For those of us who live in the north, starting some types of garden seeds indoors several weeks before the final frost is essential. Otherwise, they don’t have time to mature. Even gardeners who live in warmer southern climates often have better success starting certain fruit and vegetable seeds in a sunroom or greenhouse.
One big advantage of indoor sprouting is protection birds and insects. Also, you don’t have to worry about weeds stealing nutrients and sunlight from your indoor sprouts. Once you transplant your starts in the garden, you are likely to see an earlier and more productive yield. Also, because each seed is a tiny power pack of nutrients, you don’t need to add fertilizer to your potting mix.
Garden plants that adapt well to indoor sprouting include:
Potting soil designed for seed sprouting is the best medium for indoor starts. It should be fresh and sterile. I’ve also had success with peat pellets – those flat circles that expand with water. When it’s time to transplant, you can put these right into the ground, and they will eventually dissolve. Meanwhile, you don’t have to disturb your plant’s tender root system, so you minimize the shock of transplanting.
- Seed Trays
You can buy plastic seed trays at the local mart, but all you really need are a number of small containers. Those little plastic pots you saved from last year’s garden work fine, and so do empty yogurt containers. The main thing is making sure the pots you use are clean and sterile. Peat pods or pots work great for sprouting and transplanting.
Garden seeds need warmth to germinate. Put your trays or pots in a warm but not hot place, like on the clothes dryer. You can also purchase heated mats designed for germinating seeds.
If you have a greenhouse, a sunroom or a bank of south-facing windows, you’re set for sunlight. Otherwise, you may need to set up some fluorescent lighting to ensure your young plants get enough light to thrive. If your seedlings look thin and rangy, you should provide more light.
Naturally. But how much? During the germination stage, the soil should be moist but not wet. Use the clear lid that came with your sprouting tray or a loose square of plastic wrap to hold in humidity. Once the sprouts are up, uncover them and water them from below so that the plants can draw only what they need. Surface watering may encourage mold or bacterial growth.
Do you have some advice to share about your own seed sprouting experiences? Please help broaden everyone’s gardening know-how by leaving a comment below!