7 Step Essential Guide to Seed Starting
In this blog post I’m going to share a tried and true seed starting method that I personally use to start seeds for my garden. I will include a 7 step by step guide, 7 bonus tips, as well as links to the materials I personally use at the very bottom. There is nothing like growing your own plants, especially vegetables and fruits! Even if you have failed in the past, I want to encourage you to try again!
It’s important to note that seasonal timing is one of the most important factors to consider prior to starting your seeds. On your seed packet there should be a recommended time of year to plant, and that is typically based off of frost dates. So before you even start, find out what your last frost date is (google farmers almanac to find that out), look at how many days your seed of choice takes to mature, and use that as a guide onto which seeds you are going to start.
7 Essential Steps to Seed Starting
Step 1: Acquire quality seeds from reputable seed company that are appropriate to your growing zones conditions. I've had really good germination rates from Baker Creek Seeds.
Step 2: Have a designated spot set up and ready to place your freshly sown seeds. You’ll need a heat mat / thermostat combo, grow light, timer, tray, humidity dome and seed cells.
Step 3: Purchase or make a seed starting mix. If you’re planting a lot, you can usually make your own for less money than purchasing a premixed bag. The mix I make consists of 50% Peat Moss 50% Vermiculite. You can also use a humidity dome with pellets (more on that method below).
Step 4: Pre-moisten your starter mix and fill your seed cells. Tamp down and add more mix so there is a dense base to sow in.
Step 5: Sow a couple seeds per seed cell to the proper depth recommended on the back of the seed packet, and gently tamp down again to make sure there aren’t any air pockets. You’ll want multiple seeds per cell so that way your chances of having at least one germinate is higher. You can cull the excess sprouts later.
Step 6: Place your freshly sown seed cell into the tray and fill the bottom with water. This is a crucial step!! You don’t want to water from up top because you can disrupt the seeds. The goal is to allow the water to wick up through the holes in the bottom of the seed cells. You can also use a spray bottle and mist the top of the seed cells until the mix is fully wet. After 20-30 minutes check to make sure everything is fully soaked through and pour out any excess water.
Step 7: Move your tray to it’s final previously prepared resting spot. You’ll want the heat mat attached to a thermostat underneath it, humidity dome on top of it, and grow lights set to a timer about 2" above it.
If you follow the above seven steps, you will germinate seeds! Here are some bonus tips that will increase your success rate and keep those little sprouts happy.
7 Bonus Tips to Keep Your Seedlings Happy
Tip 1: Depending on the variety of seed and season, you’ll want to keep your heat mat thermostat set around 80 degrees. Once you have full germination, the heat mat can be removed.
Tip 2: Set your light timer so it’s on for minimum 17 hours a day, 7 days a week. You don’t want to burn your seedlings so make sure you pay attention to the type of light you are using. You can save a lot of money by getting 4’ LED shop lights instead of purchasing “grow lights”. I will link the ones that I use below.
Tip 3: If you’re just starting out, you may want to try using a peat pellet humidity dome combo. All you do is soak the pellets in warm water, sow your seeds in them, place the humidity dome over them, and place them under the lights on top of your heat mat. They work really well.
Tip 4: Label your seed cells!! Last thing you want to do is grow something and forget what it is! I’ve found that numbering each row and cataloging which plant is sown into which row is pretty effective. Then once the seeds get bigger and I transfer them into either larger pot or final growing place, I’ll write the names out on a waterproof label and put them next to the plant.
Tip 5: Do not over or under water the seed cells. Make sure they are always damp, but not flooded, and never let them dry out. You’ll want to check them every couple days, and bottom water/mist accordingly.
Tip 6: You can avoid leggy seedlings by adjusting your light height so it is a couple inches above your plants at all times.
Tip 7: You can strengthen seedling stems by having a fan gently blowing on them while your lights are on. You can automate this by plugging it into the timer.
Product Links to Get You Started
There are different combos, qty's, and options available on Amazon, here are some common pieces to get you started. I would recommend going to a big box store to get your starter mix and Jiffy Peat Pod mini greenhouses because they are better priced there.