Although somedays it still feels like we are very much in the grip of winter with the steady rain we've been experiencing in the Olympia area, signs of spring are definitely starting to emerge. The first bulbs have started to bloom, hummingbirds are fighting at my feeder, and even the trees are starting to bud out. No doubt about it, gardening season is officially underway.
I always get a little giddy at this time of year. After months of darkness and eyeing potential new things to grow in every seed catalog in the country, it is finally time to plant my new hopefuls!
There are several benefits to starting your own plants from seed:
So now that you are anxious to plant from seed, how do you do it? First, select seeds from a reputable company that will grow well in your area. If you live in a cool climate, for example, you can grow tomatoes, but select early-maturing varieties.
Although I've tried other methods, I have found that the least labor-intensive method is to start seedlings in 72 cell seedling trays.
Fill the seed trays to the top with potting soil, preferably one specifically for starting seeds. (Don’t use soil from your garden as it can introduce diseases that kill young plants.) Pat down the soil firmly and top off with more soil. Water the tray until the soil is moist but not soggy.
Once your seed tray is ready, plant your seeds according to the package instructions. I used a small dowel to make shallow holes in the soil for the seeds and then to cover them back up. Make sure to label your trays to remember what you planted (you will forget – trust me.)
Most seeds can germinate without light, but once they have sprouted, they need light immediately. Without a good source of light, your seedlings will become leggy.
In addition to good light, I use a circulating fan and blow it on my seedlings several hours most days. This helps prevent fungal diseases and improves the strength of your seedlings’ stems. Be sure that your seedling trays do not dry out as this will kill your seedlings.
As your seedlings continue to grow, pot them up into bigger pots as needed. When you plant them in pots, be sure to plant them “up to their necks” – burying the stem up to the bottom leaves.
When it is warm enough, harden your seedlings off and plant outside. Then enjoy being the envy of your neighbors with the unique veggies you’ll be harvesting from your garden all summer long!