It’s that time of year again. There is a noticeable warmth in the Winter air, the days are starting to get longer, and the leaves are starting to emerge from the once barren trees. Spring is right around the corner, which makes this the perfect time to start growing some seeds indoors and get a jump start on those summer herbs and veggies. This guide will get you started germinating seeds indoors and make it easy with step-by-step instructions.
Benefits of Germinating Seeds Indoors
There are many benefits of growing your own plants from seeds. You’ll no longer be limited to what plants are available at the local nursery or big box stores as there are thousands of varieties of seeds to choose from. It’s also much cheaper to grow your own seedlings especially for bigger gardens. Lastly don’t forget how happy friends, family, and neighbors will be to receive any extra plants you might have. A plant you grew yourself in a pot with a bow makes a great special gift!
Know When to Start
The back of the seed packet contains lots of useful info such planting times, plant spacing, and how many days until you can harvest the fruit or vegetables. Use this info along with your local weather forecast to determine the best time to start germinating your seeds. You do not want to have full grown giant seedlings while freezing temperatures outside won’t allow you to plant them. As a general rule for most summer crops, it’s best to wait until night time temperatures are dropping no lower than 50 degrees before you plant your seedlings out in the garden.
I grow lots of pepper and tomato seeds which take a fairly long time to mature, so I usually start them 6-8 weeks before the last frost date for my growing zone. All plants grow at different speeds. Check the back of those seed packs to see when you should start. I’m getting a late start this year, but with such a long growing season here in Alabama there is plenty of time.
Over the next few weeks I will be doing this series of posts that show how I germinate and grow my own seedlings for my garden. It’s easy enough for anyone to do, and I have really enjoyed seeing them grow and turn into delicious fruits and vegetables, so I decided to share this for anyone else that might be interested in doing the same. Part 1 will cover all of the supplies I use.
Trays or Flats
These trays are used to contain all of the seeds and allow for easy watering without spillage. Once the seedlings are large enough to plant the trays will make transporting the plants to the garden much easier.
Seedling Heat Mat
The seedling heat mat is a thin and flexible mat that plugs into an electrical outlet. It will go under the trays that you plant the seedlings in, and provide the warmth needed for the seeds to germinate. It will typically raise the temperature of the soil by 10-15 degrees, which greatly speeds up germination times.
Peat Pellets/Seed Starter Cells & Potting Soil
You’ll need something to plant you seeds in and you can go a few different routes. Seedling cell trays have individual compartments for each seedling and usually come in trays that are 6 cells each. This makes it easy to keep different seedlings separated. With the seedling cell trays, you will also need seed starting mix to begin with and then potting soil when the seedling are a little bigger.
There are also compressed peat pellets for an easy no mess option. The peat pellets expand when placed in water and they can be planted directly in the garden when the seedlings are grown. You can even make your own seedling containers. This handy device will allow you to turn old newspapers into bio-degradable pots for your seeds.
After germinating seeds, they will need lots of sunlight to grow big and strong. One option is to place your seedlings in a window that gets lots of sunlight. South facing windows are best for this.
If you don’t have a window that gets enough sunlight, or plan on growing more than will fit in your windows, a grow light is probably the best option. Grow lights mimic sunlight by using intense light from fluorescent or LED bulbs.
I use the HydroFarm Jump Start 4-foot grow light. It’s very easy to use/adjust, and has worked well for my needs. I have the light set up in my basement, so its out of the way but still easily accessible to care for the seedlings.
Once you have gathered all of your supplies and picked out some seeds, you’ll be ready for the next step where I’ll show you how to plant and care for them. Check out planting and growing steps here.