Growing organic vegetables can be expensive and you don’t want to waste any. This is why starting seeds indoors is so important. It’s a great way to extend your gardening budget and your growing season. However, starting vegetables from seed can be a bit tricky for many new gardeners.
Fortunately, the seven simple steps outlined below simplifies this process and makes it much more fun and easy.
Here are 7 Simple Steps to Starting Seeds Indoors
Step #1: Create a list of everything you want to grow
Start by jotting down anything and everything you think you’d like to grow this season. Go wild. Pull out that stack of heirloom seed catalogs that have been arriving during the last half of the winter and a pen or highlighter.
This is the time to do a little day dreaming, so don’t worry about practicality or limitations at this point.
Once you have your “dream garden” list, go back and narrow your list down based on how much space, time, and budget you can devote to your organic vegetable garden.
If you’re like me, you’ve just selected enough tomatoes to feed the city of Toronto and more cucumbers than a pickle factory would need. You can’t grow them all, so be ruthless and pick the ones you most want.
Gardening Tip: Part of the joy of gardening is learning and trying new things. If at all possible, try to add at least one new variety or type of plant each growing season.
Step #2: Assemble seed packets and other supplies
Once you have a list of what you want to grow, it’s time to start collecting everything you need to get started.
You’ll have to place your order or head down to your local seed store. I’ve been finding that more and more local stores contain heirloom and certified organic seeds, but if my choice is between heirloom seeds at a chain store or heirloom seeds from a family-owned small business, I’ll order them from the small business. The price is often slightly higher but I know that my purchase really matters.
In addition to seeds, you’ll also need seed trays or other planting containers, seed starter mix, plant labels, tweezers, and a spray bottle with a mist setting to water your newly planted seeds. Gathering everything in one place before you get started means you won’t be making last minute trips to the store after you begin.
Gardening Tip: Prepare your plant labels now
Just trust me on this one, okay?
Baby plants tend to look alike and you don’t want to have trays of unnamed seedlings all over the place. Labeling your plants as you go will save you a lot of grief later.
Having a garden map is also a good idea because while you think you’ll remember where each type of seed was put, you won’t.
Step #3: Disinfect containers
If you reuse containers for your seedlings from one year to the next, make sure you disinfect them at the start of each season.
A solution of one part 3% hydrogen peroxide combined with nine parts water will do the trick.
Gardening Tip: Food-grade hydrogen peroxide comes in a 35% solution, while the inexpensive type used in most household applications is 3%. If using food grade, dilute it down to 3% first (roughly 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 11 parts water), then combine with water as noted above.
Step #4: Provide adequate drainage
Excess water in your potting containers can cause tender young roots to rot, so be sure to add drainage holes to your containers before planting, if necessary. I know that a lot of people use items like empty eggshells for starting seeds indoors, but I’ve found that they’re very difficult to water. Choose starting containers that are designed for seed starting.
Step #5: Read each plant seed packet carefully
Seed packets usually provide detailed planting instructions for each type of seed. For example, some seeds need to be soaked in water overnight before planting, while others need to be just barely covered with growing medium to germinate. The packaging should also indicate how far in advance you’ll need to start each type of plant, and how much water and light the seedlings need. If your seeds came from another gardener, a simple online search can give you the instructions you need.
Gardening Tip: Choose the right planting dates for your area. Six weeks before the last frost in your area is a good rule of thumb for most garden plants. This is enough time to ensure your plants reach an optimal size before they are transplanted outside.
If you aren’t sure what the best time is in your area, you can check here:
Step #6: Provide enough water… but not too much
Tiny seedlings dry out quickly, so make sure you water them frequently.
However, overwatering can disturb the soil and/or lead to root rot. For best results, use a mist sprayer to gently water your tender young plants without drowning them.
Step #7: Harden off your plants before transplanting them outdoors
Young plants grown indoors need time to adjust to being outside. A week or so before it’s time to transplant your seedlings into your garden, gradually introduce them to their new environment. Start with a few hours in a protected area and gradually increase the time they are outside each day until they become strong enough to survive a permanent move outdoors.
Although starting seeds indoors does take a bit of know, these seven simple steps will make your job so much easier, and you’ll be rewarded with home grown organic heirloom vegetables.0