Seed Starting - Beginners Guide

Seed Starting – Beginners Guide

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Tyler C Rich
August 14, 2021
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Gardening!

What a fun way of relaxing and connecting with nature. The health benefits are just incredible, especially if you’re the eat what you plant type. Every gardening process is suitable for your mind and body, from planting to harvesting.

Speaking about planting, one of the key considerations when starting your garden is how to grow your plants. Many gardeners face the dilemma of whether to start with seedlings or seeds.

Experienced gardeners prefer the latter, and there are solid justifications, as this article demonstrates. After all, you may realize that seed starting is the most gratifying way of gardening.

Let’s begin by addressing why you should pick seeds over transplants.

Whether to Go with Seeds or Seedlings?

Whether to Go with Seeds or Seedlings?

I’ll admit, starting from seeds can seem quite daunting to beginners. You might think, “why go through all the hassle when I can just buy transplants?”

After all, buying seedlings can seem much easier and a lot more convenient. And you might be right. But guess what, germinating your own seeds is even better than buying young plants.

Let’s quickly walk you through the reasons why seed starting is better than buying seedlings.

For a start, seed starting offers you more options than buying seedlings.

As a gardener, whether an amateur or experienced, you don’t want to be limited in your plant varieties. Instead, you want to try out different veggies, flowers, and herbs – something new here and there.

Certainly, variety’s the very spice of life. However, this variety is primarily true concerning gardening.

Seeds give you the joy of experimenting with different varieties. But, inversely, seedlings limit you to the variety offered at the nursery or gardening store where you buy your supplies.

Imagine you have a particular liking for Persian cucumbers. However, your local depot doesn’t stock that variety in seedlings. Acquiring the seeds will be a great way to ensure your favorite veggies grow in your garden.

Additionally, seed starting is less costly than seedlings. Here is something to think about – a packet of seeds costs somewhere between $1.50 to $3.00 and mainly contains over twenty plant seeds.

On the other hand, a single seedling can cost around $3.00 to $5.00, so you get the picture.

Furthermore, you can use a single packet of seeds for subsequent seasons. You can also cost share with a family member, a friend, or a neighbor who also has green fingers.

Seeds also ensure the quality and health of the plant you grow. Growing healthy plants assures you of more productivity.

Healthy plants are also more disease and pest-resistant. Another good thing is that you are assured of the quality with which you’re working when you start from seeds.

Informed gardeners understand the risk of bringing home bugs and diseases when buying plants from the vendor. To avoid such risks and expand your options, seed starting is the best way to start gardening.

Remember, there is nothing more gratifying to a gardener than growing your plant from a seed. But how do you acquire the seeds you need, and what supplies are necessary to start?

Learn all that and more below.

Seeds and Supplies

Seeds and Supplies

How do you acquire your seeds, and what supplies do you need to start your garden?

We’ve already established that starting a garden is quite simple. First, however, there is the question of accessing high-quality seeds of the vegetable varieties you need.

Here is a guide on how and where you can source your seeds:

Local Garden Center or Hardware Store

You can find your seeds easily from any nursery, hardware store, or garden center around you.

The challenge is that most local vendors only stock the most popular, well-known, fast-moving varieties. So you might have to look elsewhere if you’re seeking to experiment with many rare types and personal favorites.

Online Shops

Online stores are the most popular stop shops for contemporary gardeners.

Thanks to the internet, gardeners are now growing exotic and foreign plant varieties in their gardens. Do not get left out of the trend. You can acquire all sorts of seeds from companies operating their businesses online. 

Online shopping offers you a tremendous selection of seeds to choose for your garden. Moreover, many firms offer free shipping if you buy in bulk. Others offer free shipping even with a single seed packet purchase.

The internet is an excellent source for all your herbs, flowers, and veggies in your desired varieties.

After solving your seeds puzzle, you can check the local depot for starter containers.

These will act as your seed starting foundation as they create good nursery beds. Peat pots, planting baskets, seed trays, and recycled containers are all good candidates.

You will also need an organic seed starting mix specifically designed for and suitable for seed starting. In addition, you may need lighting equipment and plant identification tags to plant different varieties in the same area.

Now, you’ve already acquired your packets of seed and a solid gardening plan. But just when you think everything looks ready and set, another query arises.

Do I sow my seeds indoors or outdoors?

Well, every seed has its own guideline, as you’ll learn below.

Indoor vs. Outdoor

When preparing to plant your seeds, the spot and conditions in which you grow them matter. Some plants germinate better in indoor conditions, while others do better outdoors. But, which to choose?

Your choice depends on the type of plants you want to grow.

The following plants work best when you grow them indoors because they are more delicate, warmth-loving, and generally transplant well.

These plants include:

  • Cauliflower
  • Eggplant
  • Pepper
  • Tomatoes
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Okra
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Tomatillos
  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Celery
  • Lettuce

Pros of Indoor Seed Starting

  • More control over seeds
  • Easy to track germination
  • Enhanced maintenance
  • More control over germination conditions such as moisture and warmth
  • Less exposure to pests and diseases

Cons

  • Space limitations
  • Lighting challenges and costs

Note that some of the featured plants can adapt to either indoor or outdoor conditions.

Below are plants better suited to starting outdoors:

  • Beet
  • Cucumber
  • Turnips
  • Carrots
  • Rutabaga
  • Winter squash
  • Arugula
  • Radishes
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Parsnip
  • Asparagus
  • Shallot
  • Spinach

Pros of Seed Starting Outdoors

  • Quick and straightforward if you prep the soil appropriately.
  • Depends on natural conditions, hence, better natural germination.
  • Relatively cheap if using your garden

Cons

  • Finicky and unpredictable
  • Vermin and pests may destroy seeds and young plants
  • Unpredictable weather leading to irregular watering
  • High chance of weed infestation

When to Start

When to Start

What is the opportune time to start planting?

As a gardener, timing is everything. Beginning with growing a little late or early may have significant implications on your seeds.

It is imperative to understand how plants and seasons intertwine. For example, some plants thrive well in colder seasons, while others prefer warmer weather conditions.

Most plants do well from the onset of spring, after the frost. Therefore, sow your indoor seeds in late winter or at the beginning of spring so they are ready to grow.

You may need to wait after the last frost to sow your seeds for outdoor candidates. This is because most outdoor plants require a certain degree of warmth from the sun to germinate.

Preparing Trays

Seed trays are most used for seed starting. They resemble egg trays. You can also use egg trays as seed trays. Fill each cell of the tray with an organic seed starting mix.

Other plants may germinate well in cocopeat or sand.

Make sure you clean the trays before filling them with soil. Cleaning and disinfecting them ensures they don’t harbor any diseases or pests that destroy seeds or seedlings. Also, ensure you wet the seed starting mix thoroughly before stashing it into the trays.

Dixie cups, pots, yogurt cups, and other recyclable containers can all be repurposed into seed starting containers.

How to Choose Soil

The benefit of growing plants from seeds is undeniable. Seeds save you money while offering a broad selection of plants. However, for proper germination, you’ll need to take good care of your seeds. This includes the medium in which you sow them.

You increase the odds of success by using the most suitable growing mix for your seed variety. The best seed starting mix is light and uncontaminated.

A soft, clean medium provides your seeds with the optimal foundation they need to germinate and grow.

Most seed-starting mixes are soilless. Others contain carefully mixed and balanced soil. This raises a critical concern. Just what do you consider when choosing the best seed starting mix?

Mostly, your vendor is an expert and can always guide you through the best seed starting mix. However, look out for the following factors if you decide to make an online purchase of this product.

1. Contents

Watch out for the following standard contents often found in the best seed-starting mixes. These contents include perlite, vermiculite, coconut coir, sphagnum peat moss, powdered lime, and diatomaceous earth. 

All these contents provide the optimum conditions for seed germination. Others also contain a wetting agent such as powdered kelp, which helps retain and absorb moisture.

2. Organic or Non-organic

An organic seed starting mix comprises natural components. These components are suitable for seed starting vegetables. The last thing you expect is hazardous chemicals in your seed-starting mixture. As you can guess, non-organic mixes contain synthetic fertilizers. You can use these fertilizers for flowers.

Other factors to look out for include the pH level. A seed starting mix should have a balanced pH level, falling between 6.5 and 7.

Aeration and moisture retention rates are also critical. New roots need well-aerated moisturized conditions to grow. Lastly, confirm that your seed starting mix is sterile to eliminate the chances of it containing harmful fungi and bacteria.

Sowing Seeds

Sow 2 to 3 seeds per cell, depending on the type of plant. Press the seeds in gently until they are nicely nestled.

Very tiny seeds can be left uncovered, such as mustard or basil seeds.

It is necessary to cover large seeds such as beans and peas thoroughly as they require darkness to germinate. Cover large seeds with the seed starting medium to about half to a quarter of an inch.

Watering and Fertilization

Plant care does not stop after sowing. The germination process is complicated, and you’ll need to ensure conditions remain at an optimum.

So, how often should you water your newly sowed seeds?

Often enough to keep moisture content at a constant. You can also cover your bed with plant protectors to keep the soil warm and moist.

As for fertilization, consider using pre-sowing fertilizer to deliver balanced quantities of nutrients in the planting medium. Then, you can top dress when the seedlings start to sprout. Often, a phosphorous-rich fertilizer is necessary to stimulate root growth. It’s also a photosynthesis component.

Light and Temperature

Light and Temperature

If you are growing your plants indoors, light is something you’ll grapple with often. The good news is that you can use LED full spectrum grow lights designed for indoor planting. You’ll need good, reliable lighting, especially once the first leaves emerge.

However, there is no point in worrying if you don’t have artificial lighting yet. You can always transport your seedling tray outside for a good shower of sunlight. Consider placing the tray in the brighter parts of the house, such as near windows and on a veranda or balcony.

Germinating seeds need warmth. Provide an adequate temperature for your seeds by placing heat mats under the trays to ensure optimum warmth for the soil. Covering the tray’s top with a plant protector also helps preserve heat.

When to Repot Them

Seedlings usually require repotting or transplanting about three weeks after sprouting. Some may take about 6 to 8 weeks before demanding larger containers. Repotting is vital to avoid plant congestion and a scramble for limited resources.

Any further delay in transplanting the seedlings and will start showing signs of stress. A physical examination might be necessary if you’re unsure. Look for falling cotyledons, overcrowding, yellowing leaves, one or two true leaves, and roots that wind around the root ball. Any of these symptoms indicate the need to transplant the seeds immediately.

Conclusion

Who doesn’t want a wide variety of healthy food on their dining table? Gardeners around the world are feeling more fulfilled, gratified, and happier by growing their own food. Gardeners also realize they have more control over their food sources when creating their own gardens.

It can be exciting to grow your own food. Just the prospect of developing a garden from seed to harvesting is fulfilling.

You save money and also get to work with a more resilient, productive garden. So, broaden your horizons today by growing something worthwhile by following this seed-starting guide.

Before ending, check out these best seed starting trays for outstanding results. The right seed tray can make a huge difference in your gardening journey.

Resources:

Tyler C Rich

Tyler C Rich is the founder and chief editor at TopsyGardening.com. An experienced gardener and a professionally trained agriculture development expert, Rich has worked in the gardening and landscaping industry for more than a few decades. Although he has retired, his spark for developing the best urban and indoor gardens has not faded a bit. He uses TopsyGardening.com as a platform to come across enthusiastic gardeners and share the unique insights he has acquired through years of experience. Rich is interested in aquaponics and technology apart from conventional gardening techniques.