The first time I planted an indoor seed garden I thought it would be easy. And, in some ways, it was. In others - definitely not. I read the instructions. Went on the internet and read what the experts had to say. Picked the perfect exposure. Thought I did everything correctly. And ended up with about six spindly little garden plants that never did flourish (of the forty eight seed containers I started).
Since that first attempt, I’ve learned a thing or two. If you’re interested in trying to plant your garden from seed – these tips may come in handy.
One of the most important things I learned is DON’T SOW TOO EARLY (or too late). If the seed packet says “Sow four to six weeks before the last frost”, my suggestion is that you go with four weeks. In Nova Scotia, that means about four to five weeks before the May long weekend.
Annuals and vegetables are the easiest seeds to grow. Perennials are a little more difficult, because they need a period of cold to break dormancy, and they don’t usually flower for the first two seasons. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them, but you do need to be patient, and you need to know how to break their dormancy without killing the seed.
I use square peat pots, having found that the less I handle fragile new plants and root systems, the greater success I have when it is time to transplant. Peat pots go straight into the ground with the new plant, although I carefully tear down the corner of each side (but do not peel the sides back) just as I’m planting to make it easier for the roots to spread. Recently, I saw an interesting method where gardeners used the shells of eggs to propagate seeds, then put the entire egg shell into the ground. I don’t plan to try it, but you can find the method in a number of places on Facebook if you’re interested.
Use fresh, sterile growing mix (I am a big fan of Miracle Gro seed starter mix, although there are many others available). Moisten the mixture about 60 minutes before planting your seeds. The mixture should be damp, not wet (it should feel like a wrung-out sponge). I use bottled spring water, or rain water, to dampen the soil.
Follow the seed packets information on planting depth, light and optimal growing temperature.
I place my peat pots into a lidded container, but only just until the first signs of germination. Any longer, and you run the risk of dampening off, a fungal disease that is deadly for baby plants. In my experience, once it begins, you’re going to lose your entire flat of plants.
When the top of the soil looks and feels dry, LIGHTLY water very carefully using a watering can with a very fine spray. I use a sterile spray bottle, and bottled water, and mist my soil, something I have found to be very effective.
I have had really good success with a western exposure using only natural light. The sun shines into my growing area from about 11:30 a.m. right to sunset, and as the weeks wear on, it increases a little every day. However, many successful gardeners swear by grow-lights, set about eight to ten centimeters above the containers, and timed to be on for sixteen hours a day.
Once your seedlings have two sets of true leaves (the first leaves are called cotyledons, or seed leaves) start feeding once a week with a 20-20-20 water soluble fertilizer – initially at half strength – working up to full strength over a period of two weeks or so.
Plants that are started indoors need to be hardened off before they are planted outdoors. After the last frost date, start by setting them outside in a shady, sheltered spot – for about four hours a day. Gradually, leave them out all day, progressively moving them into sunnier and windier areas to acclimatize them to garden conditions. Hardy, cool-loving annuals like pansies and snapdragons can be hardened off several seeks earlier than heat-loving plants such as impatiens and tomatoes.
Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.