Now that the weather has continued to stay at above normal temperatures in our area, several of you are getting the ‘gardening’ bug.  Typically the word bug would not be good in garden terms, however, we all began gardening because we saw the immense benefit that it provides to ourselves and our families.  These benefits may be more than you bargained for – the most obvious is the nutritional benefit, but many don’t realize the additional benefits that derive from planting your own garden: emotionally, physically, and even spiritually for some.

Our 4 week old seeds have grown to this

Several times in our lives we get the desire to do something, but have no idea where to begin.  Over the last several weeks, we have continued to filter questions from individuals that would like to start a garden from seed but don’t know how.  We always tell everyone, don’t be afraid to try — the worst thing that could happen is that you are out a couple of dollars from buying those seed packets.  You have to make the jump and get started… is prime time to start your seeds if you plan to get them in the ground right after the threat of the last frost.

Basic instructions for seed planting:

1. Purchase your seeds from your local garden center  (we will get into harvesting your own seeds in other posts)

–if you are an organic gardener, make sure you purchase heirloom or organic seeds — Don’t worry, the packet will tell you what type you are purchasing

— if you buy F1 seedlings, you will not be able to harvest the seeds from your produce next year, as these will produce genetically modified organisms that are designed to increase disease resistance in your crop but not produce the exact reproduction in future years

2. Purchase planting soil and compost  (if you don’t make your own — which by the way is very simple to do)

—Composting 101

3. Decide where to plant your seeds

Seed beginning to sprout

— peat pots are biodegradable containers that can often be planted right in the ground with your seedlings.

— we have reused yogurt containers to start some of our seedlings — just make small slices in the bottom of the container to allow for adequate water drainage

–check out your local garden store for various seedling containers

4. Mix the potting soil and compost in a 1:1 ratio

5. Fill pots with soil mixture — pack lightly – you want the soil to be light and fluffy to allow room for root growth and water filtering

6. Moisten the soil –don’t drench the soil so it turns to mud, you just want to have the soil wet to the touch.

6. Plant your 2-3 seeds per pot – preferably not on top of each other, but in different areas for easy thinning.

–each packet will tell you the depth that the seeds should be planted — most are about 1/4inch deep — It doesn’t seem like very deep, but it will pay off when you are waiting for them to sprout.

7.  Lightly water the soil

8. Cover with a plastic sheet or lid and keep out of direct sunlight

— Really?  I thought sunlight made seeds grow???  I know, I know, but you have to get the seedlings to sprout first.  The moisture that will build up between the plastic and the pots will allow for optimum seed sprouting.  You will  most likely not have to water during this time — just make sure the soil remains moist.

Sprouts have been thinned

9. Wait

10. Wait again, but continue to check to make sure the soil is moist

11. Once you see 1-2 seedlings sprouting out of the soil, remove the lid and place in direct sunlight (or use a shop light placed 2 inches above the soil)

12.  You will need to water more frequently now — most likely once a day.

13. Once seeds begin to sprout, thin the growth to allow for one seed per container.

— you can attempt to replant the seedlings in other containers if you have a steady hand – and yes, you will feel like a Surgeon.

–or compost your non-preferred sprouts

–or if you are afraid to disturb the roots, cut the non-preferred sprouts down to the soil and let die off, which will become compost in the current soil

Seedlings under shop lights

13.  If you are using direct sunlight, rotate the plants to allow for even growth — the plants will get spindly as they search for the sun…but don’t worry, when you plant them you will just have to plant them deeper (up to the first leaves) than the shorter versions.

14. If you use shop lights – keep the lights at 1-2 inches above the plants.

Sangria pepper plant in a yogurt cup - now ready to be trained to tolerate outdoor temperatures.

15.  After your plants have gotten 2-3 sets of leaves, you can begin to train them to tolerate outdoor conditions.   On a warmer day in your climate, set them outside for a few hours.  Increase the time that you leave them outside each day and even overnight if there is no chance of frost.

Plants being trained to the outdoor climate

16.  Don’t get greedy — you can’t plant them in pots/gardens until the last chance of frost in your zone — In our area, May 15th is the ‘safe’  planting day.  Of course, we live on the edge and usually plant by May 5th 🙂

In a few weeks, we will discuss our garden planting system — the No-Tiller method.  But right now you need to concentrate on getting those seeds started!!!

Happy Planting!

The Infant Years….from Seedling to Sprouts
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