How to Start Vegetable Seeds Indoors
Some vegetables, like Tomatoes, Eggplants, and Peppers require a long growing season. To ensure healthy growth, most gardeners start seeds for these vegetables indoors in Spring. Starting your own seeds is not only less expensive than purchasing transplants, it also generally results in a more productive harvest season. Plus, it's a fun, rewarding way to kick off on the gardening season!
How do you start vegetable seeds indoors? Here are 10 tips for successfully starting seeds:
Purchase your seeds from a trusted source. Fresher, higher quality seeds will have a higher germination rate (meaning more will sprout), and will give you a head-start in growing delicious, nutritious vegetables. (Check out Landreth Seed, our line of heritage and heirloom vegetable seeds!)
Pot with seed-starting mix. These mixes don't contain any actual soil, but they provide ideal conditions for sprouting seeds. Most importantly, they provide a good balance of drainage and water-holding capacity, and they minimize problems with disease on vulnerable seedlings. If possible, don't use garden soil to start seeds indoors; it generally doesn't drain well and may contain plant disease spores.
Make sure your containers have drainage holes. You can use recycled pots — for example, empty yogurt containers — but be sure to poke holes in the bottom for draining, so that your seeds are not over-watered. Plastic six-packs and flats are good choices and can be reused year after year. Biodegradable pots are fine, too.
Plant seeds at the proper depth. Check the seed packet for planting depth. You don't need to measure precisely, but be careful not to plant any deeper than the directions suggest. The rule of thumb is to plant the seed two-to-three times as deep as the seed is wide. For example, tiny seeds should be barely covered by soil mix, while large seeds like beans should be sown about an inch deep. If you sow seeds too deeply, they won't have enough stored energy to make it to the surface. Plant extra seeds, because it's likely not all of them will germinate; you'll thin out the extra ones later.
After sowing, set the containers in a warm location. On top of the refrigerator or near a radiator are usually good spots. Check your pots every day for signs of growth!
Keep seed-starting mix moist. Seedling roots need both air and water. Strive to keep the mix moist but not saturated with water — think of it as a damp sponge that contains both water and air.
As soon as seedlings emerge, place pots in a bright location. A sunny window will do, but adding consistent light from supplemental fluorescent lights will give you the best results. Suspend the lights just an inch or two over the tops of the plants.
Cool room temperature is best for seedlings. You'll get sturdier, stockier seedlings if you grow them at temperatures in the high 60s. Finding a cooler room in your house or garage, while still maintaining a good light sorce, will help them thrive. At higher temperatures, seedlings may get leggy.
Begin fertilizing weekly. Use a half-strength fertilizer once your seedlings have one or two sets of leaves. Organic fertilizers are a good choice, since they provide a range of nutrients, including micronutrients.
Once seedlings have two sets of leaves, it's time to thin. You want one seedling per pot, so choose the healthiest, strongest-looking seedling to keep. Snip the other seedlings off at the soil line and discard them.
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