My Seed-Startging Tips

There are dozens of lists of seed-starting tips out there. Here are mine. 

Seeds packaged for the current year are most likely to germinate, or come up, with healthy sprouts. Planting instructions on the package indicate planting depth, sun requirement, soil temperature, how far apart to plant, etc. Many online resources such as have  ‘Know Before You Grow’ tip sections.

For best germination results, plant seeds in sterile soil in containers or in a well-prepared bed. We start seeds in those greenhouse-imitating, clear plastic, clamshell containers from strawberries or other fruit. Mark each container or row with seed type and planting date.

Soak or scarify large seeds, provide cold treatment, etc. according to the directions.  Add no fertilizer;  seeds have everything they need.

The first leaf or set of two leaves are called cotyledon. Grasses (monocots) have one; most other plants have two tiny leaves on their first stem. Gymnosperms (pine) can have 24 cotyledons. 

The next set of leaves are called true leaves,  Seedlings are not divided until they have one or two sets of true leaves. 

Divide seedlings: Fill containers and moisten the soil. Let the soil drain while you make pencil-size holes in the center of each container.  Use a popsicle stick to dig small clumps of seedlings. Hold single seedlings by the leaves, carefully untangle the roots, and plant, firming the soil around the stems. 

Provide: 55 to 70 degree soil, 8 hours of light, and air circulation from a fan in order to prevent diseases such as damping off. Water the soil from the bottom and remove the water so the seedlings are never soaking or waterlogged. 

To harden off:  When seedlings are established, put them outside on warm, sunny days to strengthen the stems. Keep them out of direct sun at first, gradually increasing sun exposure over time.

Many wonderful garden plants are available only from seed and entire beds can be planted for $5 or $10. There are few garden activities that are as rewarding and fun as growing from seed.


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