Want to give your garden an early start this year? Try starting some of your seeds indoors. Here is what you will need to get them started.
Starting seeds indoors is easy, and won’t cost you much, but you will need a few items to make your seed starting venture a success.
Besides the items below, you will also need a fairly warm environment without too much temperature fluctuation (although once the seedlings germinate, it’s okay if it is a few degrees cooler at night – this will help start to prepare them for the outdoors).
You will also need to keep them watered evenly. Make sure to avoid over watering, which can cause disease and rot. You should water only when the surface of the soil looks dry.
Here are a few things to have on hand before starting seeds indoors:
Keep heat-loving seedlings warm with a waterproof heat mat that fully accommodates the bottom of your seed tray. Most mats designed for seed-starting, like the 9-by-19½-inch Hydrofarm, will heat a seed tray to about 20 degrees above the ambient temperature. Do not use an electric blanket or regular heating pad, because those can be dangerous when you’re dealing with a setup that requires water.
Cell flats are the vessel of choice for starting seeds indoors. Durable and reusable, the space-efficient trays allow you to fit 100 or more seedlings under a standard 4-foot fluorescent light box. They’re also relatively inexpensive. Start with a five-pack of 50-cell flats…. When it’s time to transplant seedlings that have outgrown the cell flat, move them to biodegradable containers like 4-inch CowPots, which greatly reduce transplant shock and decompose quickly when sunk into the soil in your garden. Cell flats and trays are reusable; be sure to clean them well and then rinse them with distilled white vinegar to sanitize them between uses.
All-purpose potting soil is generally a poor choice for seed starting. Instead, go with a mix tailored to the specific needs of young plants, such as Organic Mechanics Seed Starting Blend, a sustainably sourced mix of coir and rice hulls that retains the right amount of moisture, plus composted pine bark and worm castings for slow-release nutrients that promote healthy seedlings.
Irrigate your freshly sown cell flats with a spray bottle on its finest mist setting until most of the seeds have germinated. Top each tray with a humidity dome to keep the environment hydrated.
You can store seed flats on a ready-made, lighted grow station like the Stack-n-Grow Light System, but these get costly…. For a DIY way to get bigger, buy a 4-foot-wide, four-shelf adjustable wire-frame unit, which can hold eight 20-inch flats. Fit it with 4-foot, two-bulb fluorescent fixtures with S-hooks and chains for adjusting their height ($27), furnish the fixtures with full-spectrum bulbs, and connect them to a good timer for consistent daily light.