Starting Seeds Indoors: Extend Your Growing Season and Save Money

Starting seeds indoors is the smart way to get an early harvest from your gardening when you plant seedlings for flowers, herbs, and root vegetables. It is very rewarding to watch seeds sprout and grow while saving money on groceries.

When starting seeds indoors always use good quality seeds that are noted as being resistant to pests and disease. Use a soilless starter mix which is a  special lightweight sterilized growing medium that contains a blend of sphagnum peat, horticultural vermiculite, perlite, and lime.

These ingredients retain moisture and provide aeration and room for the tender roots to germinate and grow. Unlike regular soil that packs down and most likely have weeds, mites, and other insects, this is the best medium for growing healthy young seedlings.

You must follow the instructions given on the seed package to plant properly, as the depth of planting seeds may vary from one type to another.   Moreover, pre-treatment may be necessary for quicker and a more balanced germination.  While some seeds can go straight into the growing medium, certain seeds need to be soaked for a few hours before planting.  Use at least 3 seeds per container, since not all seeds will germinate; you can thin out the extra ones later.

How to Sow Seeds Indoors

1.  Pour soilless mix into a large container and moisten with warm water and mix thoroughly. Then pour the starter mix into flats or pots to a depth of 2 inches (make sure the flats and pots have drainage holes in them).

2.  Take the blunt end of a pencil and make slight depressions in the mix two inches apart and sow at least 3 seeds to each depression,
to ensure germination.

3.  Cover the seeds lightly with the potting mix and spray the surface with water to moisten the seeds and cover flats or pots with a plastic as this will create a greenhouse effect to retain essential moisture for sprouting.   

4.  Remove the plastic when the first sign of life appear and make sure the plastic does not touch the newly formed sprouts.  

Tips for Starting Seeds Indoors

Temperature:  Keep in a warm area with good air circulation to prevent mold and keep the temperature around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit as this will make seeds sprout much sooner.  A heating mat designed for germinating seeds is ideal for this.

Light:  Expose the flats or pots to light after the seeds have sprouted.  They will need between 12-18 hours of light each day in order to grow strong stocky stems. The best way to provide regular, doses of light is place them on a brightly lit windowsill or you can use fluorescent or high-intensity plant lights with an automatic timer.  Make sure the lights are 2-3 inches above the top of the seedlings.  As the plants grow taller, adjust the height of the lights.

Fertilizer:  Feed seedlings with half-strength solution three weeks after the leaves appear.

Transplant: Move seedlings to larger pots when the roots grow out the bottom of the pot.  If planting outdoors, gradually increase the daily exposure to low temperatures (50 degrees) over a two week period.  You can transplant outdoors when all dangers of frost is past.