Starting Vegetable and Flower Seeds

There are several reasons I start my own seeds. Here are a few:

1. It’s cheaper than buying plants. We’re talking tons cheaper here, especially when you have a collection of seeds. All of my seeds are at least a year old–some of them are three or four–and they still germinate. I didn’t spend a penny on seed starting supplies this year; they were all leftovers. I take that back, I bought a 20 cent pack of cherry tomato seeds. So I spent 20 cents on seed starting supplies…

Starting Seeds
Starting Seeds

2. You can choose exactly which variety you want to plant. For example, I have both giant zinnias and dwarf zinnias planted. Sometimes it’s hard to find the exact type of flower or vegetable you want in the nursery.

3. It’s gratifying. There is nothing like planting little lifeless seeds and watching them come to life. Later in the summer, when your little seedlings  produce vegetables or flowers, you will feel an amazing sense of accomplishment.

4. To kids, it’s a magical process. Okay, it’s still kind of magical to me. God is amazing. If you’re homeschooling, starting seeds is a must when you study plants (I think it is, anyway).

 I usually place 2 seeds in each pod–except for squash, and then I only plant 1.  If there are two healthy seedlings in each pod, I separate them when they have two true leaves. Here’s what I have started this year:

10 Zucchini Dark Squash – These are the seeds that are several years old. Right now, 60% of these seeds have germinated. They have been in the soil for almost two weeks, so I think that’s all I will get. If you plant old seeds, make sure you plant extras. I did, and right now I have 6 zucchini plants. If you’re familiar with squash, you will know that’s way more than enough…

Zucchini Seedlings
Zucchini Seedlings

10 Roma Grande Tomatoes – These are last years seeds. I didn’t notice any difference in the germination rate than the year before. Since I have 2 in almost every pod, I will separate these once they have two true leaves, and end up with about 15 – 20 plants.

6 Early Treat Hybrid Tomatoes – Also last years seeds. After I separate, I will have 10 – 12 plants.

Tomato Seedlings
Tomato Seedlings

26 – Large Red Cherry Tomatoes – As always, I planted lots of extras to give away to friends and family. I planted these later, so they haven’t spouted yet, but I should end up with 42 – 50 plants.

6 Sweet Hybrid Mix Bell Peppers – Just planted. I should end up with 6 – 10 plants.

6 Hot Salsa Mix Hot Peppers – Just planted. I should up with 6 – 12 plants.

10 Lavandula angustifolia True Lavender – Just planted. Should end up with 15 – 20 plants.

10 Matriccaria recutita German Chamomile – Just planted. Should end up with 15 – 20 plants.

46 – California Giants, Mixed Colors Zinnias – My favorite, favorite flowers. Love them! Just planted. Should end up with 80-92 plants. Just think of how much it would cost to buy those in the nursery!

Zinnia Seedlings
Zinnia Seedlings

20 Thumbelina, Mixed Colors Zinnias – Just like my favorite, but only 6 inches tall! Just planted. Should end up with 32 – 38 plants.

There are several vegetables you can’t start inside –peas, carrots, radishes, and beets are a few examples. There are a few vegetables I don’t recommend you start inside, but you can. Two that come to mind are pumpkins, which get massive very quickly, and cucumbers, which don’t transplant well.

Herbs start well, as do many flowers, especially annuals. One thing to keep in mind, many perennials will not flower the first year they are started. I plan on starting two whole flats of daisies once this batch of seedlings is in the ground, but I’m not in any hurry, because they won’t flower this year. You have to wait a long time for your first blooms on many perennials, but it’s worth it! If you want nearly instant gratification, plant marigolds. Those almost always start to bloom before I get them in the ground!

You will need a few basic supplies if you want to get started.

1. Seeds – That’s kind of a given, I think.

2. Seed Starting Soil – Sometimes I use plain potting soil, but your seedlings are safer in sterile potting medium. You risk damping off if you use potting soil. Basically, your baby seedlings may die over night because of pathogens in the soil. Not fun.

3. Containers — these can be flats, six packs, egg cartons, yogurt containers…you get the point. I prefer flats of six packs from garden supply companies, but last year I bought the cheap ones from Lowes. Since that’s what I had leftover, that’s what I used this year. Make sure you have some sort of tray underneath. I like to water from below, so I just pour water in tray and the soil sucks it up.

4. Light – In my old house, I had a beautiful south facing room that worked very well. My husband bought me a cheap storage tower from Wal-Mart, and we set it up about six inches from the sliding glass door. I started hundreds and hundreds of seeds that way. In my new home, I don’t have a room that gets enough light. This year I have taken over my husband’s work bench in his garage. There’s a lovely fluorescent light hung low just above the bench, and it was just begging to be used for seedlings. This seems ideal. The only drawback is that I had to wait later in the season before I started the seeds; it’s important the temperature in the garage doesn’t dip too low. If it looks like it will, I will have to bring all my flats inside. This isn’t as fun as it sounds.

Seed Starting Bench with Fluorescent Light
Seed Starting Bench with Fluorescent Light

 

Planting is easy.

Fill your containers with soil, plant the seeds according to the directions on the packets.

Drizzle water from above using warm–not hot–water. Be careful not to disturb the seeds. I like to use the spray nozzle on my kitchen sink set as low as possible.

Cover with plastic wrap or the clear lid that comes with the flats (I don’t always do this–especially if I must use plastic wrap), and then take the cover off when your seeds begin to sprout.

Keep the soil evenly moist, but not soaked. Make sure the temperature in the room is comfortable, and provide lots of light! 

Later I will show you how I move my seedlings to the garden! 

Tell me, are you starting seeds this year? If  you are, what you growing?

 

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