Starting Seeds for Your Garden Indoors
In much of the United States, the only way to take advantage of a
full growing season is to start your plants from seeds indoors. In
areas where the last frost can be as late as the end of May, and the
first as early as the beginning of October, the abbreviated growing
season can mean a short garden season and a severe limitation on
plants and flowers that would otherwise flourish. One solution is to
choose only native plants for your garden. A more workable solution
is to cover your kitchen table with newspaper one day in March, pull
out the potting soil, seeds and pots, and give your garden an early
jump on the season.
What You Need to Start Plants Indoors
Your best option is a room with south-facing windows that get direct
sun at least 6-8 hours a day but not having one is no excuse.
Grow lights are fairly inexpensive and very easy to set up. Just be
sure theres enough space for you to move around and water the plants.
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Equipment and Supplies
You can buy commercial flats at any department or home
supply store for under $5. Theyre flat trays with
individual compartments each meant to hold one seedling. An
alternative that works quite well are cardboard egg cartons.
Theyre biodegradable, provide drainage and can easily be cut
apart when its time to transplant your seedlings outside.
Purchased potting soil is a good growing medium, but if you want to
really give your plants a great start, you can mix up a batch of
potting soil with compost and peat moss, or leave the soil out
entirely and grow in peat moss, vermiculite and compost. Or you can
do as my grandmother did if youve thought ahead. At the end of
each growing season, she dug up several buckets full of rich soil
from the garden and baked it in a 300 degree oven for a couple of
hours to sterilize it. In spring, she brought it out to use as
potting soil for her new seedlings.
Seeds of course! Basil, tomatoes, carrots, asters,
marigolds, nasturtiums, petunias and pansies are all good candidates
for starting indoors, but you can choose any garden plant that can be
started from seed.
When to Plant
Most garden plants can be started indoors about six weeks before the
anticipated last frost. In most northern states, thats
mid-March. You can transplant the seedlings outside when theyve
reached 4-6 in height, after the last frost.
Nanas Seed Starting Method
Loosely fill each egg cup with enough garden soil to just below the
top. Do not pack down! Use your index finger to poke a hole about an
inch into the soil. Drop seeds into the hole. For large seeds like
beans, use ONE seed per cup. For tinier seeds, sprinkle a pinch into
the hole. Lightly cover the seed by raking soil over it with your
fingertips. Move trays to a sunny window (or beneath grow lights).
Water well but dont over-soak. Loosely cover each egg
tray with a sheet of clear plastic wrap. Now LEAVE THEM ALONE. Check
daily for signs of moisture, and when you dont see any, lift
the plastic wrap and mist well with a mister, then recover. You can
remove the wrap when seedlings have two leaves, or are touching the
plastic. When the seedlings are 1-2 inches tall, its time to
thin them. In any container that holds more than two seedlings, pluck
out all but the hardiest so that theyll have the best chance at
setting root and growing. Water and mist frequently until the danger
of frost is past, then transplant to your garden outside.