The Q&A Archives: Tips for Starting Seeds Indoors

Question: I'm starting seeds for the first time. Someone told me to plant in a light starter compound (Sunshine) in a large shallow tub, cover with plastic until seeds sprout, then uncover. We would use fluorescent or grow lights (4 ft. F40 lamps, 6-8 inches from soil surface), then transplant to individual pots after a few weeks. Is this correct? What kind of plastic should I use? Would regular plastic wrap from the kitchen be ok? What about watering? Which lights do you suggest? I read something about putting seedlings in refrigeration. Is that all seedlings or just some? How can I know when it's time to set out seedlings? I basically need step by step instructions to feel secure. I tried starting seeds once before and they molded. Last year I sowed some seeds directly into the ground after it was warm. Most did fine. These are the seeds I've selected for this year so far: Greek Miniature Basil; Lemon Balm; Sacred Purple Holy Basil; Painted Lady Runner Beans; Sweet Pea Perennial; Sweet Pea Annual; Johnny Jump Up; Candytuft Giant Hyacinth Flowered; Linum; Cosmos-Sonata Dwarf Mixed; Poppy-Danebrog Laced; Campanula-Canterbury Bells; Foxglove; Hollyhock; Linaria-Fairy Lights. Also, I planted Dame's Rocket seeds which grew but never bloomed. Will they come back this year and bloom? Also, can I plant the sweet pea or runner beans in a flower box on TOP of a fence and have then grow down rather than up? I look forward to hearing from you!!! Mary Yexley Bloomingdale, IL

Answer: You're on the right track with your seed starting. Using regular plastic wrap is fine on the seedling trays until they germinate. Some seedlings need refrigeratation if you're saving them from last year. Most seeds you mentioned and buy fresh each year don't unless they say so on the packet. Many of the seeds you mentioned such as sweet peas, cosmos, runner beans and basil can be direct sow into the garden without starting indoors. The Dame rocket should come back again this year and hopefully bloom. Unfortunately, your sweet peas want to grow up not down, so plant that at the bottom of the fence.

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