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10 No Fail Seed-Starting Steps

It's the start of spring, and I am itching to get my hands in some dirt!

If you typically purchase seedlings but hoping to save money and start with seeds this summer, but not sure how, follow these 10 no-fail steps:

First step: go through your seed packets and jars of little seeds collected from the garden and sort them according to different categories:

  • Early Spring Indoor Seed Starting

  • Early Spring Direct Sowing

  • Mid-Spring Indoor Seed Starting

  • Mid-Spring Direct Sowing

  • Late-Spring Direct Sowing

  • Mid-Summer Indoor Seed Starting

If this seems a little overwhelming to you, simplify the sorting by season: spring (your peas, salad greens and other hardy veggies like kale and carrots), summer (beans, squashes and melons, and tomatoes) and autumn (all your brassicas).

Next: I start prepping my seedling area, making sure I have plenty of washed and rinsed containers with drainage holes. I like to re-purpose everything, as I don't have an unlimited budget by any means, I start gathering my plastic salad and sprout containers, strawberry punnets and those that hold the cherry tomatoes. I like to also use toilet roll holders by pinching one end closed, add your seed starter mix and voila, a perfect biodegradable growing container that can be planted out directly into the earth.

Whether you thoroughly wash your containers with a diluted bleach or hydrogen peroxide solution or not is up to you. I give mine a quick wash with dish-washing soap and rinse well; busy mum of twin 7 years olds sometimes has me choosing the quick and easy way. But regardless, washing the containers helps keep the mould and pest eggs away.

Third: To save money, I make my own potting mix of equal parts compost and coconut coir (do not use peat moss as it is an unsustainable material sourced from a fragile ecosystem), and add some perlite and vermiculite - mix together well. Keep the soil level below the rim of the containers so when watering, it does not spill over.

Fourth: After filling the containers with the starter mix, I put the containers on top of a tray without drainage holes but lined with a layer of perlite for aeration and to capture the excess water. This encourages roots to make their way down to the water level. This tray can be anything you'd like, whether the lid of another larger container, or a proper seedling tray. I use an old baking tray that I found at the Re-Use-It Centre. My Scottish grandmother would be proud!

Fifth: Start planting your seeds. I plant more than I think I will need because typically germination rates are not 100%. I also like to plant some seeds now, saving some for later to stagger planting times. Last year, I planted too many snow pea seeds at once, and had a glutton of peas for a few weeks, and then nothing for the rest of summer.

salad green sprouts

Sixth: Don't forget to label your containers! In the beginning all of these seedlings look similar.

Seventh: Some seeds require heat to germinate - I use an inexpensive heat mat for this. The top of the fridge works well too. Just make sure to remove them from the heat once sprouted - if not, you can create too much heat and rot the roots.

Eighth: Watering can prove tricky. I prefer to mist the seed starts instead of using a heavy watering can. You don't want the soil to dry out, but over-watering can also be a killer to your little green babies.

Ninth: Place in a bright spot but away from burning sunlight. I put some starts on a windowsill, but keep the majority under a fluorescent light in my plant nursery, which I turn on in the morning, and the last thing I turn off before bed. I imagine that the green babies want a little darkness to rest; so I do not leave the lights on 24 hours.

Tenth: Feed your babies every other or so watering. I use very diluted liquid seaweed one week, and then switch to diluted fish emulsion for the next feeding.

Now you've got the steps, you can save money and take control of your planting by growing your veggies from seeds.

I will add another blog soon about the best way to transition the seedlings outdoors ~ stay tuned!

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