Finally…A Sunday Farm update with some garden action!…well, sort of.

The planting of seeds indoors signals the start of Spring for us - no matter the weather outside!
The planting of seeds indoors signals the start of Spring for us – no matter the weather outside!
Using the plastic seed domes, or even a piece of saran wrap can keep the humidity level up to help seeds germinate
Using plastic seed domes, or even a piece of plastic wrap can keep the humidity level up to help seeds germinate

It’s always such an incredible feeling each year to finally start putting seeds into the soil.  It gives you that sense Spring is finally close at hand!  So what if there is still a little snow on the ground outside from yet another passing storm system  – once you put a few seeds into soil, it’s time to grow!  We finally planted the first of them yesterday – our ornamental peppers.  The Ornamental Peppers tend to take a little longer to germinate and grow to full maturity – so we like to give them an additional head start by planting in Mid-February.

As for the process…there are thousands of websites, television shows, and gardening experts that give all kinds of advice about starting seeds indoors – and quite honestly, it can get really confusing!  For us – as with all of our gardening – the more simple we can keep it – the easier it is to accomplish, and the more we enjoy it all.  Starting seeds indoors in no different.

Seeds need moisture to sprout – but struggle to germinate if there is too much water or not enough.  The easiest way we have found to remedy that is through using plastic seed domes or plastic wrap, and a spray bottle of water.  We start by placing two seeds in every cell  – that way we can almost ensure a sprout to every cell.   It’s easy to thin them out later – but hard to replace if one doesn’t grow.  For almost all of our vegetable and annual seeds – we make a small indention about 1/8″ to a 1/4″ down with the end of a plastic knife, drop the seeds in, and lightly cover them up with the soil.

We use a small water bottle with sprayer to lightly soak the soil.
We use a small water bottle with sprayer to lightly soak the soil.  It’s an easier way to water and prevents the soil from becoming saturated.

Then, taking the spray bottle – we spritz a fine mist over the entire seed tray – enough to make the dirt stick to your hand if you touched it – but not so much that the dirt clumps or becomes water clogged.  We do not directly water it other than the heavy spritzing.  After that – we place the plastic domes or plastic wrap over top – and place them back on the rack – with no lights on whatsoever.  You should start to see a good amount of moisture on the underside of the plastic dome or wrap in the days that follow – and that’s perfect for getting the seeds started.

The seed domes are on and the seeds are all planted. The lights will stay off until the seeds begin to germinate
The seed domes are on and the seeds are all planted. The lights will stay off until the seeds begin to germinate

After that initial spritzing of water, we will check them about every other day and make sure there is still some level of dampness to the soil.   If we see moisture on the underside of the cover – we know they are fine and can leave them alone. If not – we take off the cover and give it a few more shots of water spray to keep the humidity up – and that’s it.  Nothing more.

When you see a few seeds starting to break through the soil - it's time to pull of the covers and turn on the lights!
When you see a few seeds starting to break through the soil – it’s time to pull of the dome covers and turn on the lights!
We keep our shop lights about 1 to 2" above the plants.
We keep our shop lights about 1 to 2″ above the plants.

All seeds germinate at different times. Our Ornamental Peppers have a longer germination cycle – more so than our tomatoes and peppers.  It usually takes around 14 to 21 days before the first seedlings emerge from the trays.  At the point we see more than 3 or 4 popping up in a tray (no matter what we are germinating) – we remove the moisture cover and start turning on the lights for the plants. Seeds do not need direct light to germinate – so our grow lights stay off in the beginning.  Even then we will only water by spritzing.

Lighting is another big topic with so many options- again – we just try to keep it simple using regular old flourescent shop lights.  Once those first sprouts start  – we give them about 10 to 12 hours of artificial light a day.  We usually will flip the lights on when we get up – and turn them back off around 7 or 8 at night or later when we go to bed.   We keep the lights down close to the plants – at about 1″or 2″ above the top of the seedlings.  It keeps them growing strong and slowly.  That  is important so they don’t become “leggy” and weak trying to reach up too high for a light source.

So now that our ornamental seeds are in – we’ll wait another few weeks or so before we get started on the other vegetable plants we will grow.  It’s just such a good feeling to finally be writing a Sunday update about some real gardening – even if it is indoors!

I hope everyone has a terrific Sunday!!!

Jim and Mary

Shared on Savvy Southern

22 thoughts on “Starting Our Seeds Indoors – Let Spring Begin!

  • February 23, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Hi Jim,
    I so appreciate your blog and facebook page. I did make the seed starting rack…I love it! I followed your reply to shelves and made mine 4 shelves and it is 8 feet high! Huge, but will start a ton of seeds!! I have started just a couple flats waiting on my organic order to come, And I need more help! lol
    The seeds have started popping up and I took off the lids and turned on my lights. They seem to dry out rather quickly. (I am using an organic seed starting mix, so I imagine it doesn’t hold water as well as a potting mix would.) So, question #1 do you use a seed starting mix or am I seeing the little pod things…#2 Am I still supposed to water with a spray bottle or should I start giving them more? And how often either way. Thanks!! Kathy

    • February 24, 2013 at 7:00 am

      Hi Kathy – so glad you were able to build your rack – sounds like you will be able to really start some seeds! We make our own seed starting mix with equal parts of compost, garden soil, and a touch of sand – so it would be similar to what you are using. You can definitely start to water with more than the mister now that they are up – as the soil will dry out much quicker. As for how much, we usually water ours every day to keep them moist and growing! Hope that helps Kathy and good luck!!! Jim

  • February 23, 2013 at 7:52 am

    I am attempting to germinate outside this year – wish me luck! Hope you can stop by the enchanted oven to say hi.

    • February 24, 2013 at 6:55 am

      Good luck Lisa!!! And we will be sure to stop over to the blog to say Hello!

  • February 22, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    i would like to know i dont have flurorocent shop lamps : ( , but can i use regular desk lamps the ones that have the goose neck that i can adjust the height ? and if so , should i use regular light bulbs or the new type more watt economic energy saving spiral light bulbs and what watt should i use ? 25, 40 , 60, 75 or 100 ? thanks in advanced

    • February 24, 2013 at 6:55 am

      Tecnico – It would be pretty tough to do because of the light being dispersed over such a small area. I would think you could use that for a couple of plants in small containers – but it would be hard to concentrate the light out over enough area to use it for starting flats. I hope that helps a little – Jim

  • February 19, 2013 at 10:15 am

    I like your organized way of planting indoors! Care to share this, or any other healthy post, at my Healthy Tuesday hop?

  • February 18, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Hi Jim and Mary,
    I continue to be amazed at your simple and practical ways of gardening! When I “step back” I realize how practical your methods truly are.
    Sometimes I think I read too much:-) What I mean is that we all read the “how to’s” of gardening and sometimes get overwhelmed with the many suggestions. It seems that you guys, at some point, just backed away and went back to good ‘ol common sense:-)
    I am about to start my peppers, also. I have the seed starting rack sitting in a large “south facing” window. I would like to have your opinion on the amount of artificial light I should use and when. Thank you!!

    • February 19, 2013 at 6:19 am

      Thank you so much Mark for the wonderful comments! We really try hard to keep our garden simple, and good old common sense certainly played a big role in that! As for your light question – we use about 10 to 12 hours of artificial light on our seedlings as soon as they emerge. For our plants, we really do not have a good enough source for natural light in our house – so we stick to the lights. It sounds like you could supplement half of that with natural light. Hope that helps! Jim

  • February 18, 2013 at 9:53 am

    I’m excited to start ornamental peppers from seed for the first time. I live quite a bit farther north(Nova Scotia) and was wondering how old (in weeks or days) they are before you put them out in the garden. Thanks, that way I will know when to start mine. I can’t usually plant out tomatoes till the first week in June.

    • February 18, 2013 at 9:57 am

      We usually put ours out about the second week of May – so i would say you can start yours in a couple of weeks and should be good to go! You will love the color of the ornamentals! Jim

      • February 18, 2013 at 10:06 am

        Thanks, I’m hoping to grow them as a deer deterent and for the lovely colours!!

    • February 18, 2013 at 9:58 am

      Thanks Audra – the low lights really help build strong plants!

  • February 17, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    Just started my first batch of seeds indoors for the first time today, thanks to your instructions on your website! Always fun to think about different people poking holes in dirt with hope in their hearts at the same moment, connected by the magic of the internet 😉

    • February 18, 2013 at 9:59 am

      It is crazy to think about isn’t it? Good luck with your seeds and glad you found us!!! Jim

  • February 17, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    I put my lights on a timer. That way I will not forget to turn on or off. It works great!!

  • February 17, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Hi Jim and Mary! This is such a timely post as I too, am about to sow pepper seeds inside. I didn’t know they did not need light in the very beginning, so I will not turn them on until the seeds come up. Thanks for sharing! Blessings from Bama!

    • February 18, 2013 at 9:59 am

      Good luck on your seeds and glad it helped out! Hope all is well in Bama country!

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