I love to garden. There’s something about watching a plant grow from a tiny seed into a full and flavorful fruit or veggie that helps to feed my family. As a new gardener though, I struggled with how to start garden seeds correctly because unfortunately, not everyone is born with a green thumb that can help a plant flourish with a simple touch. Before I ever planted my first seeds though, I was itching to get things going. So much so that the first year I planted, I jumped right in without learning a thing. I’m confident enough to be totally honest and tell you that my garden that year was less than impressive. The following year, however, I took the time to learn everything that I could about gardening (Six Dollar Family). I read everything from how to start garden seeds and how to choose your garden zone to knowing when the right time to harvest your garden is and everything in between. I’ve never regretted taking that time because now? I totally have green thumbs that help me save on my grocery budget over and over again.
When you first decide to plant a garden, you’ll need to decide if you even want to grow from seed or if you want to buy seedlings and transplant them. There are a lot of benefits to growing from seed over buying a transplant in the store so make sure that you do you research first to fully decide. The biggest reason that I prefer growing from seed is because I love having such a huge variety to choose from. Growing the plants that I want instead of what some garden store decided to grow and sell allows me to plan a garden that is filled with the types of fruits and veggies that my family loves and enjoys. Did you know that there are over 100 different varieties of carrot? That my friends is the advantage of growing your garden plants from seeds.
How to Start Garden Seeds
Once you’ve made the decision to start seeds, you’ll need to actually grab the seeds you’ll need. I personally recommend that you only buy seeds from a reputable seed company and that you purchase non-GMO or heirloom seeds. I don’t like not knowing where my seeds come from so I tend to stick to the same sellers each year once I’ve had a successful growing season with their seeds. Chances are really good, especially if you’re like us, that you’ll end up with a lot of different types of seed packets. That’s okay, but I think you’ll agree with me that it’s a good thing that they’re so affordable. One seed packet usually contains 20-100 seeds will normally cost you less than $5.00 per packet.
If you’re itching to start your seeds, make a plan to start your garden seeds about 4-6 weeks before you want to transplant them into the ground. Doing it then gives them time to grow a bit so that they’re stronger when you do put them outside. Make sure that you have the proper “tools” ready before you start them. You’ll want to grab a seed starter tray, seed starting potting soil and possibly a heat mat. The heat mat is entirely optional, but being able to keep them warmer will help them grow the way you need them to. Some people also use plant grow lights to help make sure that their seeds get the proper amount of sunlight. If the area where you’re keeping your seedlings is dark or gloomy, you may want to consider them as well.
If you don’t want to mess with potting soil and a seed starting tray, you can also grab an indoor greenhouse tray to start them with. This is the method that I personally prefer. Usually, your greenhouse will come with peat moss pellets that you simply wet down, split open, plant the seed then cover back up. It’s quick, easy and I’ve had a lot of success with them. Last year, I planted 50 peat pellets and of the original fifty I planted, forty-two sprouted to be transplanted.
If you are using a seed starter tray, fill it with the sterile seed starting potting soil mix. You’ll want to fill the tray’s cells all the way to the top and then use the tip of a pencil to make a tiny hole in the top of each cell about 3x’s as deep as the seed is long. Drop 1-2 seeds into each hole and using your fingers, gently cover the seeds with the soil. Set the seed tray into its water trough tray and add water to the bottom tray. This allows water to be wicked up into the seed starting tray. If you don’t have this lower tray, gently water them from above being careful that you don’t wash the seeds away or over water them. Once you’ve watered them, place the tray’s dome back on top and place the entire thing onto your heat mat if you’re using one. Make sure you’ve fully read the mat’s instructions so that you don’t get them too hot. As your plants grow, keep the potting soil slightly damp to the touch. Use a spray bottle to lightly mist it making sure that it never gets fully dry. Around days 5-7, your seeds will have germinated and start popping up. This is where grow lights can come in handy since the light will help them germinate and start strong.
After about 30 days, your seedlings are ready to be transplanted into a larger container so that they have room to continue growing. Fill a 4″ flower pot with organic potting soil or make your own homemade potting soil and make a hole in the middle big enough for your transplant. Gently transplant your seedling and cover it back up with potting soil to the base of the leaves. If you happen to have a seed that sprouts 2 plants from one seed, thin out the weakest (or smallest) one before you transplant.
Keep your seedlings indoors until the temperatures outdoors are running in the 55 degree Fahrenheit mark at night. As the temps start to warm up, set your plants outdoors for a few minutes at a time to harden them. Gradually work the time they spend outdoors up to where they are spending all day in full sun. As soon as they’re ready to spend the day in the sun and the temperatures are warm enough, your plants should be 4-6″ tall and ready to go into the ground!
Transplant them into the ground and enjoy the fruits of your seed starting labors!