Save money and extend your growing season by starting seeds indoors! Here are a few tips to get you started…
Starting seeds indoors is a great way to extend your gardening budget and your growing season. However, starting organic vegetables from seed can be a bit tricky for many novice gardeners. Fortunately, the seven simple steps outlined below will help to simplify this process for you and get you started off on the right foot for a great garden season!
Here are 7 Simple Steps to Start Organic Vegetable Seeds Indoors:
Step #1: Create a list of everything you want to grow.
Start by jotting down anything and everything you think you’d like to grow this season. This is the time to do a little daydreaming, so don’t worry too much about practicality or limitations at this point. Once you have your “dream garden” list, go back and narrow your list down based on how much space, time, and budget you can devote to your organic vegetable garden this year.
Gardening Tip: Part of the joy of gardening is learning and trying new things! If at all possible, try to add at least one new variety or type of plant each growing season. It will broaden your garden horizons and give you valuable experience that will benefit you in your future gardening endeavors, even if that particular crop doesn’t work out this year.
Step #2: Assemble seed packets and other supplies.
Once you have a list of what you want to grow, it’s time to start collecting everything you need to get started. In addition to seeds, you’ll also need seed trays or other planting containers, seed starter mix, plant labels, tweezers, and a spray bottle with a mist setting to water your newly planted seeds. Gathering everything in one place before you get started means you won’t need to make any last-minute trips to the store after you begin.
Gardening Tip: Prepare your plant labels now. Many baby plants tend to look alike and you don’t want to have trays of unnamed seedlings all over the place. Trust me, labeling your plants as you go will save you a lot of grief later.
Step #3: Disinfect containers.
If you reuse containers for your seedlings from one year to the next, make sure you disinfect them at the start of each season. A good soak in a solution of one part 3% hydrogen peroxide combined with nine parts water will do the trick.
Gardening Tip: Food-grade hydrogen peroxide comes in a 35% solution, while the inexpensive type at most drug stores that is used in most household applications is 3%. If using food grade, dilute it down to 3% first (roughly 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 11 parts water), then combine with water as noted above.
Step #4: Provide adequate drainage.
Excess water in your potting containers can cause tender young roots to rot, so be sure to add drainage holes to your containers before planting, if necessary.
Gardening Tip: Watering from the bottom by placing your seed trays or pots in trays or pans of water can be a great way to water your babies without disturbing tender seedlings. Just make sure to remove them once the moisture reaches the surface, so they aren’t sitting in water for any longer than necessary.
Step #5: Read each plant seed packet carefully.
Seed packets usually provide detailed planting instructions for each type of seed. For example, some seeds need to be soaked in water overnight before planting, while others need to be just barely covered with growing medium to germinate. (See some helpful germination tips here.) The packaging should also indicate how far in advance you’ll need to start each type of plant, and how much water and light the seedlings need. If your seeds came from another gardener, a simple online search can give you the instructions you need.
Gardening Tip: Choose the right planting dates for your area. Four to six weeks before the last frost in your area is a good rule of thumb for most garden plants. This is enough time to ensure your plants reach an optimal size before they are transplanted outside.
If you aren’t sure what the best time is for your area, use this helpful interactive planting calendar: https://gilmour.com/planting-calendar
Step #6: Provide enough water… but not too much.
Tiny seedlings dry out quickly, so make sure you water them frequently. However, over-watering can disturb the soil and/or lead to root rot. For best results, use a mist sprayer to gently water your tender young plants without drowning them – or water from the bottom as described in Step 4 above.
Step #7: Harden off your plants before transplanting them outdoors.
Young plants grown indoors need time to adjust to being outside. A week or so before it’s time to transplant your seedlings into your garden, gradually introduce them to their new environment. Start with a few hours outdoors in a protected area and gradually increase the time they are outside each day until they become strong enough to survive a permanent move outdoors.
Although it does take a bit of know-how to start organic vegetable seeds indoors, these seven simple steps will make your job much easier.