Tips And Tricks To Successful Seed Starting
March 28, 2018 | View PDF
The first day of spring will soon be upon us, those of us who are excited have been no doubt paging through seed catalogs for weeks now, looking for those favorite things we want to grow this year. If you are one who likes to start your own veggies now is a great time to be thinking about that. I had the honor of leading a seed-starting workshop at the recent NDSU Spring Tree & Garden workshop in Williston and I was excited about the enthusiasm of people wanting to grow their own food.
In this article are some important tips and tricks to successful seed starting indoors that I intend to share with you. First, selecting a good germination mix. Having a good soil mix to sow your seeds in can help ensure they get off to a great start. I do sell a commercial grade germination mix in my store that I use myself when starting all our crops, from vegetables to flowers.
I like to begin by getting my seed medium wet, and I like to press it down with my fingers or hand, either into a seed tray or into individual cells. Make sure that the mix is completely saturated and then allow it to settle for a minute. Move the tray or cells to an area that is comfortable to work at. We generally (for the sake of space) sow our seeds not in individual cells but in flats. And since we are growing in numbers of 100s, that works well for us. If you're not planning a large garden you might consider sowing them in individual cells for ease of transplanting.
Second, sow the seeds evenly over the medium. Ensure that they are spaced apart to offer each young plant the light and space it needs to develop. If sowing in cells, consider how many seeds you should sow in the size cell you are using. This will vary depending on what you are germinating. You can find the spacing and germination instructions for each plant type on most seed packets. If you sow them too thick you may either have to divide or thin the plants later on.
Third, think about what you are sowing. It is best to start most crops that will be used outdoors approximately 4 to 6 weeks before the last average frost date. For the Williston and surrounding communities, this is generally accepted as around the 15th of May. To determine which you should start first, look at their maturity time. Crops that take 80 to 100 days to mature should be started sooner than crops that take 40 to 50 days to mature. If you're wanting to start your own tomatoes, peppers, some cabbage, consider starting those soon. If you're wanting to grow your own greens such as spinach, kale and other leafy items, those can be started later.
Also, consult the seed packet for whether the seed needs light to germinate or not. In addition, sowing depth can usually be found on seed packets. I like to sow my seeds on top of the soil surface and then cover them lightly with dry germination mix to the appropriate depth. Throughout the germination process, ensure that the soil medium always stays moist. It may help to place your cells inside a Ziploc bag to ensure that the humidity and temperature stay even. I would, however, recommend opening the bag for a few hours a day to keep the air from going stale. Depending on the crop, you should see plants starting to emerge from the soil in about a week. If you have gone ten days or more and have not seen any germination, consider whether the seed may be old, or the soil was allowed to get too dry. Starting seeds can be a great project for young children and a fun way to teach them about the world of plants around them. If you don't have success growing your own veggies, or just don't want to mess with doing it yourself we look forward to seeing you for your plant and veggie needs this spring! Also, I will be offering a seminar on vegetable gardening on Saturday, April 14 at Handy Andy's Nursery. You can register for all of our seminars and workshops on our website at http://www.handyandysnursery.com. Good luck! And Happy Growing! Andy Kuester, Greenhouse Manager, Handy Andy's Nursery, Williston, ND, 701-572-6083.