Start your own seeds to save money, grow different plant varieties, and extend your growing season.
Step 1: Prepare pots or flats Wash the pots and flats in warm soapy water. Rinse them thoroughly and drain.
TIP: To kill fungi and bacteria in previously used pots, soak them for 30 minutes in a solution of 10 parts water to 1 part bleach, then rinse and drain.
Step 2: Prepare seed starting mix Purchase seed starting soil from a local nursery, or mix your own. The ideal mix contains equal parts garden soil, vermiculite, which is a kind of sand, and peat or compost.
Step 3: Moisten seed starting mix Add water to your soil mix, but only enough to lightly moisten it.
TIP: Do not overwater. Waterlogged soil can cause rot and prevent germination.
Step 4: Plant seeds Plant your seeds according to the depth and spacing instructions on the seed packet, and then lightly cover them with soil. Gingerly press the soil onto the seeds and sparingly add water over them.
Step 5: Cover pots Cover the pots with plastic sheets, wrap, or bags to create a greenhouse effect and keep moisture in the soil.
Step 6: Set in warm location Set the pots in a warm location, such as a water heater top, refrigerator top, or sunny window. Check the soil moisture daily and water only when needed. Do not over water.
Step 7: Remove covers after germination Remove the plastic covers once the seeds begin to sprout.
TIP: After germination, place the pots in a tray, and add water to the tray. Watering from the bottom prevents overwatering and helps thwart a kind of fungus that can kill seedlings.
Step 8: Provide light Place the germinated seeds in or near a sunny window. To encourage straight growth and prevent a thin, weak stem, place the new sprouts directly under a light source, such as a fluorescent light.
Step 9: Harden-off plants When your plants have several sets of leaves, and the weather is warm enough, set the plants outside for increasing lengths of time. Start with 2 hours, and gradually work up to leaving them out all day.
Step 10: Plant your garden! You’re ready to transfer those flowers and vegetables you worked so hard to cultivate to the garden. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!
FACT: 10,000-year-old seeds discovered in frozen soil in Canada produced flowers.