Starting Your Own Seedlings
Save Money on Gardening
Start your own seedlings with seeds and peat, heat, water, and love. One packet of seeds is less then $2 for at least 30 seeds. That's a lot cheaper then buying the plant.
Some people are afraid of seedlings thinking they'll hurt the plant. Others don't want to set aside the time or the space for them. But starting seedlings can be easy and fun. You just need to remember that they need sunlight during the day, and are protected from extreme cold at night.
I used to start in flats and would keep them on my dining room table which would get great sunlight. Darling hubby put a stop to that. Unfortunately our garage is too dark. Now I start and keep the seedlings in an enclosed flat on a sheltered planting shelf which is against the south side of my house. It's sheltered and gives the seedlings the light they need.
Pennies on the Dollar
or Why Pay More When It's Fun to Do?
They look so tiny at first. The seeds. Especially ones like carrots and lettuce.
Thankfully, the plants you will want to start indoors have larger seeds. Tomatoes, Peppers (hot and sweet), Eggplant. All need to be started indoors 4-8 weeks before you're ready to transplant outside.
You could start squash, cucumbers and lettuce indoors, but they are just as happy growing straight from the soil.
A packet of seeds is less then $2. A 4" plant is about $2-5. The packet of seeds has over 30 seeds. And what they don't tell you is that a seed packet is good for 2-3 years. (sometimes even longer).
You will want to get peat pods, peat pots, soil, a covered seedling container, and a heat pad. The heat pad tends to run about $22. And that's the most expensive outlay, but, I can fit 3 seedling containers on it which contain a total of 36 seedlings.
Some people invest in grow lights as well. My heat pad is on my kitchen counter, and usually gets light from a large window.
When the seedlings are bumping up against the top of the lid, I remove it. The peat needs to be kept moist but not soaking wet. You could cause root rot if it stays too wet.
When the seedlings have 4 leaves, it's time to transplant into the peat pots with real soil. I also have a special self-watering flat for these peat pots. It helps keep them appropriately moist.
If the seedlings are getting too tall and rangy, they need food. Use an all purpose plant food once a week to keep them healthy and growing fat.
When the time is right, plant the seedling, and watch it grow.
Articles on Starting Seeds - Read up on a variety of fun sites
I've scoured the web looking for some really good articles on how to successfully start your seedlings.
- Renee's Garden Starting Seeds
This has a lot of photos on how to sow seeds in special seed-starting containers and how to transplant into your garden
- Growing Tomatoes from Seed
This is from OSH on how to start tomatoes from seed and then transplant. It's mostly text and there are recommendations of types of tomatoes.
- Farmer's Almanac
Farmer's almanac on when to start seedlings indoors. But you can also start them in your greenhouse...if you have a greenhouse. There's some great advice on how to get set up.
- Gardener's Seed Catalog
This article is mostly focused on spring seedling starting and has very good advice.
What to Start and When
This is going to be highly dependent upon your region and when you have first frost. It also depends upon what you want to grow.
For example, I'm region 7. If I want Brussels Sprouts for Thanksgiving, I needed to have them sprouted and planted during August. Brassicas like sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage all need warmth to get a solid root system. They continue to grow well during cool weather, but they like warm feet.
Most books and articles are focused on starting seedlings for spring and summer. But remember, you can get fall harvests as well as planting in the fall for what's called overwintering.
Look for the master gardeners of your area and talk with them about what works in your micro-region.
Now, what to start. We all know tomatoes need to be started. Well, generally. This year, I had six tomatoes pop up out of nowhere. I think it was from last years' plants and some tomatoes had fallen and nature took over. Generally speaking, you will want to start tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and other brassicas.
What you can direct sow are cucumbers, melons, squash, peas, beans and corn.
I know you can buy most of these as starts at your local store. There are some who believe that when you transplant the seedling, it will damage the plant. I think it can go either way.
I grew some special corn this year that was designed just for containers and it didn't have a good germination rate. After talking with the seed company, I probably should have started the seedlings indoors because they needed a warmer bed then regular corn. So next year, I'll start them and transplant.
Videos on Seed Starting
Inexpensive is always a good thing.