Starting your own seeds this year can help you save money and have access to a larger variety of plants. It can also be an excellent way to help young children learn about and connect with food. Helping you take broccoli from seed to plate is a wonderful learning opportunity and may help you get your kids more interested in finishing their vegetables.
When to Plant
Knowing when to start your seedlings will be much easier if you identify your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone and last frost date. Most seed packages will provide planting times in relation to your area’s last expected frost. Start planning early because some plants need to be started a couple months before they’re ready to be transplanted!
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
There are also many apps available online that will give you a planting calendar and reminders based on your zip code. Try the free Mother Earth News “What to Plant Now” tool.
“What to Plant Now” Tool: https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/what-to-plant-now-zl0z0903zalt
There are a variety of options for starting your plants indoors. You can use peat pots for easy transplanting, plastic trays, or even recycled containers or other DIY pots. When selecting pots consider how large your plants will get before transplanting. If you use smaller pots you may end up needing to pot them up before they’re ready to plant outdoors. You’ll also want a tray under your pots to collect any excess water.
It’s very important to choose an appropriate seed starting mix. Unlike regular garden soil, seed starting mix is fine and holds moisture well in pots. We carry mixes that will help your plants get off to a good start.
Unfortunately, setting your seedlings in front of a window really isn’t enough light for your young plants. They’ll grow tall and leggy, reaching towards the window and won’t be as productive once transferred to your garden. Thankfully there’s a number of options for lights to ensure your plants are healthy indoors. We carry grow lights, nanodomes, and indoor greenhouses to help your plants thrive indoors.
You want your light to be within a few inches of the top of your seedling. Take this into consideration as you’re setting up your seed starting area. You’ll have to adjust your light as your plants grow.
Keeping the soil moist is very important while seeds are germinating and seedlings are getting started. You should be careful to avoid overwatering, as well. You’ll probably notice that the frequency of watering will need to be increased as your plants grow. You can also use a spray bottle and mist plants to help keep the humidity up.
If your plants will be indoors for a long period of time it may be necessary to provide them with a little boost by applying liquid fertilizer. You won’t need to add fertilizer right away. Cotyledons are the first leaves to emerge from the soil when a plant germinates. Wait for the second set to appear and grow out. Liquid kelp is an excellent choice for small plants and a small amount goes a long way when added to your plants’ water. Be sure to follow package instructions for the best results.
It’s exciting to move your plants out to the garden. Before you make the big move you will need to do so slowly in a process called hardening off. In the warm morning sunlight, water your young plants lightly as needed and take your tray of plants outside to a wind protected area with dappled light. Place them outside for a few hours – gradually longer and longer – as long as the sun is up. As your plants are adjusted to life indoors moving them out too quickly or for too long where they’re exposed to full sun, temperature fluctuations, wind, and rain can cause damage. Hardening off prepares your plants for life in the garden so be careful don’t baby them too much.
If you have any questions about starting seeds indoors don’t hesitate to come in and talk with one of our experts. We’re happy to help!
You can also learn more about more about seed starting with Homestead Gardens’ Seed Starting 101 tips.