Advice for Successfully Starting Vegetable Seeds at Home

Posted on Mar 2 2012 - 1:35am by Mike Lieberman

By Michelle Moore
Owner of The Greenhouse Catalog

There is nothing like new life in spring…

…and starting seeds is one of the best ways to enjoy the start of the season.

Unlike transplants, seedlings are fragile and require newborn-like attention:

The right media, temperature, light, water and food.

To a new gardener, meeting these needs may seem like a challenge.

But with a little knowledge and the right equipment, success is easy and just a few short days or weeks away.

With a little knowledge and the right equipment, seed starting success is easy. — Tweet This

Note–before you even start

It is important to select the right seeds. There is nothing wrong with planting seeds that are more than a year old, but if you are trying seed starting for the first time and need a confidence boost—stick to current year seeds for the best germination rate.

What You’ll Need for Seed Starting Success

Media: The best seed-starting media holds moisture and air. Seedlings need to stay moist, but not wet, and need to have plenty of aeration. You can purchase specially formulated seed starting mix, use coco-pith, or a number of seed starting cubes for the best results.

Temperature: Seeds need warmth, so don’t put your seed trays in a drafty area. Add bottom heat for even better and faster roots to development. Seedling heat mats are an excellent investment.

Light: Most seedlings germinate best in light. A sunny window may be enough light, but the addition of a small grow light can make a tremendous difference in a healthy start. Plants receiving too little or too much light tend to get leggy and don’t make for the best transplants. T-5 or LED grow lights are extremely energy efficient and do not take up much space. They also don’t create a lot of heat, so seedlings won’t dry out as quickly.

Water: Seedlings dry out quickly, so it’s easy to overwater them. The best methods include frequent but gentle misting, or bottom watering. We love the Smart Float tray. It provides an excellent media and the sturdy Styrofoam base floats on the water, so seedlings are never over or under watered. Additionally, the Styrofoam insulates tender seedlings and the white base reflects lights back to plants.

Feeding: Once plants have their second set of leaves, they are ready for food (generally within 72 hours of spouting). A high-quality organic fertilizer, diluted to ¼ strength for the first feeding, works well. Continue feeding at ½ strength until seedlings are ready to transplant.

Happy planting and be sure to check all of the seed starting supplies at The Greenhouse Catalog.

About Michelle Moore

Michelle Moore is the owner of the Greenhouse Catalog where she has worked with greenhouses for 20 years. Michelle writes and lectures about greenhouse gardening as an Oregon State University Master Gardener and member of Garden Writers Association. Michelle and her husband live in Oregon, but they enjoy hints of summer all year in their greenhouse! Become a Greenhouse Catalog fan on Facebook to get year-round gardening tips and advice.

Your Turn

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Photo courtesy of janeyhenning on Flickr