Every March I begin my garden. I break out my trays, black seed starting cells, soil, and seeds. I’ve gotten the whole process down pretty well on how it works for me. It’s not perfect and probably not by the book, but I’ve had good success with it.
If you want to try your hand at it I’ll take you through the steps I use to start some of my garden plants.
The first thing you’ll need to know is when the last frost date is for the area you live in(you can find that info. here). And also what plants you should start indoors. Not all plants need to be started indoors some do great directly sown into the garden. These are the plants I start indoors: Tomato, Peppers, Eggplant, Cabbage, Broccoli, all my herbs, and some annual flowers, such as Petunias.
You will need the following materials: Seed starting soil, seeds, black plastic plant cells, trays or plastic tubs, spray bottle with water (make sure if you use tap water it isn’t softened or treated), tape and permanent marker.
Get all your materials ready and gather up any seed starting trays and black square starting cells you have on hand or you can use whatever you can creatively come up with. I have saved the black plastic seedling/plant cells when I have bought plants from our local greenhouse. I reuse them by placing them in plastic tubs. (The plastic tubs and trays are used to keep the water from going all over your table when you water the plants, anything that would hold water will work.) *Before you plant you will want to soak all these materials in a mild bleach solution to rid them of any diseases that could be harbored from the prior years plantings.
Rinse your materials well. Now your ready to begin filling.
I use a seed starting soil that I buy at the store it is light and not heavy like a potting soil. The lighter soil gives your seedlings a better start. I scoop the seed starting soil into a plastic container, add some water and then stir to make the soil slightly damp (you don’t want it soaking).
Next scoop your soil into the seed starting cells. I usually fill them about halfway. The reason I do this is that as they grow they can often get a bit leggy (or tall/long). I just add soil to the cells as they grow giving the plants more stability.
Now is the time to add your seed. I usually place 2 seeds in per cell then following the directions on the back of my seed packet I add the amount of soil it requires. Each seed requires a certain planting depth, so make sure you read the back of the packet for that information. Spritz the top of each planted cell with water making sure it is moist.
The next step is very important…LABEL your seeds!
I do this in a very high tech manner! I have found that masking tape and a permanent marker work great for this. Above you can see I have labeled that I have Cumin in 2 cells and Lemon Basil in 2 cells. This was a 4 cell stating pack and I did not want 4 cumin or 4 Lemon Basil…so I split the cell and labeled accordingly.
Finally cover your trays. I have one with a nice plastic cover, but the rest I use plastic wrap on. Covering the trays/boxes keeps the moisture and warmth in helping with the germination of the seeds. Set in a warm place. At this point they don’t require sun.
As soon as you see sprouts make sure to move them to a southern exposure. I start mine right in front of my sliding glass door. It is warm and super sunny there. When my plants get bigger I move them out to my mudroom. It is a bit cooler out there and it slows my plants down a bit so that they don’t get too leggy before I can plant them. But, it still has the added advantage of a southern exposure.
If you did like I do…you will end up with 2 or more plants per cell. At this point it’s decision time. You can either pluck out any you don’t want or you can transplant the extras to different containers. I often don’t have the heart to pitch all those baby plants, so I place them in other containers. Most often I give away all those extra plants to friends and family. I have found that a popsicle stick works wonders for digging up those extra seedlings. Just be careful not to cut or damage the roots.
Inevitably you will get some plants that will quickly outgrow the seed starting cells. For me it is usually my tomatoes and my dill that are the first to need bigger containers. Eventually I move almost all my plants to bigger containers. Here is my solution, Newspaper pots (tutorial HERE).
They are so easy to make and I’m sure your children will even want to help! What I love most about them is that you can place these pots directly into your garden. I just open the bottoms of my newspaper pots and them put the whole kit and kaboodle into the ground.
If you break out the camera and your kids are anything like mine you may even get a little bit of this. Which will just make you laugh and laugh!