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Starting Your Seeds

Growing flowers and vegetables from seed can be one of the most rewarding gardening experiences a person can have. You can do it alone, or with others. Now is a great time to get a head start on Spring by planting seeds indoors. No matter where you are, starting your own seeds now, will give a head start and allow you to try new varieties.Growers and Nurseries can only grow so many varieties. So, by purchasing your own seed, this will give you more options on what to grow.Some seeds, it is better to sow directly into the soil, when the danger of frost has past. Some are--corn, zucchini, beans, peas (plant early spring) and cukes.




What do you need to start


Here are some basics:

Seeds
Containers
Soil (growing media)
Water
Light
Warmth

Seeds

Choose the type of seeds by looking back on your past gardens. What are some of the plants you have had the most success from? What are some plants you might like to try? Are there some things you have not seen before that looks interesting? Browse our selection and make a list. A few seeds are better to plant directly in the ground where they will grow through the season. Some examples are corn and root crops. Most flowers, herbs and vegetables do well when started early and transplanted. How many packages do you need? Most packages contain more seeds than you might need for a home garden and since the seeds are sold by weight, the smaller the seed size the more per package. What about seed you have from previous years? The simple answer is fresh seed has the best chance of growing. If you have some seed from previous years, you can do a simple germination test by placing a few of the seeds in a clear quart jar with a damp paper towel, close the top and place in a warm (60-70f) spot with bright light. Most good seeds will sprout in about 10-15 days. You can usually store unused seed for the next season if you keep it in a dark and dry location.

Containers

Seed starting does not require a large container. In fact, shallow containers are generally best. Low rectangular containers called trays or flats are well designed with enough space to start many seeds. You can recycle old trays or containers, but they should be cleaned and treated to avoid contamination from diseases. An easy way to treat your container is to apply a simple mixture of household bleach and water. In addition it works best if you cover the container with a clear dome. If you want to start the seeds on a counter or table indoors, try the best-selling Accelerated Seed Propagation System (APS-40), which is fully enclosed and simple to use.

Soil

Perhaps the most important thing after choosing seeds is the soil selection. The selection of the right material will go a long way toward your success. First, do not use used soil. Start with vermiculite, sand and (or) sterilized potting mix. There are many different recipes for seed starting, but one that we like is to use washed river sand and vermiculite. Save a small amount of sand for seed cover.

Water

Before planting, add enough water to make the soil moist without making it soggy. Misting with hand a held sprayer or a Garden Coil will work best. It will be necessary to add water later and misting will be easiest.

Light

There is no equal to sunlight, so wherever possible, use the brightest natural light you can. If you have low light or very short days, consider using a lighting system. The light needs to be placed very close to the surface of the container which makes fluorescent light a good choice because it does not get as hot as incandescent light. To save energy, try to use the lighting system to make the daylight hours longer and use it just before sunset for three or four hours.

Warmth

All seeds germinate best with warm temperatures and bottom heat is best because it helps draw the roots down through the rooting soil. Using a heating mat can make the seeds germinate more uniformly and quickly. If you do not have a heating mat, find a location were the temperature remains stable around 60-70f.

Planting

Fill the container with the moist mix and press it down firmly with a flat board. To prevent disease, lightly coat the seeds with organic garden dust by placing a tablespoon in a bag, add the seeds and shake vigorously. If the seeds are very small, mix them thoroughly with a cup of sand. (Note: though they can easily be planted directly in the garden, peas and beans should be soaked in water for about 24 hours before seeding) Sprinkle the seeds over the surface and press them in with the board. Cover the soil with just enough sand to hide the seed. Mist lightly with water. You do not need to add fertilizer, that will come later when you transplant the seedlings. Place the clear dome over the top and if you have a light and mat, plug them in. Germination can begin in as few as 3-5 days or as long as 2 weeks. Be patient and make sure the soil stays moist to the touch. Keep the dome on until the seedlings have grown to about one inch tall, then it can be removed. When your seedlings are about 1 to 2 inches tall, they can be transplanted into individual containers 3-4 inches in size for planting later.
Time your seeding to be ready about the time the weather allows you to plant in your zone. Be sure to make notes about the varieties, timing and names.