How to Start Vegetable Seeds Indoors
When I talk to people about preparing for emergencies and getting food in times when food is scarce, people will often say, "If I have to, I'll dig up some lawn and plant a garden." That's a great idea, but it will be a serious challenge to actually grow food if you've never done it before. The time to practice growing food is long before you need it.
I've grown a garden for years, and every year something I try to grow doesn't grow like it should. I always say the same thing..."I'm sure glad my family won't go hungry because this didn't work out!"
Gardening requires some supplies, but it mainly requires knowledge and practice. This year I challenge you to GROW SOMETHING! Grow a pot of herbs in your window, plant lettuce as an edging in a flower garden, or get a planter and grow a tomato plant on your porch. Just grow something.
Most garden seeds can be planted directly in the soil. Some are planted early in the season, as soon as the soil can be worked. Others need to wait until the soil has warmed up and there is no chance of frost. A few plants don't have long enough to grow from seed in the garden and need to be started indoors before planting, or purchased from a plant nursery.
In this video I talk about starting seeds in doors and show some supplies and techniques. Enjoy watching or keep reading for the info you will need.
Here is a planting schedule for vegetable plants from commonsensehome.com
* Best as transplants
We are long before last frost right now on March 1st, so I am thinking about only the hardiest of vegetable seeds, and starting to plant seeds indoors for transplants. In May I'll give you more info about general gardening, but this month I want to focus on starting seeds indoors for transplants.
Why would you want to do this?
- To get a jump on gardening for the year.
- To start the plants that won't grow from seed in the garden.
- To save money. Vegetable plants are expensive to buy, inexpensive to grow.
- To grow healthy plants. Often plants you grow on your own are hardier than ones in the nursery.
- To get a wider variety of plants to choose from. There is a rainbow of choices in the seed catalogs and a few in the nurseries. My favorite catalog is Baker Creek Seeds.
What do you need to get started?
- Seeds - my favorite catalogs are Baker Creek Seeds and Johnny's Select Seeds.
- Seed starting soil mix. This should be light but hold water. You can buy seed starting mix or can make your own. Don't use regular garden soil if you have another option. If you’d like to make your own potting mix for starting seeds indoors, try a mix of one third each: soil or compost, sand, vermiculite or perlite, peat moss.
- A container to plant in. My favorite are old 6 cell packs that I purchased plants in from the nursery. Or you can buy the cell packs online and reuse them each year.
- Light. Your seeds will need 16-18 hours of light each day! Turn off your lights for 6-8 hours at night to let your plants rest. Use an automated timer attached to the plug to make this easier. The best lights to use are fluorescent or LED lights, about 3-4 inches above the plants.
- The right temperature. Most seeds need some extra warmth to germinate, so place them in a warm place, or purchase a seed starting heat mat. After they have germinated (sprouted) they like to be closer to 60-70 degrees. Don't keep it too warm or your plants will get leggy and grown spindly instead of stocky and strong.
- Covers for your containers. If you cover your trays or containers with plastic wrap or clear plastic tray covers until the seeds sprout, it will trap the moisture and acts like a tiny greenhouse. Once they sprout, remove the cover for air flow.
- Enough water. The water should be damp but not wet. I like to water from below the plants and let the roots soak up the water as they need it. Make sure your containers have drainage holes in the bottom.
- Food. After the seedlings have two leaves you can begin to fertilize. My favorite is a liquid seaweed fertilizer. It is gentle, a little stinky, but the plants love it. Keep the fertilizer very minimal.
- Thinning. This is my least favorite part of growing transplants! When there are 2-3 leaves you need to trim off all but the strongest plant in each cell. You need to plant more than one seed in each cell because not every seed will germinate, but you can't let all of them live, or none of the plants will be strong. Rather than pulling them out and accidentally pulling out the one you want as well, I pinch the plant off at the soil level.
- Hardening off. When you are ready to plant your transplants, you need to set them outside in a protected area for 3-5 days before you plant them in the garden. This toughens them up for outdoor living.