Pretty soon the growing season will be starting in various parts of the country, so I am offering my top 10 tips for growing seedlings. Growing healthy plants from seeds can be challenging. However, it is often times rewarding to grow something from a seed. Also, growing from seed is usually much less expensive than going out later in the season and buying a grown plant.
Many people overlook this tip. Growing seedlings whether indoors or outside is closer to science than an art. I suggest keeping records of when you start your seeds, feeding, temperatures, time under the lights, etc. If you start noticing any issues with the seedlings, you may be able to determine how to correct it with the information you record. Additionally, if you notice that you aren’t receiving the results you desire, then you can use this data to alter how you grow the seedlings the next year you.
As with most things in life, timing is important. Seedlings can thrive or fail depending on when you start them indoors. The idea being growing seedlings indoors is that they are the perfect size for transplanting outside when the proper time comes along. In order to determine when you should start your seedlings, you need to know what weather the plants prefer, your average last spring frost, and how fast the seeds germinate and grow. Often times, your seed packets will make a recommendation on when to sow the seeds. It helps to mark the estimated last frost on your calendar, and use that to count backwards to determine when you should start growing.
Growing seedlings, or any plant for that matter, requires light. Without the proper amount of light, seedlings can become spindly and stringy. If you have a southern facing bright area in your home, then you can start your seedlings there. However, this still may not be enough light. If this is the case or if you don’t have a suitable growing area, then you may need to add artificial grow lighting as well.
Plants need water. Without water, then the soil and seedling will dry up and wither. However, too much water, and you risk diseases and rot. Make sure you understand your seed’s needs before you start growing. Self watering seed kits can also help. If all else fails, consult your seed packets or talk to your friendly neighborhood gardening center for advice.
Most seed starting kits contain soil that doesn’t contain very many nutrients. Without the proper food, your plants will struggle to survive. This is when fertilizer comes into play. By knowing your plants and their food requirements, then you help increase your chances of growing successful and strong seedlings.
Store Your Seeds Correctly
Growing seedlings is already challenging as is. But without quality seeds, then it becomes much, much more difficult. I’ve talked before on how to store your seeds over winter. By using seeds that are correctly stored in a cool and dry atmosphere, you are drastically increasing your odds of successful sprouting. Additionally, by learning how to store your seeds you collect at the end of the season, then you reduce how many you have to buy the next year.
When sowing your seeds, you definitely want to avoid overcrowding. Plants that are overcrowded have to compete for nutrients, water, and light. This reduces the likelihood of producing strong plants. Whenever possible, use wide planters or seed starting trays for growing your seedlings. By keeping them spread out, you allow for plenty of room for when they become larger.
Make Sure They Are Planted
This probably sounds silly. You may be thinking, “Well of course I planted my seeds.” However, sometimes seeds fail to germinate or grow strong because they either are not planted deeply enough, or they aren’t fully making contact with the soil. Often times soil can clump together and create air bubbles in the soil that your seed can fall into and not make full contact with the soil. After you plant the seed at the appropriate depth, it can be beneficial to pat or tamp down the soil to avoid any clumps. However, you don’t want to pack it too tightly. Just enough to ensure that your seed is firmly planted.
Read Your Packets
I’ve touched on this throughout this article, but it’s extremely important to know what conditions your seedlings need in order to thrive. This includes planting depth, water and light requirements, when the seeds should be planted, and whether or not your seeds take well to being transplanted. If your packets are missing this information, then usually this information can be easily found online, or you can asking your local nursery or gardening center.
Keep Covered Until Germination
In order to facilitate germination, it helps to keep your planted seeds covered with plastic wrap. Seed growing kits often have a clear tray top to use for cover. Keeping the newly planted seeds covered helps to keep the humidity up inside the enclosed environment. As soon as the seeds germinate, remove the plastic or cover.
After your seeds germinate, they can benefit from a small fan blowing across them on a low setting. By introducing airflow, this increases ventilation and helps to prevent diseases, mold, and other problems. However, be aware that by increasing airflow, this also increases evaporation. You have to keep an eye to make sure the new seedlings don’t dry out.
The seeds and seedlings need to be kept warm in order to grow efficiently. They also need a stable temperature as well. By keeping them away from the cold, you can make sure you get a good grow. Usually, you want to make sure your growing temperature is between 65F – 75F. Heating mats also can help with this.
Rotate the Seedlings
Plants grow towards the light. And new seedlings can often grow towards the light quite dramatically since their stems are tiny. By rotating them once a day or so, you can ensure they grow up strong and straight as they grow towards the light.
Move Outside Slowly
If you take the inside seedlings and throw them straight into the sun, then the little plants aren’t going to fair so well due to shock. You want to slowly acclimate your plants to their new environment. By putting them out in the morning sun only on the first day, and by slowly increasing the time in the sun over the course of a few days, you help to reduce the amount of shock to the plant.
By using the tips for growing seedlings, you will on the right path in the spring for a successful gardening season. What do you think of my list? Are there any tips for seedlings that I missed? Do you have anything to add?
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