The Q&A Archives: Seed Starting

Question: I want to start my veggies in the house, how do I do that?

Answer: Most vegetables can be started indoors, but some cannot. Green beans, corn, cucumbers and melons are better seeded directly in the garden. Depending upon which other types of veggies you plan to grow, they take from 2-12 weeks before they'll be ready to plant in the garden.

If you've never started seeds indoors before, you'll need trays or pots, potting soil or seed starting mix and some plastic wrap. Place seeds in containers at the depths recommended on the package. Plant one or two seeds per individual container or, if using flats, in rows that can be thinned or transplanted into individual containers following germination. Be sure to label the flats to avoid confusion, using a pencil or water resistant marker. Once the seeds are planted, the container should be bottom watered by placing it in a shallow pan of water and waiting until the surface of the mix is moist. This method avoids overhead sprinkling,
which can carry away some smaller seeds. The pot should then be removed from the pan and allowed to drain.

Germination is aided by maintaining high moisture levels in the mix and moderately high soil temperatures. Sealing the container in a clear, plastic storage bag until seedlings emerge will keep the soil moist. Placing the starting containers in a warm place or on specially designed heating mats, available at some garden centers, can speed up germination. Once the seedlings emerge, remove the plastic bag and give the seedlings as much light as possible by placing them on a sunny window sill or 4 to 6 inches below a fluorescent light. Maintain room temperatures between 60 to 70 o F. Higher temperatures or lack of light will promote unwanted, leggy growth. Seedlings can be lightly fertilized by watering with soluble fertilizers, such as Miracle-Gro or Peters, following the directions on the package.

When the seedlings develop their first true leaves, transplant those started in flats to individual containers. Dig the seedlings out of the mix with a small trowel or spoon. When transplanting, always handle the seedlings by the leaves, being careful not to damage the fragile seedling stem or root system.

One week before the seedlings are transplanted, they should be hardened off to better acclimate the transplants to outdoor conditions. Harden plants
outdoors in an area protected from wind, and subject them to longer doses of sunlight each day, while cutting back on watering.

Hope you have a bountiful harvest!

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