Getting Started with Starting Seeds

Many Ways to Start Seeds – From Simple To Complex or Fancy

While some started weeks ago, many gardeners are in full swing planting seeds.  Of course, this all depends in what climate zone you live in and what you want to grow. Living in the Pacific Northwest I sometimes forget a large part of the country is in a sun belt and can plant and harvest year around. Starting seeds seems an easy thing for many people but if you haven’t done a lot of starting plants from seeds, it may seem a daunting task as there are several decisions to make and supplies to gather:

  • Deciding what to plant, what variety you might like, what brand, whether organic or non-organic
  • Then purchasing or making a medium to start them in
  • Getting something to start them in – a tray, pods, or soil blocks, egg or milk cartons, etc.
  • Researching what time of year to plant them, when to harden them off (process of acclimating them to the outdoors), and when to transplant them outdoors. 

So perhaps you might ask yourself why start with seeds at all when plant starts are plentiful and offer much less what time and a bit less fussing.  Part of that answer is what’s true with all gardening….much is about what you enjoy doing, how much time you want to spend, how much room you have to work with, how many plants you want to grow, and what environment you have to start seeds in.  You might even wait a little longer and buy starts in gallon pots that are ready to plant outdoors as soon as you bring them home. There really is no right or wrong way to grow new plants!
Here are some general rules to consider when starting plants from seeds – after you’ve made the decisions about what to grow and have your seeds in hand:

  1. My best advice is to read the label of your seed packet before you get started.  A number of conditions can vary from seed to seed such as time to germinate, depth to plant the seeds, spacing of seeds, light conditions, and warmth. Even better is “google” a few articles about growing that type of seed to get a few anecdotal tips and ideas about growing the seed you have purchased.
  2. Generally, starting seeds requires a light and fluffy, low-nutrient planting medium. Seed starting mixes are developed for the purpose of starting seeds and allowing them to grow in the same medium from a few days to a couple weeks. The seeds are then meant to be transplanted into a more nutrient-rich soil. Seeds have built into them all the nutrients they need to germinate so seed starting mixes often don’t offer nutrients needed beyond germination.
  3. Best lighting conditions can vary by type of plant. While many seeds respond to good lighting, some require complete darkness to germinate. If using natural light, care should be taken not to put the seeds in direct sun light as it is easy for them to literally get cooked.
  4. Again, most seeds require constant warmth to germinate quickly. Placing them on a seed starting mat, the to of a refrigerator or TV can work if the correct light is available in those places.
  5. A definite constant for all seeds is to give them steady, even moisture. If seeds dry out, they will die.
  6. Look out for a number of special conditions or requirements for your seeds. Some seeds that are very hard need to be “scarified” or nicked with a knife or razor. For other seeds, it is recommended to soak them for a period of time to help them germinate. Still others require a period of cold in the refrigerator to help them come out of dormancy.

A fun experiment is to wad up a paper towel, moisten it well, and then place it in a clear plastic cup with dark paper taped around the outside so you can slip it on and off to see the progress of the seed.  Place a seed inside the cup along the side where it is coddled with the wet paper towel. Keep the paper towel moist, in a single location indoors, and watch what happens over two – 3 weeks, maybe longer.  You’ll hopefully see how easy it is to germinate a seed and how little it takes for a seed to germinate.

We welcome you to try our Seed Starting Mix made with renewable Coco Coir, which is an excellent moisture retaining fiber.

Linda Brown, General Manager, Green Planet Naturals

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