5 Seed Starting Tips

If you've gone to a garden center and spent $20 bazillion dollars on plant starts, you'll quickly understand the value of starting your own. If 2020 taught us anything, it's that nothing is certain anymore. I know that's a super depressing thought, but the reality is some of us couldn't even find toilet paper last year. Seed companies had their highest sales ever last year because all of these people became interested in growing their own food. You will save hundreds and maybe even thousands of dollars growing food from seed instead of buying plant starts. However, I know it can be overwhelming to get started. Below are 5 tips for starting your own seeds. It's not as scary as you think! 

1. Utilize whatever you have. Obviously you aren't going to have everything you need to start seeds as you'll have to get a growing medium like sterile soil or coconut coir. But, seeds can be started in a lot of different containers. You can use old yogurt cups and poke holes in the bottom or solo cups with holes poked in them. Basically any container you'd like to reuse that can have holes poked or drilled into the bottom will work. You can even make your own newspaper pots like we did here.

2. Read the seed packet. Most seed packets have tons of information on it specific to whatever seed you have. Every now and then I'll get a seed packet that I've ordered online that won't have any information on it, but that is pretty rare. You should be able to find things like how early you should start your seeds inside, or if you should really just plant them outside. If a seed needs light to germinate, it will say that. Same with darkness. If it doesn't specify, chances are the seed needs to be covered. Your seed packet will also tell you when to move seedlings outside, how far to space plants, and maybe even what the plant should look like. But if there is any crucial information about the specific plant you are growing, you will find it on the seed packet. If you have doubts about any of these things or your seed packets doesn't list something you have a question, head to the internet! First start out checking the seed company's website for your seed type, but if you can't find what you need there, take it to google.

3. Dampen your soil before starting. You always want to start with well hydrated soil. Once your seeds are planted, you aren't going to want to pour a bunch of water on top as the seeds can dislodge and float higher or sink deeper into the soil. If a seed is too far down, it will not be able to germinate properly. (Depending on what seed it is, of course.) You want your soil to hold together when you squeeze it in your hand, but at the same time not drip any water out when you squeeze it. My favorite method is putting my soil in a 5 gallon bucket and then spraying water on top and working it in with a trowel. You can also use your hands!

4. Lighting is key! Once you've planted your seeds, you have to have a light source. We use these lights. You don't need to buy lights that are specifically grow lights. They are much more expensive. We had great success with our LED lights. Lighting is so important for the success of your seedlings. If you have a room with a sky light, you could possibly put your seeds right under that window (I'm talking 2" away from), but for the most part, windows are not enough. This is because all seedlings will start growing toward the light and become really leggy. They just will not grow straight up. Leggy seedlings are no bueno!

5. Don't start them too early! Oooh wee starting your seeds too early can really put you in a pickle! If you are in an area that has a long growing season like us (zone 7A) you have a little more freedom in when you start your seeds. People with shorter growing seasons have less leeway. On your seed packet it will say something like "start seeds 8-12 weeks before last frost." And last year we started all of our seeds in further away time. So if it said 8-12 weeks, we chose 12 weeks. I'm here to tell you to just choose 8 weeks. Your seedlings will grow surprisingly fast and 8 weeks is plenty of time to get the healthy and grown before transitioning outside. That extra 4 weeks is time you have to spend up-potting your seedlings because they've outgrown their pot. And if you have more than a couple seedlings, this takes a lot of work, time, and space to make happen. We spent the last 4-6 weeks before it finally stopped freezing (because bonus, our last frost date was not our last frost) trying to keep our seedlings alive and it was too much! So this year we are starting seeds way later and it's definitely something to consider yourself.

BONUS TIP! When you are brand new to growing your own food and/or flowers, getting all the seeds you want can be pretty expensive. This is when we suggest joining a seed swap! The best places I have found seed swaps is on Instagram.

ANOTHER BONUS TIP! When you are admiring your beautiful garden this summer, make sure you save some seeds from the fruits of your labor. You can use those seeds next year. Saving seeds is free and produces WAY more than what comes in a seed packet!

Don't get overwhelmed when starting seeds. Make sure you read the packet and follow the instructions and you will see magic happen. Watching a plant grow from seed and then being able to feed your friends + family off what you grew, is truly rewarding and worth all the hard work.

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1 comment

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