Monday, February 23, 2009

Garden Tips: Starting Seeds Indoors

A garden is evidence of faith. It links us with all the misty figures of the past who also planted and were nourished by the fruits of their planting. ~Gladys Taber

Starting seeds is not difficult if you follow a few tips. First, don't use leftover potting soil or dirt from the garden. Regular soil is much too heavy and it may carry disease. I use a sterile seed starting mix with good success. The mixes are sterile and don't contain soil. I have used peat pellets, and peat pots too. The mixes are sterile and don't contain soil. All of the supplies you use during the sowing process should be cleaned beforehand. I know this seems a bit much for starting simple garden seeds, but it pays off in the long run.

I use a seed starting mix with no fertilizer added, and later when the seeds have sprouted I use an organic fertilizer. To start things out, I dump the mix into a bowl and add water until it's moistened, but not soaked. I use an old spoon to fill my pots. I follow the directions for sowing each seed, grouping them together by the needs. (some need darkness, or extra warmth etc.) I also mark the pot with wooden sticks and place them in a sunny window or warm location, depending on what they need. I cover the pots with plastic or place them in containers with a plastic lid. Check daily to make sure they are still moist. If they do get dry you can spritz with water, but never soak the soil. When the seeds germinate I remove the plastic and place in a sunny window. (The picture above were nasturtium seedlings I started indoors.)

Eggshells are always shown for seed starting but they are really too small to work well. Growing grass for an Easter or Spring project is neat thing to do with kids in egg shells, but for starting your garden seeds you need something that is at least 3 inches deep. I like using the peat pots for seeds that are finicky and plants that don't like to be transplanted. If you do use these, be sure to plant the entire pot in the soil with NONE of it sticking out. It will act like a wick of sorts and just keep drying out. You can even rip part of the top of the peat pot off and throw it in the compost pile, then cover the plant when transplanting.

Next week we'll discuss damping off, a disease that can kill your new seedlings and tips to help avoid disaster.

Tips from OFL on Spring cleaning in your garden:

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