SEED STARTING GUIDE FOR NEW GARDENERS
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Starting seeds can seem overwhelming in the beginning. Luckily, with a few tips and tricks, you will be well on your way to confidently starting your own seeds in no time!
What Do You Need To Start Seeds Indoors?
- Sterilized Potting soil
- Heating pad (optional)
- Grow lights (optional)
- Fresh seeds
- A spout for gentle watering
- Plant cells (or empty to-go coffee cups, styrofoam cups, etc.)
- Plant tray
Here are the top tips for starting seeds indoors:
Don’t Be Afraid
Don’t be afraid to start! Just dive in and get going!
Buy Fresh Seeds
Buy fresh new seed to start with. You’ll have the best chance then of the seeds growing. Germination rates can decrease with age.
RELATED: How To Start Basil From Seed
New seeds and seedlings need water. But not too much and not too little.
Like Goldilocks, the water amount needs to be ‘just right’. How do you know what is the right amount?
For newly seeded items the soil surface needs to stay moist until the seeds germinate.
I will lightly water with this water bottle spout system pretty much every day until the plants start coming up. For little new seedlings, they need to have moisture at their root zone, closer to the bottom of the container.
It doesn’t matter if the soil surface gets dry, in fact that is better to prevent mold from growing.
Use A Heating Pad
If you are using a heating pad, take the new little seedlings off of heat pads after enough of them have germinated. A heating pad isn’t totally necessary but it will speed up your germination time. (Sometimes they come up in as little as 4-5 days!)
You can get them for under $15 from here.
They like the heat to get growing but once that starts then the roots do not like to get too hot.
Grow Lights Are Helpful (but not necessary)
If you don’t have grow lights or can’t afford them just yet, no need to worry!
Start your plants in the brightest window of your dwelling. South is the best if you have that.
If not, other windows will work too. The seedlings just might not grow as fast. I did that for many years before I could afford some grow lights.
If you do want to use grow lights, these ones clip onto a table and have high ratings on Amazon!
These grow lights are a bit more expensive but they’re adjustable and have a switch for Veg and Bloom settings.
Check your seeded pots daily. It’s exciting to see the plants emerging! And of course you maintain their water needs properly on a daily basis as well.
RELATED: 8 Tips For Brand New Gardeners
Use Fertilizer At The Right Time
When you start to see the first true leaves emerging (not the first 2 big ones that often look like just blobs, but the ones that will look like the actual leaf of the plant) then start fertilizing.
For myself, I actually mix a very small amount of Miracle Grow 20-20-20 into my regular water can.
I do 1/2 of a teaspoon into a gallon of water. And I use that to do my regular watering. Many sources say to fertilize once a week (a bit weak for the first 2 weeks but then full strength).
For myself I found that I was forgetting when I did that. So I came up with this way instead.
Giving my plants/seedlings a constant low dose of fertilizer. It works really well for me.
You will know if you do too much (leaves start to get brown) or too little (plant starts to look weak).
Use A Fan To Strengthen The Stems
When the plants are up and growing, put a fan on light speed a foot or two away and let it run across the plants.
For perhaps an hour a day. It simulates the wind they will experience once you have them planted in your garden and strengthens their stems.
Keep records for yourself.
Record what type of seed you used, date when you planted, the date it actually emerged and note any problems/issues/successes with each one.
This gives you a base record for subsequent years. You can look back on this and use it as a reminder of when to plant, what seed was good and what seed you should just discard.
If you go further and keep some even minimal records over the growing season, you will know what worked out in your garden and then what to change for future years.
For example, I keep some general records of yields for vegetables and herbs.
This way I know how much to plant in the coming year.
Don’t Be Discouraged
Don’t be discouraged if something you seed doesn’t grow. Just try to learn from the experience.
For example, I’ve had the surface of snapdragons dry out and the seeds did not germinate (they require light to germinate and they were not covered with soil).
So I just replanted them in the same containers and tried again. And it worked!
When Should You Start Seeds?
Most seeds should be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost.
More Gardening Articles:
- Start Basil From Seed (step by step instructions)
- Gardening For Absolute Beginners (tips from a master gardener!)
TIPS FOR STARTING SEEDS INDOORS