Do you start your seeds indoors? I did not start mine indoors the first year I planted a garden, and I felt like I was waiting forever for my seeds to sprout. Now I try to start what I can indoors and transplant them when they are big enough and the weather cooperates. I end up saving money this way too! I used to just plant the seeds directly in the ground and then when they didn’t sprout I would go to the farmers market, buy young plants for a few dollars each, and plant those. You can just imagine how much I probably spent doing this when I could have just started my own. I will still go and buy some plants from the farmer’s market but not nearly as many as I did before I started seeds myself.
How we start our seeds:
There are a lot of ways to start seeds. You can go all out and get a great setup, with lights, a grow mat, fancy trays, and maybe even a drip water system. I however have never done this, mostly because of the cost. I would love to have the ability to afford all the extras to help my seeds grow but I need to be realistic and do what I can. Last year I followed the typical method of seed starting. I had flat trays with inserts and a humidity dome with vents. I used a store-bought seed starting mix, filled my trays, and planted my seeds. I covered the trays with the humidity dome and put the plants in an area that got sun. I would check the daily, venting the domes if the humidity was too high and watering as needed. Soon I saw my plants begin to sprout and grow strong. Once they got big enough I took off the humidity dome and started working on getting them adjusted to the temperatures outside a few hours a time each day. After a few days, I planted them outdoors. Most of my seedlings grew well and produced great results, others not so much but that’s what happens sometimes.
This year I decided to try it a slightly different way. I bought a soil blocker. With this method, you create soil blocks that you plant your seeds in. A friend of mine from Bent Castle Flowers told me about this method and how using soil bocks will make seeds ready for planting sooner, helps against root shock when planted, and prevents the plants from being root-bound. I heard all this and decided why not give it a try! I used my humidity domes and trays I got from the dollar store to hold the blocks. One of my boys and I mixed a homemade blocking mix, and made enough blocks to plant about 100 seeds in less then 10 min! I placed them in a warm room where they will get sun. I don’t have any results for this method yet as I have just started my seeds this weekend but I am hoping to see some nice results.
How to get started:
Now let’s get to the method to the seed starting. First, you need seeds. Once you have those you need to find your frost date in the area you live. When you have your frost date you can then use that information along with the length of time it takes for your plants to sprout to decide what and when to start them indoors. I have a handy guide that I got from another homesteader over at Honest Open Permaculture. This guide is called Clyde’s Garden Planner. This is a great resource for anyone just starting and needing some guidance as to when to plant common crops. The guide does not have every type of plant you may want to grow but it has most of the more common ones that people tend to grow.
Once you have your seeds and an idea of your last frost date you can choose appropriate seeds to start indoors. You will notice recommendations on the back of your seed packets as to when you should plant your seeds. There will be things like, “plant in early spring” or “don’t plant until soil reaches 70 degrees.” I use these and the rate of growth to choose my plants. I will also just experiment with starting some things indoors and getting them out a bit earlier than their plant date just to see what I end up with.
When you have your seeds and have figured out what you want to start you need to decide how you want to start them. You can go complex, get grow lights and mats, set up something complex or you can just see what you have. As I have shown you, you may not need all the complex fancy things to get going if you don’t have the means to obtain them. To start you need to have something to plant your seeds in. You can go and buy containers just for this purpose or reuse something you already have. I have done both. I did seeds last year in the containers I had left from previous years as well as started some elderberry plants in some buckets a coworker gave me. You will also need a good seed starting mix. I have both mixed my own as well as bought some from the local garden store. Lastly, make sure you have a light source, be it the sun or a grow light.
I hope you too get the chance to start some seeds soon as well! Remember you don’t need all the fancy stuff to get them started, a warm room and some sun will give you results. You can always make an upgrade when you have the means, right now just plant something!
Things to Keep in Mind:
- You may fail and get no sprouts. It is okay, try again.
- Depending on the method you use, you may have to thin out your plants as they begin to sprout.
- If you plant in trays you will want to put a few seeds into each section and then thin out as they grow.
- I only put one seed per section of my soil blocks since the area is much smaller. I planted the same amount or more seeds but won’t have to thin out each small section.
- If you use a grow light keep in mind you have to keep an eye on how hot it is making your plants, how far it is from your plants, and if it is using the right part of the light spectrum for the plants you are growing.
- you may or may not need light to sprout your seeds, check your packaging to see if it says.
- try to keep lights within 2 to 3 inches of your seedlings.
- you want your lights on for at least 14 hours a day.
- get a light bulb made for plants, they sell them at hardware stores and they can be added to any light
- check and see if any seedlings do better in certain color lights, if they do you can always try a grow light in that color of the spectrum.
- using a grow light can help prevent your plant from getting leggy.
- Don’t forget to harden off plants before moving them outside (If you are using lights this is the time to stop)