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Seed Starting Tips

Seed starting is on my brain because February is when I start here in zone 7a. I have a practical approach to seed starting and a schedule based on our last frost date. With this warmer-than-usual winter, I maybe should throw the spreadsheet out the window. For now, I'm staying the course and want to share some of my ideas.


Use Quality Seeds


Buy fresh seeds or use seeds collected from the prior season that were stored well. Some of my preferred vendors are: Redemption Seeds, Johnny's Selected Seeds, and Osborne Quality Seeds.


Check Seed Packets In Advance


Seeds have different germination requirements. Some, like Bells of Ireland, prefer a couple of weeks in the fridge before planting. This one is a definite do as I say, not as I do, because, honestly, my first sowing of Bells missed the refrigerator time again this year! Others may need a heat mat, while some like constant lower temperatures.

WARNING: you may find yourself spreading seedling containers throughout the house where the conditions are best, even including closets.


Follow Planting Instructions On The Packet


Before growing a larger number of seedlings, most of what I planted went into the soil and came up in a week or two. As I expanded to more varieties, I learned many require light to germinate and shouldn't be covered.


Soil Matters


Use a quality seed starting mix if starting indoors and test the soil in your beds to ensure proper balance. Amend with quality compost and amendments that increase organic matter. The contents of the soil feed your plants. The better they're fed, the more they'll thrive. I've been impressed by the Black Gold potting and seedling mixes for both seed starting and potting larger plants in containers.


Container Drainage


Indoor containers and flats should allow water to drain, and they shouldn't have significant standing water. Poor drainage can allow unwanted growth in or on the soil.


Fancy Containers And Flats Not Needed


While having a uniform size can make seeding faster on a large scale, small scale doesn't have to be seedling-specific products. I've recycled plastic takeout containers and Solo cups. Punch a few drainage holes in the bottom and use a sandwich bag to cover the top. I did this for years and reused them each spring to start veggies and herbs.


Specialty Lights Not Needed


Seedlings that I start indoors spend a few weeks under the lights, then are hardened off outdoors. I invested in 5' LED shop lights that were $15 instead of grow lights that were significantly more expensive. They don't cover the entire light spectrum in a balanced way that grow lights do, but they work for short-term use.


Make A List


Aside from my schedule spreadsheet, I keep a simple list of planting instructions. I've added to it each year as I try new varieties. This saves me time when planting seeds. Sometimes the details aren't on the packet, maybe instructions aren't legible because the packet got wet or dirty (possibly from being forgotten outside after planting), or packets have different layouts so I'm searching for info that's in a unique place on each.


Use What Works For You


When I first started surfing the web for how-to advice, I would get stuck on using the same products I saw on those sites. Or thinking I have to do this the perfect way instead of a more practical option. Next thing you know, I was making a list to convince Lynn why I needed the gigantic super duper (insert product here) when I was growing enough to require the itsy bitsy teensy weensy version.




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