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Welcome to Gardens to Tables Gardening Tips Fruits & Vegetables 10 Steps to Help Get Those Seeds Started
10 Steps to Help Get Those Seeds Started Print E-mail
Written by Maree Gaetani, Gardener's Supply Company   

SeedlingsWe've noticed a significant increase in consumers wanting to either try seedstarting or elevate their capability with new equipment and lights. Here are 10 steps along that make seedstarting simple and successful:

1. Choose Seeds Wisely. If you're new to seed starting, stick with easy-to-grow vegetables and flowers such as tomato, cucumber, basil, squash, morning glories, bachelor buttons, calendula and cosmos. Don't start your seeds too early. Find the last expected frost date in your area and count back from that date based on the seed packet recommendations to determine when to start seeds indoors. Starting too early will create monster plants that need to be tamed because the outdoor environment isn't ready for them yet.

2. The Right Equipment. You can start seeds in just about any container, provided it's sturdy and allows for water drainage. However, for those new to seedstarting, complete systems are also available.

3. Start with the Right Organic Mix. For best success, use a seed-starting mix that contains peat moss and vermiculite. These ingredients provide a medium that holds moisture, drains water, and is light enough to germinate and grow even small seeds such as pansies.

4. The Right Light. Even though starting seeds in a sunny southern window may work in some climates, a surer bet is to have an indoor, seedstarting light system. Most seeds don't need light to germinate, but once up, they need 12 to 14 hours of continuous full spectrum, bright light to grow strong and sturdy. We use T-5 bulbs as they emit brilliant, full-spectrum light, providing the ideal intensity and quality of light needed for optimal plant growth and use 75 percent less energy than standard flourescent bulbs.

5. Temperature. Most seedlings germinate and grow best with air and soil temperatures between 60F and 80F. The soil temperature is actually more important than the air temperature. The right soil temperature will accelerate germination making seedlings less likely to die from disease. To keep soil warm for quickest germination, place seedlings on the top of a refrigerator or use soil heating cables or a root zone heat mat. Place your trays or pots on top of the waterproof cable or mat to keep the soil at a constant 70F to 75F. Once germinated, keep the air temperatures around seedlings between 60F and 70F. This will enable seedlings to grow slow and strong, helping to prevent leggy, weak stems.

6. What to do once the seeds come up. Once the true leaves form you'll need to thin the seedlings in the pot to one per container. Do not pull out the thinned seedling by hand, use scissors to snip them off at the soil line.

7. Watering. It's important to keep the soil consistently moist as seedlings germinate and grow. Watering from above often displaces seeds and creates divots in the soil resulting in poor germination. A better method is to bottom-water the seedlings. Through a natural capillary action, water will moisten the seed starting soil mix.

8. Fertilizing. Once the true leaves emerge, seedlings need a gentle fertilizer to grow strong. It's important to use a fertilizer specific to seedlings that will not cause root burn or force them to grow too fast. Fertilize weekly until the plants are ready for moving outdoors.

9. Transplanting. Cowpots are perfect for transplanting seedlings -- once they're ready for the garden, you can just plant the biodegradable Cowpots. However, for most plants started in smaller (2 inch diameter or less) pots (such as those found in the Gardener's Supply APS Kits), you'll need to transplant them into pots one size larger while still indoors to keep the seedlings growing strong.

10. Time to place in the garden. Don't rush your healthy, tender seedlings into the wind and weather; they need time to adjust to the outside environment. You can harden off seedlings by placing them outdoors for one hour in shade for the first day. Increase the amount of time outdoors each day, eventually moving seedlings into a sunny location. By the end of a week you can leave them outdoors safely overnight. At this point they're ready for transplanting into containers or the garden to grow, flower, fruit, and flourish.

For answers to your seedstarting questions, call (800) 955-3370 or visit Gardener's Supply online.

 
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