Happy first day of spring! Finally, we see the light at the end of the tunnel that winter is behind us and new hopes that Covid 19 is beginning to slow it's rampage. This year it is apparent that many are turning to plants to check back in with nature and to support our mental health. With so many benefits to growing your own flowers and veggies over the summer we though a short overview on seed starting basic could help get many figures back into the dirt.
Know Your Space
When selecting what seeds you wish to start you may also want to consider where you'll be growing. There are many veggies that can be grown with success in smaller spaces with the proper light requirements. Something to look for as you shop through veggie varieties is for 'dwarf' or 'patio' in the description. Another term often used with tomatoes would be determinate or indeterminate. If you're growing in smaller areas you would select determinate tomatoes which means that their size when mature has a determined or fixed number attached to it. This can better help when planning your gardens layout. Another thing to consider is the spread of plants when mature, usually found on the back of the seed packet.
Buying the Right Soil
We all see the soil bags the become available this time of year that in big letters on the front say seed starting mix. But is there really a difference? Absolutely! The good thing about seed starting specific soils is that they are light weight and ready to use. Soilless seed staring mixes use peat moss or coconut coir with little to no organic matter. A good seed starting mix will be light and fine in texture to allow for roots to spread throughout the area. Be sure to keep your soil evenly moist and warm when seed starting to induce germination.
When buying seeds be sure to check the 'expiry' date on the packet. Germination rates fall after a year of storage. This however is not to say that they seed wont grow it simply means that you may not have as many seeds that take from a batch with this years dates on them.
If you have a South or West facing window you may be able to start your seeds without any supplemental light however you may notice your seed look long and lanky. This is because they are reaching to the light source in order to be as efficient as possible. To curb this you can purchase standard LED grow lights to hanging above your seed trays. Keeping the light a couple inches above the soil will help to keep your sprouts short and bushy as they grow. Move the light up as the seedlings start to grow closer to the light.
Caring for Your New Plants
Do not let your seedling dry out! This is one of the most important steps when caring for seedlings. Check them once a day as indoor climates can quickly evaporate water from small pots and plug trays. Do not fertilize your seedlings! The first “leaves” you see are called “cotyledons,” and which help to store energy for your little seedling. Fertilizer will only burn your plants at this stage. The next leaf set that develops from your seedlings will set are their primary leaves which will resemble the true leaf shape. Once your seedlings start to develop their secondary and tertiary leaves you can begin to fertilize. Be conscious that your seedlings are still very delicate as this stage. We recommend using an organic fertilizer or a fish emulsion at half dilution.
Culling or Thinning Out
When seedlings are growing too close together you will need to start tinning out your trays. We like to have back up trays available to avoid discarding any healthy sprouts however some may just not be viable or strong enough to successfully be transplanted.
Once your seedlings start to look like plants you will start to consider the next steps to harden off your plants. This means you will be acclimating your plants to the outdoor temperature. Our last frost date is usually in May so we recommend only placing seedlings outside on warmers days and bringing them in during the evenings (Usually mid to the end of April we can start this). Do not place your plants in full sun right away. Start by placing them in shaded areas and gradually bring them in to more light each day. After the chance of frost has gone you can start leaving them outside in their larger pots or in your garden beds.
Hopefully this information gets you in the spring spirit and your hands in some soil. We are excited to expand our business into the vegetable and veggie starts and to help others produce their own home grown food. We still offer free 30min Horticultural Consultations if you are looking for some one on one advice and direction for your plant projects.
Wishing everyone a very bright and joyous spring.