Everything You Need To Know About Seeds – Part 3
Feb 14th, 2012 by thehomevegetablegardener
In this installment of the Everything You Need To Know About Seeds series, we will discuss some of the equipment needed to successfully start your seedlings on their way to a bountiful harvest. If you live in a mild climate, like I do in Georgia, the time to start your seeds off is only 4-5 weeks away. In order to be prepared, you should review your current inventory of seeds and planting medium (aka soil) now as well the types of containers you will use for your new seedlings. For me, I like to spend the early days of the new year reviewing some of my favorite seed catalogs for the new varieties that I want to plant this coming season. I love tomatoes so this means I have to weed through (no pun intended) all of the new hybrids as well as the just released heirlooms for a new variety or two to try out this year.
Let’s get started!
Not all of your seeds will need to be started this early. You should always read the seed packets to get the earliest date you can plant in the garden and then back that date up a few weeks in order to give your plants the best chance for survival after planting in the garden. Some plants like tomatoes and peppers benefit from starting early because they need a longer time to become fully mature. Some cool weather crops such as lettuce and spinach benefit from being started early if you have a short cool weather growing season in early Spring.
Materials Needed to get started
Seeds – this is a no-brainer
Seed Starter mix – refer back to Everything You Need To Know About Seeds – Part 2
Containers – There are numerous types of containers that can be used to start seeds so go with what you know. Some people save their egg cartons (remember to poke a couple small holes in the bottom of each cell to promote drainage), while others save coffee cans, yogurt cups or wax-coated paper cups. If you are on a tight budget, recycling these types of containers will save you money in the long run. I encourage everyone to recycle. You could also run down to the local home improvement store and buy the 6 or 12 cell pack or the peat pots that look like large coins which swell up in water.
Labels – if you don’t label your seedlings, how can you know which variety was planted, hrrrmmmmm. I would suggest you go to your local hobby store and grab a bag of Popsicle sticks because they are cheap and there are a lot in a bag. They can be reused if you take good care of them and since they are made of wood, they will eventually decompose in the garden or compost pile if you forget about them. The plastic labels can also be used but they typically don’t last long when exposed to the sun.
Heat and Light – a warm room is usually enough to help your seedlings to sprout but if you can spare the money I would suggest you purchase a couple heat mats specifically for starting seeds. Light is also very important but it’s not needed until the plants actually sprout. ”Grow” lights are good but you can get buy with some simple fluorescent lights that are much cheaper than the “grow” lights. I would suggest you rig up the lights on some type of chain hanger over the plants so you can raise and lower them as the plants grow.
Water – fertilizer is not needed to make the seeds sprout but water is definitely needed. After the seedlings show their first “true” leaves, I would recommend a good 10-10-10 fertilizer diluted by half to feed your seedlings until they are ready for the garden.
Feel free to experiment with different soil mediums and containers until you are happy with the results. This is just a basic guideline for most gardeners. Try something new this year and be sure to record your results in a garden journal so you can refer back to it later.
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