The Q&A Archives: Is It Difficult To Start Seeds?

Question: I would like to try to start some veggie seeds indoors and am wondering if there are any special steps or equipment I need to be successful. I am especially interested in starting tomato and pepper seeds.

Answer: It isn't hard to grow from seed...I'll be honest, there are occasionally some "challenges" to overcome. I venture to say everyone who has ever sown a seed has experienced the heartbreak of "damping off" at one time or another. Luckily, this is a problem we can head off at the pass with good cultural practices such as sterile soil, good air circulation, sterile containers, not overwatering, thinning seedlings, etc. What you really need can get as fancy or simple as you like. Incollege I started tomato seeds in condiment cups (like you put catsup in at fast food places) in the window. On the opposite end of the spectrum are complex lighting systems, greenhouses, etc. Here are some basics: For good germination, seeds like a cool room with bottom heat if possible. The bottom heat is not a must, but it does speed up germination. Bottom heat can be achieved with heat mats or coils that go under the seed flats. You can purchase these mats from Burpee at 1-800-888-1447. Air circulation is a definite because without it in a cool room, fungus can attack your seedlings. Lighting is another "must have", fluorescent lights suspended so they are approximately 1-2" inches above the seedlings will give you good results, but you can use a window sill if you turn the plants daily. I think that Seed-n-Start kits are wonderful when starting from seed. These kits include everything you need, containers, soil pellets, trays, transparent tops for the trays, and best of all, great instructions! Burpee sells these as well in many different sizes. If you don't want to go with a kit, you are generally looking for a sterile soilless mix to start your seeds in. For containers, you can use just about anything as long as it is sterile (this can be accomplished by dipping the container in a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water) and has drainage holes. Of course, plants need to be transferred to larger containers as appropriate. For a good seed starting reference consider Burpee's Seed Starter. Pepper and tomato seeds should be started indoors approximately 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost date for your area. You can get this date from the local weather bureau or county extension office. Hope this helps...if you have any other questions please feel free to revisit the site and post another question.

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