Before I get into the topic of the day, I really want to be sure you understand that I am not a gardening expert. Yes, Hubby and I have had great success with our gardens so far, and yes, our gardens are fairly extensive. But this is only our fourth year as gardeners. Our secret? Hubby’s knowledgeable parents who have happily passed on their wisdom and resources. I will gladly share with you all that we do to grow our gardens, what we have learned from our resident gardening experts, and I will be happy that you can all benefit from the wisdom of our mistakes. But there are many ways to grow a garden and we are all continuing to learn. So please share your thoughts and ideas of what has worked for you in the comments, and we can all grow together! (he he…yes that pun was totally intentional…)
The topic of the day is: Seed Starting Indoors
Although the snow is quickly melting away, it will be another few weeks before we start considering planting seeds in the ground. But for us, this is THE weekend for starting our seeds indoors. This will give some of our plants (namely tomatoes) a six week start on our planting date of the last week-end in May. If you haven’t chosen your seeds yet, you might want to start with my post on planning your garden. Otherwise, let’s get planting!
Why start seeds indoors? We start seeds indoors because our weather leaves us with a relatively short growing season. There just isn’t enough time for certain seeds to germinate and grow into fruit-producing plants (or flower-producing if you are growing a flower garden) before frost hits again without giving them a head start.
Which seeds do I start? Usually, if you need to start the plants inside, this will be stated on the seed package itself. For us this year, this means tomatoes. In past years we have also started leeks, pumpkins, melons, peppers, and a wide variety of herbs. Many annual flowers call for being planted indoors as well.
How do I plant them? Plant your seeds in small pots (you can buy all kinds of seed starting kits, trays, and pots at your local gardening store) in potting soil and then keep them moist. Once sprouting has begun keep the trays under a grow lamp. In our house in past years, this has been a flourescent grow-light from the hardware store suspended from the ceiling over the plants and adjusted in height as the plants grow. (Unless you have an unfinished basement with exposed beams, or are otherwise willing to put eye-hooks in your ceiling, this probably isn’t going to work for you). This year hubby is planning on building a kind of growing rig out of pvc pipe (pictures to come when it is finished) that looks a little like this. The most popular option seems to be turning a set of shelves into a growing station like this one. Whatever you do, don’t plunk your seeds in front of a “sunny window” and hope that they will grow. Unless you happen to have the perfect south-facing windows, your seedlings just won’t get enough light for optimal growth.
How do I take care of them? Keep the plants watered, but not drowning. Make sure the light is an appropriate distance from the top of the plants (check the box of your light but it’s usually less than 12 inches). If you plant more than one seed in each pot, thin the seedlings out as they grow (this is the part we always find tough, but learn from our mistakes here, your plants will grow better when they are not crowded.) Gardening wisdom tells us to fertilize our seedlings every 2 weeks. To be honest, I don’t think we have ever fertilized ours before we have planted them outdoors (I know, shame on us! We will have to start this year!)
Don’t Panic! If some of your seeds don’t come up, simply plant new ones. If you are “late” starting your plants (as in, the package says to plant them 8 weeks before they go outside but that will be the middle of June) don’t stress about it. We had one year where all of our plants didn’t make it into the garden until the middle of June and we still ended up with a bumper crop of veggies. Relax. Remember, gardening is supposed to be fun!
What if I don’t want to start seeds indoors? You can always purchase your plants at a garden centre at planting time. It will cost you more, but the work is already done for you, and most good gardening centres guarantee healthy plants.
That’s it! Now it’s time to get planting! I love this time of year!
Let’s really make this a community of gardeners. Please share in the comments your seed-starting adventures, tips, links to other resources, or links to gardening posts on your own blog. If you’re planting, or live somewhere where you already have plants in the ground, (lucky you!) be sure to take pictures and share them in our Flickr pool!