9. Circulate the air.
Circulating air helps prevents disease and encourages the development of strong stems. Run a gentle fan near seedlings to create air movement. Keep the fan a distance away from the seedlings to avoid blasting them directly.
Seed-starting containers should be clean, measure at least 2-3 inches deep and have drainage holes. They can be plastic pots, cell packs, peat pots, plastic flats, yogurt cups, even eggshells. As long as they are clean (soak in a 9 parts water to one part household bleach for 10 minutes), the options are endless. You can also buy seed-starting kits, but don’t invest a lot of money until you’re sure you’ll be starting seeds every year. If you start seeds in very small containers or plastic flats, you’ll need to transplant seedlings into slightly larger pots once they have their first set of true leaves. Keep in mind that flats and pots take up room, so make sure you have enough sunny space for all the seedlings you start.
8. Give seedlings enough light.
Not enough light leads to leggy, tall seedlings that will struggle once transplanted outdoors. In mild winter areas, you can grow stocky seedlings in a bright south-facing window. Farther north, even a south-facing window may not provide enough light, especially in the middle of winter. Ideally, seedlings need 14-16 hours of direct light per day for healthiest growth. If seedlings begin bending toward the window, that’s a sure sign they are not getting enough light. Simply turning the pots won’t be enough – you may need to supply artificial lighting. Nurseries and mail order seed catalogs can provide lighting kits. Follow instructions carefully.
3. Plant at the proper depth.
You’ll find the proper planting depth on the seed packet. The general rule of thumb is to cover seeds with soil equal to three times their thickness – but be sure to read the seed packet planting instructions carefully. Some seeds, including certain lettuces and snapdragons, need light to germinate and should rest on the soil surface but still be in good contact with moist soil. Gentle tamping after sowing will help. After planting your seeds, use a spray bottle to wet the soil again.
Start feeding your seedlings after they develop their second set of true leaves, applying a half-strength liquid fertilizer weekly. Apply it gently so seedlings are not dislodged from the soil. After four weeks, apply full-strength liquid fertilizer every other week until transplanting.
6. Keep soil warm.
Seeds need warm soil to germinate. They germinate slower, or not at all, in soils that are too cool. Most seeds will germinate at around 78°F. Waterproof heating mats, designed specifically for germinating seeds, keep soil at a constant temperature. You can buy them in most nurseries and garden centers. Or, you can place seed trays on top of a refrigerator or other warm appliance until seeds sprout. After germination, air temperature should be slightly below 70°F. Seedlings can withstand air temperature as low as 50°F as long as soil temperature remains 65-70°F.
1. Choose a container.
When you sprout your own flowers and veggies in winter, you’ll be ready to plant as soon as the weather warms up again. Plus, growing from seeds is an easy way to fill your garden without emptying your wallet.
It's best to add 2-3 seeds to each pot, in case one doesn't sprout. Once you've sown the seeds, cover them with potting mix and mist each container enough so that the potting mix is damp, but not drenched with water. The water will also help the potting mix settle around the seeds.
Easy Seeds to Start Indoors
Label your pots so you know what's growing in them. Loosely cover the pots with clear plastic wrap, which helps maintain humidity and warmth.
When spring rolls around after a long winter, you don't want to waste a minute of that warmer weather to get growing! Starting seeds indoors is a time-honored way to get a jump on the season. If you want to try just a few easy-to-grow seeds, it can be a pretty quick project and you can even get them growing with what you have on hand; no need to buy any special supplies. Or, if you're looking for more of a challenge, you can scale up accordingly. Here's what you need to know to successfully start seeds inside for planting outside once temperatures stay above freezing.
Who doesn’t love sunflowers? Bonus: Birds and bees are drawn to them, too.
This article was co-authored by Andrew Carberry, MPH. Andrew Carberry has been working in food systems since 2008. He has a Masters in Public Health Nutrition and Public Health Planning and Administration from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
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Planting seeds in pots can be a great way to start a houseplant or indoor garden, or otherwise start seeds that you may later transplant into your garden. Starting seeds in pots does not need to be difficult, but it does require some planning and attention to ensure successful propagation of your new plant. Be sure to start the seeds carefully in a soil matrix meant for seedlings, and keep your new plants in sunny areas with proper exposure to heat and water.