It’s January, and if you’re a person that likes to start a lot of your own plants from seed, the time after the holidays means that you pack away your decorations and drag out your seed starting supplies. If you haven’t started some of your garden plants indoors from seed, you’re missing out on a lot of fun and satisfaction. Not to mention saving a little money.
If the short winter days are making you itch to dig in the dirt, getting ready now for the warm days ahead will alleviate some of that longing. Many plants can be started now so ready, set, grow.
- Sterilize the containers before filling them with potting mix.
- Wash them in a bucket of soapy water.
- Use an old scrubby or brush to clean out dirt.
- Rinse, and then do a final dip in a bleach solution: One part bleach to nine parts of water will be a fine disinfectant.
Use a soil-less planting mix. It will keep damping-off fungus from attacking your emerging seedlings. This mix has no actual soil but is made up of peat moss, vermiculite and perlite. There’s no chance of a soil-born fungus in this type of mix.
Check the viability of your seeds. If you’re a seed saver, sometimes the way the seed has been stored will affect its viability. Roll up 10 seeds in a dampened paper towel, put it in a plastic bag to retain the moisture and place the bag in a warm spot (like on top of your refrigerator). Check every few days to see what’s happening. If five seeds end up germinating, you have 50 percent viability.
Use bottom heat. It will cause faster germination. You can purchase heating mats that are easy and safe to use. The bottom heat should be removed when the seedlings are about 2 inches tall.
Don’t over water. Soggy soil will cause the seed to rot and will encourage fungus gnats to take up residence. Until roots start to develop, a light misting of the top of the soil is adequate.
Have adequate light. Without enough light your seedlings will be pale and leggy. Invest in a shop light that can be moved up and down on chains so as the plants grow you can move the light up, too.
Create a breeze for your seedlings. Turn a fan on your seedlings a couple times a day. You could also brush them gently with your hand, but the fan has a two-fold benefit. It not only strengthens the stems (as the brushing would also do), but also improves air circulation around the plants, which cuts down on the chance of fungus.
Even if you don’t start any garden plants from seed, isn’t it encouraging to know that it’s time to start thinking about gardening again? Before we know it, our gardens will be in full bloom and we’ll be harvesting zucchini. In the meantime, plant some seeds and get a start on spring.