like the Burpee Seeds and Plants information online. There are plenty of others, I think that Burpee does a good job with the amount of information they offer as well as the layout.
An important aspect of gardening is knowing the last frost dates. A basic frost date can be found from the Almanac's website, I do believe this is a 50% frost date. And with your frost date and how many weeks prior to the last frost date from the packet and/or online you have the information to get started. Do not worry about being specific, this is a range as is a 50% frost date.
There are multiple things that will be needed to start seeds indoors. A person can make their own germination trays and/or containers to recycle things such as water bottles, soda bottles, cups, etc. This usually takes up some space but it is the cheapest option that I am aware of.
I have started using condiment cups. This is a purchase that allows me to reuse the cups/lids and have them for years to come and have plenty of them. A little paper towel in the bottom to help keep moisture and a very easy way to have a humidity chamber for seeds to germinate.
Another item I use is a tall seed tray with a humidity dome. I have included a link to the specific one I purchased. The reason for this is that I can reuse it for years to come, the plastic is much better quality than the ones I have purchased in the stores by Jiffy, etc. And because they are taller, I do not have to transplant as quickly and the leaves won't hit the top if I decide to keep seedlings in it longer. I have been very impressed with the MIXC trays.
I do use a heating pad under my trays, but I also keep my trays in the basement of a house built in 1891 and it is a bit chilly down there. The mats are simple in my opinion and are nothing much special about them find one that has good reviews.
Grow lights can be important and incandescent lights will not work with all seeds. So depending on what seeds you are going to start you may or may not be able to use simple incandescent lights. I would suggest a 4-foot shop light with a simple grow light from Walmart, Menards, or wherever. This will be around $50.00 or $60.00 on the low end. Keep it simple and continue to learn and that way you don't have a huge learning curve as you step it up to the more expensive grow light options.
I use a cap of 3% hydrogen peroxide in a 12-ounce bottle of water for saturating seeds in some instances in order to kill germs, fungus, and bacteria. I do not use this solution after putting it into the soil, but if soaking seeds overnight or germinating in condiment cups then I do this.
Hydrogen Peroxide is H2O2 and I have read that the extra oxygen molecule helps growth as well as killing germs, fungus, etc. I have not had this be an issue and I know some organic gardeners that use this for root rot and other treatments as well. I have not researched this at all, but it seems to help and I will continue to use this.
Share Your Tips
If you read this and find it helpful, that makes me happy. If you have a tip you would like to share with others, please include it in the comments. Have a great day!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Chris Samhain