Spring is nearly here and that means seed starting time! If you have a short growing season, or if you just want to make the most of the summer months, starting your seeds indoors is an absolute must. I love starting seeds before it’s time to sow them directly into the ground; it feels wonderful to get the garden going while there’s still snow and you get even more from the gardening season. While starting seeds indoors isn’t hard, there are a few things you should remember:
Without the proper light, your seedlings won’t go very far.
Seeds will get a little leggy aka way too tall way too fast if you don’t give these little babies lots of sunlight. The same thing happens when your houseplant starts ‘growing’ or reaching for the sun. They need more light.
While using a grow light is great, especially for winter gardening, it’s not absolutely necessary. If you have a west or south facing window, you can happily place your seeds near bright windows. Windowsill gardening is excellent, providing your little seedlings must-needed sunlight and giving them a little warmth through the window pane. Your seedlings won’t freeze even if there’s still a nip in the air, as long as your windows aren’t ancient (think single-pane) and it’s not -45 out.
maybe you’ll end up with a happy helper!
You don’t need a giant greenhouse to keep your seedlings nice and warm; you can use milk jugs, you can use adorable mini greenhouses like this one or you can buy plastic dome mini greenhouses with your seed starting kit like this.
To keep your seedlings warm, you can also purchase a heat mat. But, be sure to follow the instructions on the heat mat to keep you and your family safe. Ain’t nobody got time for house fires.
While seedlings may want a lot of heat and humidity to get started, they’re not the best fans of high humidity for the rest of their lives. If you leave that dome on too long, or keep your greenhouse too hot and zipped up with no air circulation, your seedlings are going to get a little grumpy and a lot moldy.
Remember to prop over, or fully take off, the lid of your greenhouse when they start sprouting their little green heads up and out of the soil.
These guys need a refreshing misting
You may be tempted to soak your seedlings in order to help them grow; after all, things grow really well after it rains, right? Well, yes and no. You will want to keep the soil moist as you’re waiting for germination, but once the seedlings sprout and are starting to grow, tone down the watering.
Much like any living thing outside bodies of water, plants don’t like to be waterlogged.
Instead of pouring on the water like you normally would for a houseplant, or when your seedlings turn into yummy vegetable plants, you will want to use a mister.
A mister ensures that you don’t disturb the germination process and that your seeds will be happy to turn into seedlings.
Follow the Instructions
This one may seem easy, but seriously follow the instructions on the seed packet! While you don’t need to have the degrees exactly perfect for keeping your seeds warm, you do need to read about the seeds. Why? Because seeds are different. Echinacea and delphinium both need warmth AND darker growing conditions. That means the seeds you have sitting next to a bright window or under grow lamps won’t be mingling with these two flowers.
Almost ready to be on their own! This one will actually stay inside, and won’t need to be hardened off
No, hardening off means something a little different when it comes to gardening.
Your seedlings have just been babied and kept safe in their warm little homes, but reality isn’t really like that. When it’s getting closer to planting your little seedlings outside, start hardening them off.
This means, taking them out into the real world for an hour here and then two hours there and then a few hours more that finally lead to a full day. This ensures that they don’t get shocked when you just jam them into the ground. You may think you don’t need to harden off, but you do. Trust me and the memory of a few of my seedlings that just didn’t make it in the gardening days of yore.
You can also get them ready for stronger winds – and help if some of your little ones got a little leggy – by running your fingers back and forth over them a few times. It’ll tell them to strengthen up or ship out.
That’s it. Super easy tips to follow to make sure your seeds turn to seedlings turn to delicious veggies.
More gardening tips
Quick tips before starting your first garden