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Why Start Seeds Indoors?

Flowers and vegetables to direct-sow

Hope enables you to believe and act, regardless of what you see. Both require you to believe in the unseen and set a vision of what can be. In Hebrews we see these people of faith, resilient in their hoping until their deaths. They had the faith to understand what thousands of years later the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. As Christian community developers, we can find ourselves wondering if the seeds we plant will ever poke their heads out of the ground. How long must we wait? Will we have to replant?

Will we ever see evidence of our efforts? As a social justice activist, much of my life is spent planting seeds without much evidence of growth, placing hopes and ideals into proverbial dirt, hoping for fruit. We need:. Timing — Timing is essential. Nothing is done on a whim. It takes time for plants to transition from a controlled environment to outside unpredictable elements. Regardless of what you cultivate independently, the time to stand up for community is not randomly chosen but carefully considered and approached sustainably.

Foundation — The strength of roots depend on the quality of the soil. Jesus talks about the importance of soil enabling seeds to take root. Shop for Organic Seeds. If you're new to seed starting, begin with easy, reliable seeds, including tomato, pepper, basil, zinnia, marigold, cosmos. These all germinate readily and grow quickly. Once you've mastered these, you can try your hand at more challenging plants. When you're starting seeds indoors, timing is everything. The goal is to grow seedlings that are the ideal size for transplanting into the garden at the proper time.

Sowing Seeds in the Ground

Sowing dates depend on:. Most seed packets suggest a planting time, such as "sow seeds indoors six weeks before your average last frost date. The easiest way to find out is to ask a neighbor who's an experienced gardener or ask staff at your local garden center. The date of the actual last spring frost varies from year to year so the "average last spring frost date" is just an approximation, but it gives you a starting point. Although it's possible to grow seedlings on a sunny windowsill, you'll get much better results if you grow them under lights.

That's because the sunlight in early spring isn't nearly as intense as summer sun, and the days are shorter, too. Seedlings growing on a windowsill will reach for the sun, resulting in long, weak stems that bend toward the light. Plants grown under the consistent, bright fluorescent lights of a light garden, on the other hand, will have strong, stocky stems that will adapt better once they're transplanted into the garden.

Garden soil tends to drain poorly, especially when it's used in small seed-starting trays. It can also harbor disease organisms that can damage or kill young seedlings. You'll get the best results by starting seeds in a mix formulated for starting seeds indoors, such as our exclusive Organic Seed Starting Mix.

What type of pot should I use? Although you can start seeds in any container that has drainage holes, specially designed seed-starting pots and trays provide optimal conditions. They let you start lots of seeds in a small space, and they drain freely to prevent rot. Some people prefer biodegradable pots; others prefer reusable trays. Self-watering, all-in-one seed-starting systems are convenient and foolproof. Shop for Seed Starters Basil, pepper and zinnia seeds: different sizes, different planting depths.

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How deeply do I plant the seeds? Most seed packets tell you how deep to plant. A rule of thumb is to sow seeds two or three times as deep as they are wide. Take care not to plant seeds too deep. A seed contains a limited supply of stored food to nourish it during germination.

If you plant it too deep, it will run out of food before it reaches the light and grows big enough to start producing its own. Some seeds require light to germinate; the seed packet should say this. Sow these seeds on the surface of the planting mix. Bottom watering is usually preferable because it keeps the soil surface dryer, helping prevent disease problems.

For small seeds or surface-sown seeds, top misting keeps the surface moist for better germination. Self-watering seed-starting systems, such as our GrowEase Seed Starter Kit , use a wicking fabric to supply water from the bottom, providing a steady supply of just the right amount of water to plant roots. You just fill the reservoir and don't need to worry about over- or under-watering. The greenhouse cover holds in moisture, raising the humidity for fast germination.

Transplanting seedlings into the ground

As soon as you see the first tiny sprout, remove the cover. This allows air to circulate around seedlings, minimizing disease problems. Keep the lights a few inches from the tops of the seedlings to promote strong, stocky growth. Our grow light stands have adjustable lights that are easy to raise as the seedlings grow. Most seedlings grow best when lights are kept on for about 14 to 16 hours per day. They need a period of darkness as they would in nature to rest and prepare for active growth when the lights are back on. An automatic timer makes this easy.

Determining the Proper Depth to Plant Seeds

A few weeks after seeds start growing, they may start crowding each other. When that happens, it will be time to thin the seedlings. This is the hardest part of seed starting for most gardeners. Choose the strongest seedling and removing the others nearby. This gives the remaining seedling room to grow.

Although you can try to separate seedlings and replant, invariably you'll damage some roots, setting back growth.

Growing from Seed

The best way to thin is to snip off extra seedlings at the soil line. The first set of leaf-like structures aren't leaves at all, but are the seed's food storage structures, called cotyledons. The second and subsequent sets are true leaves, and they resemble the mature plant's leaves. Begin fertilizing seedlings when they're an inch or two tall, or when they have their second set of true leaves. Tomatoes and other fast-growing plants may outgrow their pots before it's time to move them into the garden.

About a month after sowing or when seedlings are about 4" tall, gently remove one of the seedlings from its pot. If the roots are beginning to fill the space, then it's time to transplant them into a larger pot. Avoid waiting too long, because root crowding can stunt plant growth and make it difficult for plants to recover after transplanting. Our Pop Out Pots are ideal transplant pots. Hardening off is simply acclimating plants to outdoor conditions. Warm temperatures can also stimulate leggy growth.

Try lowering the room temperature and reducing the amount of fertilizer you apply. For more on this topic, see the article Growing Under Lights. Purple leaves are an indication that the plant is not receiving enough phosphorus. If you have been using half-strength fertilizer for the first three to four weeks of the seedling's life, it may be time to increase the fertilizer to full strength.

The phosphorus content the middle number on the fertilizer analysis should be at least 3. When the stems of young seedlings become withered and topple over, they have probably been killed by a soil-borne fungus called "damping off. Mold is an indication that the growing medium is too wet. It will not harm your plants as long as you take action. Withhold water for a few days and try to increase air circulation around the containers by using a small fan. You can also scrape off some of the mold or try transplanting the seedlings into fresh soil.

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How to Sow Seeds

About Us. Fresh-Picked Gifts New! Garden Tools New! Garden Decor New! Home Decor New! Kitchen Gear New! Personal Accessories New! More Articles Find more garden information. Share this Article:. There are many ways to start seeds, but a seed-starting system, such as the GrowEase Seed Starting Kit ensures good results. Keep it Simple Growing plants from seed is a great way to start gardening earlier in the season.

Marigold growing among vegetables. Seven Steps, from Seed to Garden Get the timing right The goal with seed starting is to have your seedlings ready to go outside when the weather is favorable. For more on timing, read: When to Start Your Seeds. A seed starting tray with a built-in watering system makes seed starting foolproof. Good-quality "potting soil" for seed starting doesn't actually have any soil in it. This sterile, free-draining mix is perfect for seedlings. Learn more in the article Gardening Under Lights. Troubleshooting Only one-quarter of my seeds germinated.

What went wrong?

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My seedlings are spindly. What can I do? From our Garden Lab : The seedlings on the right were grown on a windowsill. You can see how the stems are long and spindly, with tiny leaves. On the left are seedlings grown under lights. The tray on the left was grown with water-soluble fertilizer. The leaves on my tomatoes are starting to look purple along the veins and on the underside of the leaves. What's happening?