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Annual Seed Starting

March 2, 2016

Seeing tiny sprouts break through the ground and peep through the melting snow is sure to make any gardener antsy for Spring, and these last few days of warm weather have certainly been teasing. Although some regions cannot promise consistent warm weather this early in the year, there is still an opportunity to get a head start on the season by starting seedlings in a greenhouse, garden window, or well-lit part of the house. Let’s take a look at some of the early stages of starting seedlings and the transformation process from indoor and to outdoor plant.

Prepare a Seed Starting Mixture and Sterilize Planters

Sterile seedling mix is crucial not only for the initial growth stages of plants, but also preventing for plant diseases, which can be extracted from soils which are not properly sterilized.

A seed starting mix can easily be purchased from a greenhouse or garden store. Creating a home-made seed starting mixture is easily done with four simple ingredients:

  • 4 parts screened compost
  • 1 part perlite (which can be purchased from most garden stores)
  • 1 part vermiculite (also can be purchased from most garden stores)
  • 2 parts coir (fiber extracted from coconut husks)

It is also important to sterilize the heat mats and other containers before the seeds are distributed.

Organize and Disburse the Seeds

Gardeners interested in cultivating something new can check out seed companies, like Jung Seed, which have a wide repertoire of seeds from which to choose. Seed Savers is another unique organization, which not only sells seeds, but also promotes the conservation of the endangered garden by collecting, sharing, and growing heirloom seeds and plants.

Certain seeds are extremely tiny black specs, and some even look like dust, so once the seed order arrives it is not a bad idea dilute them with sugar to ensure they will evenly distribute when sowed. To do this, pour two to three tablespoons of sugar into a small container, sprinkle in the seeds, and then thoroughly mix everything together. Smaller seeds, such as impatients, will not need to be covered with soil, as simply wetting them down after disbursing will cover the seeds enough.

Transplant the Seeds

Once the seedlings begin to sprout, they can be transplanted into individual pots and placed on a deck, patio, or other sheltered outdoor area for a few hours a day for an adjustment period of about 10 days. The adjustment period, also called “hardening off” gradually exposes the plants to various environmental changes, including sun and wind exposure. If they are immediately transplanted into full sun exposure, they will be at risk to sunburn and other damage.  After 10 days, the plants will be ready for full outdoor residence. Hardening off can also occur in outdoor cold frames.

If the seeds will be started in a greenhouse, make sure the structure’s heating, cooling, ventilation, and other growing accessories are in perfect working order before cultivation begins.  Now is also a great time to sharpen gardening tools, stock up on fertilizers, and think about laying out the garden’s structure (if not already done). Now that the seedlings are started, it’s only a matter of weeks before the gardening will be in full swing!