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Starting your own seed indoors saves you money. The number of plants that can be produced with a package of seed is worth the effort, as well as the personal satisfaction that comes with doing it yourself!
It's important to use a quality soil seed starting mix. Unlike the soil from your garden, this seed starting mix will not compact into the container and will allow the roots to better establish themselves.
It is easier to start with a large flat container and use wood markers to separate the rows. Using this method, you can put a few seeds in each row and later "weed out" those that appear scrawny, leaving the healthier plants for moving into individual compartments.
You can start right into divided trays, but then you'll be better off by placing only one seed into each cell (rather tedious).
A fluorescent light will provide warmth that is needed for the plants to germinate. Have everything set up ahead of time. You'll need an area to put the seedlings while they germinate. A shelving unit will work fine if you can accommodate it with fluorescent lighting. I recommend using a seed starting unit that contains everything you'll need to get started.
When starting seed be aware of the germination time and the outdoor planting time as these will differ depending on the type of plant and the area in which you live. The package label should have a guide to follow.
Sow the seeds as the package directs. No fancy tools needed! The eraser end of a pencil is very useful for making small holes for planting.
Label the different plants using plastic or wooden markers.
Seedlings need moisture. You can provide this by covering the containers and placing them in a warm environment under fluorescent light. The optimal temperature for starting seed depends on what you are growing. Follow package recommendation.
If you are not using trays supplied with covers, use plastic wrap to make a cover. The wood markers will provide a tent structure.
The trays should be kept covered until the plants emerge, usually 2 weeks. At this time keep the trays uncovered.
When the plants establish their leaves they can be moved into larger containers. We use 16oz. plastic cups (they're cheap)! Or you can use 4" plastic pots. Gently remove them by holding the leaves while using the eraser end of a pencil to loosen the roots.
A few weeks before the garden is ready for the plants, begin introducing them to the outdoor environment. This is referred to as "hardening off". Place them outside for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the time. An outdoor box can be used for this process to protect the new plants from any critters. A box can be made using 2x4's. Attach a heavy weight plastic as a cover or use old storm windows that can be propped open, allowing air to circulate.
You can also buy a similar product for storing plants outside.
We enjoy swapping the plants that we start from seed with family and friends. By doing this we learn a lot about starting seed. What works and what doesn't. It helps us to evaluate the cause and effect and further improves the success for starting seed indoors.
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