It’s easy to buy your transplants from the garden center each season, but there are lots of reasons to sprout your own seeds at home. It will save a substantial amount of money, you’ll have access to a wider range of plant varieties, and you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing a plant through its full life cycle. But if you’re a new seed sprouter. It’s really quite simple once you understand the basics. So if you’re ready to get sprouting, here are the basic steps to follow.
In this video, Balcony Gardener, an urban organic gardener in Texas–shares his top seed starting hacks.
Selecting A Seed Starting Container
Seed-starting kits with growing trays are a great choice for those who are new to seed sprouting — they have everything you need to get going. You can theoretically use any container that will hold your growing medium as long as it is clean and sterilized. Reuse last old cell pack from your annuals and nursery containers, repurpose solo cups, or any other small container that is no larger than 3-4” across and has adequate drainage.
Adding An Organic Growing Medium
Use a bagged seed-starting mix such as our Root Zone Seed Starting Mix, compressed peat pellets, coir or regular potting soil. Soil from your garden will be much too heavy for seeds to germinate (sprout) and grow. No additional fertilizer is needed, though, as seeds already contain the nutrients your new seedlings will require.
Gather Your Seeds for Sprouting
Use a seed catalog, visit your local nursery, or shop online to ensure that you have all the seeds you’ll need for the season. Once you have acquired all your desired seeds take note of their planting requirements and germination, as well as the maturity period. This information will help you when it comes time to plant and harvest your fruits, veggies, and flowers.
To figure out the ideal planting date, examine the days until maturity on the back of the seed packet and count backward from the time you want to harvest the crop. Be sure to take note of any upcoming frosts or freezes, as this may impact when you can transplant your seedlings outdoors.
Provide Starts With Adequate Light
Move growing trays to a bright window with indirect light with a lamp nearby as they grow. For many plants, this is adequate, but if you lack proper light you’ll want to consider purchasing some grow lights. Special light kits are available, but you can also use T-8 or T-12 fluorescent lightbulbs from the home improvement store and hang them 3-4” above your seedlings. Regular incandescent lightbulbs will not work, however, as the resulting heat is too intense and will damage your plants. Use a heat mat.
Check your seedlings daily and add water from the bottom. This is easy if you are using seed starting trays, and some even have a self-watering reservoir. Whichever system you use, follow the directions for how much water to add daily.
Harden Off Slowly
“Hardening off” is the process of introducing your new seedlings to the outdoors in a very slow manner. Wait until all danger of frost has passed, then take your seedlings outdoors for a few hours one day, then a little longer the next day, and so on. Bring them in at night when the temps get a little cooler, but by the end of the week, they should be acclimated to their life outside.