It seems that most people choose to buy their garden plants down at the local garden center each spring rather than taking time to grow their own vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, trees, etc. from seed. The upside to this approach is that you invest less of your time in the process. The downside is that you are limiting your choices to the most popular garden varieties put on display by the garden center. A real eye opener for most gardeners, usually on a restless winter day, is when they have paged through the colorful pages of the mail-order seed catalogs, marveled at the thousands of flower and vegetable varieties out there and wondered why their local garden center doesn't offer more variety. If you find yourself dissatisfied with your garden center's plant selections or want to take advantage of the thousands of seed offerings, then you will need to sow a little seed yourself.
And yet, if you've never done it before, you may hesitate, wondering if starting your own garden plants from seed is too complicated or difficult.
Good news! Indoor seed starting is amazingly easy, consumes little time, energy and money, and brings you a whole new level of gardening satisfaction that leads you to a sense of pride and joy in the plants you grow from seed. So go ahead and jump-start your garden weeks ahead this year; sow your own seeds.
Seeds are often started in late winter or early spring, but not all seeds should be started at the same time. Some seeds germinate more quickly than others, and some seedlings can be placed in the garden earlier than others. So how do you determine when to start your plants? Here's how to plan your seed germination schedule.
Start with the set-out date for your specific plant. Often, this is the last frost date in your area. Plants that can tolerate mild frosts can be planted in the garden a little earlier, especially if you provide protection on cold nights.
Decide how mature you want your plants to be when you put transplant them. Check how many days the seedling will need to grow from germination to the right size to set out. This information is usually on the seed packet or in the seed catalog.
Check the average number of days your seeds will need to germinate.
Add together the growing days and the germination days your seed will need. Find your set-out date, and count backwards on the calendar the total number of days you will need to grow the seedlings. That's the date you will start seed germination and sow your own seeds.
Germination is a fascinating process. Seeing a tiny seedling emerge from a dry wrinkled seed and watching its growth and transformation, is observing the mystery of life unfolding.
So what supplies do you need to germinate your own seeds indoor? Basic supplies for germinating seeds are clean containers with drainage holes, a medium to plant the seeds in such as peat pots, Rapid Rooters, rockwool or other soilless potting mixes like Pro-Mix, a spray bottle, labels to mark your containers of germinating seeds and a fluorescent light. And, naturally you will need viable seeds of your choice.
For the best results, place one or two seeds in each medium-prepared container, cover the seed(s) with a little of the medium and place the containers in a flat. With the spray bottle, mist the tops of the seeded medium. Then cover the flat with a plastic humidity dome or plastic wrap to keep the moisture level high. Next find a dark or low lit area to place the covered flat on a heat mat or warm area since many seeds germinate faster if the medium is kept at a temperature of about 70 degrees. Remember to mist the medium daily to keep the humidity high. Under ideal conditions, most seeds will sprout in 7 to 10 days. Once the plants have sprouted, move them under the light.
Water the young plants with a fine mist, keeping the medium evenly damp, but not wet, and don't allow it to dry out. Do not over-water your young plants during this time. Over-watering is the most common killer of young seedlings.
When the seedlings are 1 to 2 inches tall, you can fertilize them lightly. Once they reach 3 to 4 inches in height, and have two true leaves transplant them into individual pots for further growth. Before subsequently transplanting them to the garden, be sure to gradually expose your plants to the outdoors in order to harden them off so they won't be shocked and die.
After you have harvested the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor and enjoyed a wider variety of plants than you ever have imagined, you can say with pride, "I did it myself from start to finish."
Don and Sandy Landers are owners of Dream Garden Hydroponics, LLC, 26380 State Route 7, Marietta.