by Erica Jones
New to seed starting? Or maybe you didn’t have much luck last season and your seedlings died? Perhaps you’re a gardening pro just making sure you’re doing everything the optimal way.
Growing from seeds often seems too hard for gardeners who are used to starting with starter plants. But the big advantage if you start from seeds is that you have such a better variety of vegetables and herbs to choose from. When you buy starter plants, you’ll rarely find the unique stuff.
Here are five tips that will help you “suc-seed” this gardening season. (Yes, I spelled it wrong on purpose.)
- Choose your seeds wisely. Some vegetables are easier to grow from seeds than others. For example, lettuce, radishes, and beans are quick and simple to start from seeds. But celery, onions and eggplants are sometimes easier to buy as transplants. And don’t forget to check the expiration date on your seed packets. You don’t want to waste your time and money on old or dead seeds.
- Plan your seed starting space carefully. You don’t need a lot of room to start your seeds indoors. But you do need a place that is bright, warm, and safe from pets and kids. You can use a windowsill, a shelf, or a table. Just make sure you have enough space for all your seed trays and pots. And don’t overcrowd them or they will compete for light and air.
- Label everything. Trust me, you won’t remember what you planted where after a few weeks. You may think you can tell the difference between parsley and cilantro by their leaves. But you will be surprised how similar they look when they are young. And you don’t want to end up with a salad full of mint instead of basil. So use markers, tags, or stickers to label each container with the name and date of the seed. You can even use rocks and a Sharpie!
- Water wisely. Watering is one of the most important and tricky parts of seed starting. You want to keep your soil moist but not wet. Too much water can cause mold, fungus, or rotting. Too little water can cause wilting or stunting.
- Harden off gradually. Before you transplant your seedlings into your garden, you need to acclimate them to the outdoor conditions slowly and carefully over 7-10 days. This process is called hardening off. It helps your plants adjust to the changes in temperature, light, wind, and humidity that they didn’t face while they were starting in your safely managed indoor environment. Start by placing them in a sheltered spot for a few hours per day. Then increase the time and exposure each day until they are ready for their final destination.
Take the leap this season and give seeds a try! Even if you lose some, or even all of your seedlings, it will still be early enough to just go back to buying starter plants.
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