My mind turns to starting seeds whenever the first week of February rolls around. When it does, I always have two simultaneous yet contrasting thoughts: Meh, it’s too early to start seeds, and OMG, I’m not prepared! What do I do with these conflicting thoughts? I take a few moments to consider the “before” of my annual seed-starting ritual.
From years of experience starting seeds in my home for my spring vegetable garden I have found that it’s just as important to prepare beforehand as it is to perform the actual task of planting seeds. Scrambling for materials and jimmying solutions to problems can lead to a lot of wasted time, energy and money. Not a good way to start the gardening season! Let’s walk through a few of these prior-to-sowing considerations and get the spring season off on the right foot.
Consider Your Garden Space
We turn to seeds because we consider them to be more cost-effective than buying seedlings. What happens to me, though, is I buy and plant way more seeds than my garden space can handle when all of those seedlings mature. Seed packets typically have spacing suggestions for when the seedlings are ready to plant out in the garden. This will help you determine how many seeds to plant. Jotting down a quick wish list of crops and then sketching a rough garden plan will help you be more planful of how many seeds you should plant.
Consider Your Indoor Seed Starting Space
Where will you grow your seeds? Will you be growing on a windowsill? Do you have space in a corner to set up a shelf (or two!) with a grow lamp? Is the space somewhat warm or are your windows letting in a growth-slowing draft? Will you have enough space to grow them all inside as small plants before they head outside?
You can save some room by planting only seeds that need to be started before the last frost date, such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Crops like squash and bean seeds can wait until the ground is warm enough so you can directly sow seeds into your soil, saving you a ton of growing space indoors.
Assemble Your Materials for Starting Seeds
You can start your seeds in any sort of container you have—old yogurt cups, cleaned pots you kept from last year or even seed-starting trays specially made for the purpose (Fertil US makes a terrific wood fiber biodegradable version). Whatever you use, your container must have drainage holes to allow excess moisture to drain. Soggy, soaking seeds? No bueno. And it’s certainly helpful to have a saucer or tray to catch any drips coming out of those drainage holes, too.
By the way, if you are reusing plastic pots, be sure to wash them to remove old soil and debris, and sanitize by soaking in a 10% bleach solution (hydrogen peroxide works, too) and rinse thoroughly.
2 Seed-starting mix
Fill your containers with a soilless mix specially formulated for providing an optimal germinating environment for seeds. These mixes, such as Organic Mechanics’ Seed Starting Blend, contain a combination of organic materials that holds enough moisture to create a germination-friendly environment while also ensuring it drains adequately. The Seed Starting Blend from Organic Mechanics is also “pre-charged” with a certified organic fertilizer that will power your emerging seedlings for up to four weeks.
Seed-starting wouldn’t happen without the seeds! The information included on the seed packet itself is invaluable, so do keep it well after the seeds are planted. In most cases the packet will explain how deep to plant the seeds, when you should sow seeds indoors so the seedlings are ready to plant after your area’s last frost date and when you can expect the seeds to begin germinating.
There you have it—a plan for your future garden, an assessment of your indoor growing space and an idea of the materials you’ll need. Go on and open those seed catalogs (we love Hudson Valley Seed!) or shop your local plant store’s seed stands and get your garden season off to a confident start.