plant starts

Time To Start Growing | Seed Starts

It’s March and in the southeast part of the country, and that means it’s time to start growing, beginning with the decision on what to grow and what seed varieties to start.

Here are the steps to take and the supplies you will need to get started.  Make a list of what you want to grow, fruits and vegetables.

  • If you don’t have the latest seed catalogs, order them or go to the online sites of your favorite seed companies.  Some of mine are Johnny’s, Baker Creek, Kitchen Garden, & Fedco.  There are many more good seed companies out there.
  • Order your seeds or go to your local garden center and pick from their racks.

Supplies you will need for growing include:

  • Seed germination trays
  • A dome to cover your tray
  • Tray cell inserts.  Size depends on what type of plant you’re starting.  Recommended sizes are 72 cell for greens, 18 cell for brassicas, tomatoes, and peppers.
  • A heat mat.  Unless you keep your room very warm, say 70 degrees or more, a heat mat is essential for raising the soil temperature for better germination. The exception would be for greens, which do well in lower temperatures.
  • A seed starting mix.  This should be basic with no fertilizers added.  A mix of peat or coir, perlite, lime, and a wetting agent is all you need.  Save the fertilizing until after the seedling is planted and growing.
  • A sprayer to keep your seeds and seedlings moist.
  • Liquid kelp to help with germination and add minerals.
  • Possibly a portable greenhouse to place your seedling in, depending on your situation.  You want warmth and light.
  • And most importantly, a good germination light.  This is where most people fail.  Good lighting and heat are necessary for good germination and growth of most seedlings.  The light coming through your window won’t cut it for developing strong plants. The most economical lights are T5 Fluorescents. For best success, you need enough bulbs to cover the entire width of the tray your starting in.  For a 10″ x 20″ standard size tray, that means 4 – 2 foot bulbs over one tray.  You can get away with 2 but 4 works better.

How to set up:

  • Place your cell insert in your tray.  Fill with seed starting mix to about 1/2″ from the top.  Place your seeds. Cover them with 1/4″ to 1/2″ of starting mix, depending on the seed size.  Smaller seeds need less covering.
  • Moisten with your sprayer.
  • Put the dome on to hold moisture in.
  • Place the tray on the heating mat and put it under your lighting, with the light about 6″ to 8″ from the soil.

As your plants grow, keep moving the light up, keeping it about the same distance away.  The best device I have found to make this easy is a set of pulleys designed for adjusting lighting.  To close, you can burn your seedlings, too far and you’ll have spindly plants.

Now start growing for the best varieties of your choice and to save money by growing your own plant starts.

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