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How To Start Seeds Indoors
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How To Start Seeds Indoors

A wise old gardener once said, "If you want to have hundreds of flowers then plant thousands of seeds."

While the odds against your seedlings may not be that bad your sprout mortality rates will only decrease with acquired knowledge and experience. Let's just say seedlings need to be treated like babies, and cared for to achieve the greatest rate of success.

By starting your own seeds you have some distinct advantages over buying plants from a nursery or other plant retailers. For one it is cheaper. Secondly, you get better plants. And third, you have more varieties of seed available to you than varieties of plants found in a nursery.

For years I used everything I could find around the house to start seeds indoors including the kitchen sink. But I have found that some basic supplies available for purchase are not that expensive and make the seed starting experience more enjoyable.

The Equipment List

Lights - The flourescent tube lights found in local retail outlets will work fine. These lights hang by chains and their four foot length is adequate for flats and pots. With a little effort the lights can be raised or lowered.

Much research and development has been done with lights in the past few years and more powerful lights and types of lights may be of interest to you later on. This is particularly important if you plan on growing larger transplants inside, or if you plan on bringing plants to maturity indoors. These are the high output sodium and led light systems. These can range from moderate to quite expensive systems.

Seed Starting Mix - You have to use good quality soil. Garden dirt can be difficult if you want good results. Half the problem is you don't know what you're getting without totally testing the dirt. In the long run it is much easier to use a soil-less seed starting mix that has no weed seeds or fungus and is sterile. In addition, the starting mix has already been loosened with additives such as pearilte to make it drain well. Furthermore, the mix will not contain diseases which may weaken your plants or even kill them.

Pots and Trays – I like to use the black plastic trays to set either my pots or cell packs in. I have used everything from egg cartons with drain holes in the bottom to paper pots made out of recycled newspaper. Peat pots are readily available. I prefer using a paper or peat pot that I can set directly into the ground so that I do not have to disturb the roots by taking a plant out of the container before setting it in the ground. However, I have used coffee cans, soup cans, yogurt containers, pudding containers … you name it.

Plastic Wrap or Plastic Lids - You want to expose your seeds to warm moisture during germination. This is done by covering your plants with some type of dome. I have cut the tops and sides out of cardboard boxes and scotch taped plastic wrap over the holes like windows to set over the top of seed trays and this works fine. These starting trays are readily available with clear plastic tops for the germination period.

Popsickle Sticks – This way you can use a marker pen and label your sticks for what you have planted.

Larger Plant Pots - If the weather prevents setting your plants out when you had planned then it is a good idea to transplant into larger containers. If your seedlings get rootbound in their cells they go into shock and it thwarts your purpose of having healthy, thriving plants.

Other Accessories - (1) Light timer. Forgetting to turn your lights on and off is like telling your plants the sun forgot to come up and go down. (2) A small fan. Increasing air flow will help prevent fungal diseases and also strengthen your plants to withstand some force. (3) Heat mat. Seeds need some warmth or else they will rot in the planting medium and not sprout.

Thousands of seeds for hundreds of plants? Well, not exactly, but there are many mistakes made easily that simply kills plants.

First, is lack of light. Sixteen hours a day for starting plants is not excessive. If you have a southern exposure and depend only upon that light your plants may make it, but they will thrive if you suppliment them with artificial light.

Second, is either too much or too little water. It is best to bottom water your plants to keep the soil damp, not wet. If you feel compulsive use a spray bottle as it helps curb the tendency to over water. Obviously, not enough water will dry your plants out.

Third, too warm or too cool. Between 68 to 72 degrees is almost perfect.

Starting seeds indoors gives you something exciting to look forward to as spring approaches. Let this summer be the summer where your friends and neighbors stand in awe because you decided to start seeds.

Street Talk

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