Why should you consider starting some of your garden plants from seed? Here are my top reasons for starting seeds:
- Save money: a seed packet might contain 50 zinnia seeds for the same price as one zinnia seedling from a nursery
- Variety: many unique or heirloom plant varieties can only be found as seeds
- Garden success: some plants must get an early start if they’re going to flower or fruit this season, and some seedlings are too small or fragile to thrive without a little time to grow in a protected place
Starting your own plants from seed doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Use what you have: recycle those plastic yogurt pots or clamshell produce containers. I use a kitchen knife to add drainage holes to the bottom of my container.
- You’ll need a tray to hold your pots. I love Perma-Nest trays (pictured above) because the heavy-duty plastic can be washed and re-used year after year.
- Your tray will need a cover: Seeds germinate best in humidity. Cover your tray with a ready-made plastic lid or dome, or use plastic wrap. Just don’t forget to remove the lid as soon as seeds germinate. Otherwise, rot and disease might set in.
- Seed starting compost: Seeds don’t need chemicals or fertilizers, but they do need a fine-textured, sterile mix, especially if the seeds are small.
- Heat: most seeds germinate best with a little bottom heat. A radiator top works, but it’s worth investing in a plug-in heating mat designed for seed starting.
- Light: a sunny, southern windowsill will do. I use inexpensive shop lights from the hardware store, strung up with chain in my basement. One cool and one warm fluorescent bulb in each light is best.
A few final tips:
- Read the seed packet carefully: some seeds need light to germinate (do not cover them with soil), some germinate quickly, and some need a good, long wait.
- Consider a soil blocker (pictured above): I love using a tool to make soil blocks. Once you’ve invested in the tool, there’s no need to buy pots, and soil blocks promote healthy seedlings through something called “air pruning.”