When it comes to advice on how to successfully start vegetable seeds indoors, there are a few simple tips that can go a long way towards ensuring success. Contrary to what many think, the process is not difficult. Nor does it require fancy equipment, heat mats, special lights, or even a green thumb for that matter.
The rewards are many. First and foremost, when you start vegetable seeds indoors, you can save BIG on your budget. Secondly, it’s the perfect way to add special heirloom or rare varieties that are hard to locate at local nurseries. And maybe most importantly of all, because it’s just plain fun and rewarding!
Nothing can beat the feeling that comes from seeing a plant you raised from a seed grow up to put great tasting food on your table.
Lets take a look at some easy ways to make your indoor seed growing a success.
7 Simple Tips To Successfully Start Vegetable Seeds Indoors
#1 Start Your Seeds At The Right Time
Success all starts with getting your seeds in the starter soil at the right time. Plant them too early, and they grow too large and unmanageable before its time to move to the garden. Plant them too late, and they may never mature enough to handle the shock of transplanting.
To know when to start your seeds indoors, use a simple counting back method. Start by finding out the when its safe to plant in your growing area. This is usually called the last frost date, and refers to the last typical day in Spring when the threat of a frost could occur in your area.
Next, check the recommended growing time on the back of each seed packet, and then simply count backwards from your last frost date to know when to start your seeds. Most vegetable plants require around 6 weeks to grow to transplant maturity. We like to add one more week to the recommended total to allow for the week or so it takes most seeds to germinate.
#2 Make Sure To Use A Good Soil-Starting Mix.
This is not the time to use ordinary soil from your garden. To get seeds to germinate and off to a good start, you want a loose, fertile, well-draining soil mix.
You can mix your own with equal parts of sand, potting soil and vermiculite or peat moss, or purchase a ready-made seed starting mix. There are some great, inexpensive and organic soil mixes on the market now that work beautifully. Pro Mix Organic Seed Starting Mix 16 qt.
#3 Start With Good Quality, Fresh Seeds
You’ll have the best luck with good quality seeds that haven’t been on the shelf for a years.
Seeds that have been in a drawer for years, or have been on store racks for 2 growing seasons or more can have a low germination rate. Be sure to check the seed packets for the packing date. If saving your own seed from the previous season, be sure to keep in a dry, cool, dark place to keep fresh until you are ready to use. See Our Article : 5 Incredible Vegetable Plants To Grow In Your Garden This Year
#4 Plant More Than You Need
When you plant your seeds, don’t be stingy. Plant two seeds in each cell to make sure a seedling will germinate in every cell. If both sprout, thin to one after a few days by choosing the strongest of the two.
There is nothing worse than having half-filled trays of seeds because a portion of the seeds didn’t germinate. By the time you realize the problem, it’s too late to plant more.
Once planted, lightly water, or mist with a spray bottle to dampen the soil. Cover trays with a plastic top or saran wrap to help hold in moisture until the first plants sprout. There is no need for light at this point. Vegetable seeds do not require light to germinate. In fact, all light will do is dry out the soil quicker. We place our seed trees in a dark warm place until they begin to germinate. Check on the seeds every few days, watering or misting when necessary to keep soil slightly damp.
Once seeds germinate, their water needs will continue to grow each week. Check the soil with the touch of your fingertip each day. If it is dry to the touch, lightly water again. Soil should be damp, but not soggy. If the soil is too wet, it can rot seeds and drown seedlings.
#6 Give Them Right Kind Of Light
As much as a sunny windowsill sounds like the perfect place to grow your seedlings, it’s not. The ever-changing angles and distance of the light source make it hard for seedlings to grow strong and straight. Even with constant turning, plants are often leggy and weak when grown with window light.
But don’t rush out to buy those ultra expensive grow lights. Inexpensive t8 or t25 fluorescent shop lights work perfect!
Standard fluorescent shop lights placed 1 to 1 – 1/2″ above the tops of the plants develop strong, slow-growing plants. We have grown our seedlings for years this way with great success. T8 2-Bulb Florescent Light Fixture
#7 Toughen Up Your Plants! – Hardening Off Before Planting
This is the last, but oh-so-important step in the process. Plants need time to adjust to the sunlight, wind, and temperature swings of the great outdoors. This process is called hardening off. A few weeks before planting day, set your plants outside during the warmth of the daylight hours to get them acclimated to the outdoors. As planting day approaches, only bring them back inside if there is a chance of frost. This “hardening off” process will make all the difference in helping veggie plants to take off quickly once transplanted.
So get those seed trays, lights and seeds ready, and make this the year you start your seeds indoors! To receive our Recipes, DIY and Gardening articles each week, sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column above. You can also like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. This post my contain affiliate links.