Starting your garden plants from seed indoors not only gives you a jumpstart on the growing season, it also packs a nutritional punch! Fruit and veggies start to lose some nutrients after 24 hours, so the fresher your produce, the better it is for you. It’s also incredibly satisfying to know you grew your garden full of beautiful produce and flowers from tiny little seeds. Furthermore, you’ll have complete control over the lifespan of your plants, from the soil you plant in, to how you choose to control pests. Whether or not you choose to grow organically, a lot of peace of mind comes with knowing exactly what products you used to grow your produce.
If you’ve never started seeds before, there is some initial investment in equipment. But, once you have the right equipment, it’ll last you for many years to come, so you can start your own healthy and nutritious produce every year.
What You Need to Start Seeds
There are a few different things you’ll need to start seeds at home. You can pick up all of these items individually at our garden center in Powell River, or you can buy small greenhouse kits that have nearly everything you need.
- Seedling trays with plastic covers are the most efficient way to care for all your seedlings at once. The plastic dome covers are essential; they help maintain moisture levels while seeds are still germinating, and they regulate the air temperature, so your baby plants don’t experience shock from drafts or temperature fluctuations.
- Seed starting pots are usually rectangular plastic pots, about 3-4″ deep, with several drainage holes in the bottom. They should fit comfortably into the tray and allow the cover to close completely.
- Grow lights are essential for starting seeds indoors. Even next to a very bright window, seedlings will get leggy and weak without a grow light. You’ll need a frame for mounting the grow light. You can buy lights in a kit with the frame, or you can buy the frame separately. When you first start your seeds, the grow light should be very low, as close to the top of the plastic tray cover as possible without touching the plastic. As your plants grow, you’ll need to move the light up, but try to keep it no higher than 3-4 inches above the top leaves.
- Sterile seed starter mix is different than standard potting soil. Because it’s sterilized, it won’t be prone to developing mould or moss in the moist environment needed for starting seeds.
- Seedling heat mats are a bonus, and they’ll improve your germination rates. Most seeds need a consistent soil temperature to germinate properly, even small variations away from their optimal temperature can be enough to cause germination failure. A heating mat maintains that temperature so your seeds don’t experience temperature fluctuations.
- Seeds! Obviously, you’ll need some seeds to start in your trays. You can choose to grow whatever strikes your fancy, but some of the easiest plants to start from seed are marigolds, kale, lettuce, and tomatoes.
- Labels are crucial. When you’re checking, watering, and turning your trays, it’s so easy to forget what seeds you planted in each container. We have a few different options for labelling at our garden center.
Starting Your Seeds on Time
The most important thing to do when starting your seeds is to read the package. Lots of seeds have different time, temperature, and seeding preferences, so read the details on the package before you start.
Check packages for moisture requirements, whether seeds need to be covered with soil or sown on top, if they need refrigeration first, or if they need to be soaked in water for a few hours before planting.
Most packages will note how many weeks in advance of the last frost to start the seed. Usually, our last frost in Powell River is around April 6. Count the weeks backward from that date to figure out when you should be starting your seeds.
When to Start Your Favourite Veggies
For a full season of abundant produce, start seeds in waves, beginning in mid-February until early April. This method will leave you with something new and delicious to pick from the garden from mid-summer through fall!
Bell peppers, celery, eggplant, and leeks can start from seed indoors in mid to late February.
Cabbage and tomatoes should be started indoors from late February to early March. Bonus tip: radishes are a cold-loving crop, so their seeds can be planted straight outside early in March!
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collards, and Swiss chard should be started indoors in mid to late March.
Cantaloupe, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, and watermelon seeds should be started indoors at the end of March or early in April.
It’s so much fun to start your own garden from seed, whether you grow vegetables or flowers. There’s no satisfaction like knowing that you planted and nurtured the produce on your table from seed to harvest. Furthermore, homegrown produce always tastes fantastic! Ready to get your seedling station set up? Come over to our garden center for a visit; we’ve got everything you need, including a massive selection of fun and exciting seeds to browse through!