Seed Starting

Written by Sarah Provost
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Starting seeds indoors can give you a significant head start on the growing season, especially in areas where winters are severe and spring comes late. Growing vegetables from seed is also much less expensive than buying plants at the local nursery. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Seed-Starting Equipment and Supplies

If money is no problem, you can purchase plastic mini-nurseries from your garden center or seed catalog. These consist of a number of plastic cells with a tray underneath and a clear plastic covering. Heat pads and grow-lights also make the process easier. A less expensive option is to buy small peat pots or disks of compressed peat, use your own tray and plastic wrap, and keep them warm by placing them on top of the refrigerator or other appliance. (One advantage of peat pots is that they can be transplanted directly into the garden.) I use egg cartons and a sunny window.

Check the seed envelope for information on how soon to start your seeds. Starting them too soon will result in weak, leggy plants, and starting them too late will delay your harvest. Some crops, such as peas, should not be started indoors, as they do not transplant well.

Fill the cells with potting soil or seed starting mix and moisten it thoroughly. Plant one seed in each cell. The packet will tell you how deeply to cover them, and whether they need light or dark to germinate. If they need dark, keep them in a dark place or cover them with foil or newspaper. Most seeds need light, so cover them with plastic wrap. Keep the seedbeds evenly moist. It's best to water them from the bottom or with a sprayer, since a direct stream of water will displace the seeds. As soon as your seedlings appear, take off the plastic covering. When the danger of frost is past, plant them outside, being careful not to pinch their stems.

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