Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The time is fast-approaching if you plan on starting seeds indoors.  To be successful in this endeavor, there are a few basic requirements that need to met:  All seeds require soil, moisture, warmth and light.  If your seeds are large, they usually germinate pretty well in your garden soil, but seeds sown in flats, or containers indoors, need a light source, loose soil (a loose soil doesn't play 'host' to fungi that causes seedlings to rot).  To prevent the problem called "DAMPING OFF" make sure that you use a sterile, soilless potting mixture.  When you visit your local nursery or garden area of your local super market, look for a peat-based mix.  These mixes are specifically designed for starting seeds indoors.  They have a mixture of vermiculite, perlite, and sphagnum moss, and they work very well.  I use peat pots--they drain easily, and I can just remove the bottom and peel the sides back a bit, and plant directly in my garden when the time is right in the spring.  You can use Styrofoam or reusable plastic pots as well.  Just make sure you have drainage holes punched in their bottoms.  Make sure that your planting medium is thoroughly moist before you plant your seeds.  Plant the seed to a depth of about three times the diameter of the seed (unless you are planting seeds that need light to germinate--see my post of 8/14/2010).   Keep the moisture in your soilless mix evenly moist--but not water-logged or real damp--This can cause rot.  Cover your containers with plastic wrap while the seeds germinate.  As soon as your seed sprouts, remove the plastic wrap.  This is when you want to make sure you don't water too much.  When your seedlings are 2 inches tall, let your pot dry out completely between waterings.  You'll want to keep the temperature of the soil to around 75 degrees.  So, keep them in a warm place.  I bought a special fluorescent light, which also provided light as well as warmth, but I ended up giving it away, as I didn't have any better luck with it, and I didn't have the room for it inside.  After your seed has germinated temperatures of 65-75 are adequate.  Remember that your new little seedlings will need lots of light.  You'll know if you're plants aren't getting enough light if your seedlings are leggy and pale.  The plants are actually trying to stretch as far as they can toward available light.  Fluorescent lamps are very good for this.  If you use them, 2-4 inches above your plants is where you want to have them.  You'll usually have lots of little seedlings, which you can either thin, or carefully transplant them to individual pots or flats.  Use a pencil to make a hole in your medium.  Never handle the seedling by its stem or true leaves or roots--they are so fragile.  Handle by their seedling leaves, or the first set at the very bottom of the stem.  When they have their first set of true leaves, they can have some fertilizer.  Water-soluble ones are best.  I usually use it at 1/2 strength, and apply it once a week One or two weeks before you want to transplant them outside, take them outside for a few hours a day in a protected area to "Harden them off."  Then, when you've increased their amount of sunlight time each day for a week or so, make sure you transplant on a cloudy, non-windy day.  Water well (but not too much, a common mistake), and provide temporary shade if it gets too hot or sunny.  I have had luck with some seeds more than others.  Trial-and-error have proved to be great educators--and I still experiment with various seeds.  I have also had great success with fall sprinkling of seeds in the garden, over-wintering them.  One thing is sure, whether sprinkled in the fall or started indoors in the winter, there is something very exciting and rewarding seeing those new little seedlings sprout up through the soil and watching them grow! 
Susanne Holland Spicker Mother, Grandmother, Homemaker, Gardener, Teacher, Photographer

Passion is defined as the love of, or the object(s) of affection and emotion. I am passionate about family, friends, flowers, food, photography and fabulous music! This blog is dedicated to those loves.

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