This guest post comes from our contributor FP Naomi.
Spring is here, and the time has come to plant seeds for the season ahead. Like ourselves in winter, we’ll bury the seeds beneath the soil where they’ll find warmth. In that cozy nest they’ll germinate, and before long they will force their little heads above the soil’s surface, bursting with energy. Given a little care and love they will grow into mouthwatering vegetables, fragrant herbs, or vibrant flowers. Today, I am going to share some tips to use along the way ensuring that they get there!
To get started, you want seed starting soil. Seed starting soil is usually very fine and it holds moisture well. The bag of soil will say right on it that it’s for seed starting.
The kind of seeds you buy really depends on personal preference. I like to buy heirloom seeds which means that they are age old strands unaltered by man. Hybrid seeds are new strains made with science, but they should not be confused with GMO. I’ve never seen GMO seeds myself, but I’m sure can also buy them on the market if you wish.
Be sure to note that old seeds will go bad. You can test them to see if they’re good by wrapping a few in a wet towel and putting it in a plastic bag for a few days. If the seeds sprout, they are still good, but if they do not, they are better off for the garbage.
In my seed starting I use a mixture of new cell inserts (like this) and reused containers from plants I bought the previous season. I line them up inside of a tray that I use as a watering system. Really, anything with a few holes on the bottom and a bit of space will do to plant your seeds.
Every package of seeds comes with short instructions on how to plant. I find this most helpful when you need to know how deeply a seed must be sewn. Keeping that depth in mind, fill your containers with soil, and tamp it down with your fingers. Once you have it filled up, poke holes with your finger that are the desired depth. Place the seeds in the hole, and cover well with soil. At this point I always label with the plant name and date, so that I know what is planted where.
A good rule of thumb when planting seeds is to always plant more than you plan on having in the garden. You’ll want to weed out the weaker plants, and pick the stronger ones to transplant. If they all look good and you can’t bear to throw a little guy in the compost bin, get another container and plant him somewhere!
The first thing that seeds need to germinate is warmth. You’ll want to plant your seeds in an enclosed space. It’s important to realize that the soil is what needs to be warm, not necessarily the air. A good place to start your seeds is actually on top of the refrigerator. It warms up the soil to the right temperature, and then once you start to see sprouts peeking up, you can move the starter someplace else that gets good light.
If you’re starting seeds indoors, it really helps to hang a light directly overhead. If you place them in front of a window they will grow slanted in the direction towards the light. Also, if your light source is too far away from the plants, they will grow tall and skinny which is not ideal. In my current setup we have a shop light hanging about one foot above the seed starts. When you buy the tube bulbs for a shop light you can chose from several kinds (warm, cool, etc.). Buy the ones that say “garden” on them. They will deliver a light that mimics natural sunlight and gives your plants what they need to grow.
Just like any other plant, your seeds need a good supply of water. I find it easiest to fill the bottom tray with a good few inches, so that I only need to remember about once a week. The plants and soil will draw the moisture in through the bottom, just as they would in nature.
Once your starts begin growing extra leaves, you can give them a dose of fertilizer. Check out your local garden store, and find an organic kind. I use a fish and seaweed fertilizer that delivers a good dose of nitrogen and phosphate, two nutrients that plants love. Chard, lettuces, onions, and tomatoes particularly love nitrogen, and should get a good amount of it in their young life.
When your starts are ready to plant outside, you never want to just stick them out there. The change in temperature will be too big of a shock. First, when your seeds start getting a bit bigger, put a fan on them. Then, as the days get warmer, stick them out in a sunny spot for a couple of hours a day, then maybe half a day, and finally a whole day, bringing them in at night. Once your plants have experienced about a week of daytime outside, they are ready to transplant.
Throughout the Season
To always keep plants rotating in your garden, you can keep starting seeds all season long. I recently attended a workshop at my local Greensgrow Farm where there farmer shared his personal chart for what to plant & transplant when. I found it really helpful and will be putting the schedule into practice this season myself. I wanted to spread the generosity, and share with you all as well. I hope you find it helpful. Happy growing!
Check out Naomi’s blog Numie Abbot.