There are several advantages to starting seeds indoors, instead of buying plants at a nursery.
For instance, when you start with seeds you have a much larger variety of plants to choose from and it costs much less to buy plants as seeds. But, do your research on which plants are best to germinate at home, especially if you are new to the practice.
Indoor seeding is necessary for many species of plants, because they do not originate in North America. If you try to plant warmer climate seeds in North America, the seeds will either die or take too long to sprout.
If you are new to indoor seeding, we recommend you start small while you learn the seeding process. Also, be aware of the seeds’ days to maturity as listed on the seed packets. It may be helpful to start with seeds that have similar maturity dates.
Start the germinating process with a sterile and lightweight seed-starting mix. A mixture that is too heavy or not sterile can cause disease. Place the seeds on the surface of the mix and space them evenly. Lightly cover the seeds with the mixture. Some seeds should not be covered because they need light to germinate. Keep seeds that are germinating and sprouts in a warm environment.
Many people keep their seeds on flat panels until they have germinated. They then transfer the sprouts to larger containers, which can be specially made for sprouts or made from household items such as yogurt containers. All containers need to be sterilized, with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water, and provide adequate drainage.
Usually, seeds that have yet to sprout do not need light, but once they sprout they will require a lot of light. Most gardeners do not rely on natural light and instead install T-12 or T-8 fluorescent lights above their sprouts. The lights should be only three to four inches above the young plants. Incandescent bulbs cannot be used, because they would burn the plants. It is important to be able to raise the lights as the plants grow taller. To avoid mistakes, we recommend using a timer for the lights. The young plants should get 16 to 18 hours of light a day.
Start the seeds in a moistened mix and place a cover over them to hold in humidity. Once they have sprouted you can remove the cover. Water the sprouts from below, in their tray. Watering from above can cause fungus to grow.
Introducing Plants to the Outdoors
This is not a one day process. Keep your plants indoors until after the last frost and then start slowly to acclimate the plants. Take them outside for a couple hours during the day and bring them in at night. Do this for about a week before planting them in the outdoor garden.
Starting seeds indoors is a fun and rewarding experience. Just be prepared with the proper supplies and know the specific growing instructions for the seeds you have chosen.