Guide to Growing Plants from Seed

Starting flowers and vegetables from seeds is a great activity, especially if you can’t wait any longer to get your hands dirty before spring. This is an inexpensive project, a lot of fun for the whole family, and seed varieties from multiple sources far beyond what you can find on the spot.

It usually takes six to eight weeks for plants to start with seeds to be ready for planting outdoors. When planting seeds indoors, you have better environmental control and can time your plantings to make sure they are not exposed to freezing conditions that would finish the tender seedlings.

Seed husks can be purchased, but common household items are just as effective as small cups or bowls. I like plastic containers that can be taken to the supermarket or to a restaurant. They have a clear plastic lid, perfect for watching your progress and keeping moisture in.

For planting, use a “bottomless” seed mixture. You can make your own or buy ready-made products in any garden center. These mixtures are light and sterile. They usually consist of a combination of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. Avoid using garden soil. It is too heavy for tender seedlings, and the soil contains pathogens that can finish your plants.

If you are sowing seeds, pre-moisten the mixture so that the seeds are not disturbed by water after planting. It should be the moisture of a damp sponge. Provided that the container or tray remains covered, the mixture should contain all the moisture that the seeds need to germinate. However, not all seeds have the same germination requirements, so it is better to read the instructions on the seed pack or elsewhere for specific details.

Next, cover the bowls with a plastic lid that allows light to pass through, but retains moisture. Plastic bags work well. With sufficient humidity, condensation develops in this tent or blanket.

Additional lighting is important for the best growth. A simple store lighting consisting of two 40-watt fluorescent lamps is perfect and very inexpensive. Place your tray or containers under the lights and place them directly above the container lid. The lights should stay on for about 16 hours each day.

Keep an eye on the seeds every day. As soon as you notice that they are growing, remove the lid. Too much trapped moisture can cause plants to rot. If you place a small fan nearby to allow air to move above the ground, the new seedlings will remain free of ailments.

Finally, add water as needed to keep the soil moist but not damp. After the cover is removed, the soil tends to dry out faster. Be sure to continue to raise your light and keep it within one or two centimeters of the ends of your shoots. In about six weeks, the seedlings will be ready to move to the garden.

Starting seeds indoors is just another element of gardening that is addictive and is a great activity when there is not much else in the garden. As a bonus, your plants will reward you with months of bright colors, fresh products, and the satisfaction of knowing that they have participated.

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