Seed Starting: 101

There’s nothing fresher or tastier than herbs and veggies from your own garden. Learn everything you need to know to get started growing your own herbs and vegetables indoors. Read below for our recipe for seed-starting success!

Tips for Seed Starting Success

Start seeds 4 to 6 weeks before you plant in the garden.  Cool season crops like broccoli or lettuce can go into the garden before the last frost.  Warm season crops like tomatoes & peppers should not be planted until all danger of frost is past.  Almost anyone can succeed by following the guidelines below.

    • Fresh is best. Always start with fresh, high-quality seeds. 
      • We carry many of the finest non GMO seeds, including heirloom, certified organic and open-pollinated varieties from Botanical Interest, Seed Savers and Renee’s Garden.
    • It’s all in the mix. We recommend Espoma Organic Seed Starter.espoma-organic-seed-start
      • A good mix ensures that you have a lightweight, clean and sterile medium without insects, fungus or weed. Moisten the mix with a little water…damp, not soggy.
    • Packets know best. Plant your seeds according to the depth & spacing directions.
      • Cover the seeds with soil mix and tamp down to ensure that seeds are in firm contact with the soil.
    • Bottom’s up. It can be challenging to apply the right amount of water using normal methods, so water from the bottom!
      • Place the planting container into a larger pan of shallow water for a short time (few seconds to a couple of minutes).
    • Take cover.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap after watering to retain moisture.
      • Check the moisture daily and watch for germination. As soon as the seeds germinate, remove the plastic wrap.
    • Stay warm. For most seeds, sprouting requires a minimum temperature of about 65° to 75°F.
      • If the ambient temperature is less than that, you can position a space heater nearby. Just make sure that the soil doesn’t dry out.
    • Let the sun shine in. Most seeds need about 12 to 16 hours of sunlight each day.
      • Place your seed containers in a sunny location such as a window with southern exposure. Once the seeds sprout, turn the container a little each day. This will prevent seedlings from overreaching in one direction toward the light.
    • The need to feed. Don’t use fertilizer on seedlings until they have sprouted!
      • In the very early growth stage, the seed provides its own nourishment, but once leaves develop, it’s time for a little fertilizer like Espoma Plant-tone.
    • Harden them off. Your sheltered seedlings need to get ready for the outdoors!
      •  For 7 to 10 days, put your plants outside for a few hours each day, increasing their exposure to sunlight & wind. Cut back on watering a bit, too. Your plants will become heartier and better prepared for transplanting.
    • No stripping. Gently remove plants from their containers without stripping or tearing the roots.
      • Plant them in the ground and mix in a really good starter plant food like Bio-tone Starter Plus in with the soil.

These Crops are Cooler Than You Think!

What is a cool season crop?

Cool season varieties are best harvested in cooler temperatures of spring or fall (or winter for our mild climates gardeners). The temperature is important because heat can encourage bolting (prematurely flower), which causes bitterness in crops like lettuce and cilantro. Other crops, like broccoli or cabbage, may fail to produce a harvestable crown or head if temperatures are consistently warm, and they aren’t able to mature in cooler temperatures. For crops such as Brussels sprouts, some cabbages, and parsnips, this can mean sowing while it’s warm, so plants will grow in the heat but mature in the cool season. Botanical Interests offers many heat-tolerant and bolt-resistant cool season crops, making home gardening more successful!

Fun Fact: Many plants, including cool season varieties, are able to convert starch into sugar, which lowers their freezing point. This “sweet” conversion not only protects plants from frost, but also can make for a literally sweeter harvest.