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Seed Starting 101

Updated: Mar 12, 2022

The beautiful weather these last few days has had me thinking Spring, Spring, Spring! And Spring makes me think of gardening and gardening makes me think – it’s time to start some seeds! (I wrote last month about planning for your garden, if you want to start there).

March is a good time to start preparing for seed starting because it takes a bit of forethought and planning. There are only a few plants that like being started this early, so you can start slow.

(My helpers and I had to warm up the frozen soil in the sun before we planted.)

To start seeds, you will need…

  1. Seeds

  2. Some sort of containers, pots, or trays to plant into

  3. Something clear to cover your pots with (people use plastic tubs, old milk bottles, and windows).

  4. Seed Starting Mix, preferably organic

  5. A light source (a sunny window works pretty well)

  6. A heat source (a sunny window and/or a heat vent work well)

  7. A small watering can or spray bottle

  8. Patience

STEP ONE: Choose your seeds. At this point, you’ll want to plant hardy greens like kale, some flowers and herbs, broccoli, and cauliflower. Take a look at your seed packet to be sure of the timing.

I like to write when to plant seeds on my calendar. Obviously these are rough estimates and broccoli doesn’t care if it’s planted March 27th or April 2nd.

STEP TWO: Prepare your containers, pots, or trays. When I first started gardening, I was lucky enough to inherit a whole bunch of gardening supplies from a neighbor, so I have several plastic seed-starting trays. They are in pretty rough shape by now, but thanks to duct tape, I think they’ll last a few years yet. If you don’t have trays already, don’t despair. There are lots of low and zero waste options for seed starting. After a quick wash with water and vinegar, your pots are ready to go.

STEP THREE: Prepare your soil. I find it works best to moisten your soil before planting. In a separate pot or tray, mix the soil with water until it is slightly damp (it will make a loose ball when squeezed).

STEP FOUR: Fill your containers. Fill trays and small pots about 3/4 full and press down the soil. For bigger containers and pots, leave about an inch at the top.

STEP FIVE: Plant your seeds. Lay the seeds on top of the soil and cover them with soil. The depth of the soil will be written on your seed packet. I always plant several seeds per pot. You can always thin seedlings later if they all germinate.

STEP SIX: Cover and warm. Place something clear and plastic or glass over your pots, trays, or containers to keep the soil moist and warm. Then place the whole operation in a sunny window or on a heat vent (this is one situation where the greenhouse effect is a good thing!).

STEP SEVEN: Maintain. Check your soil daily to make sure it is still damp. You can spray the soil with a spray bottle, but don’t over water. Once seedlings appear, remove the clear covering and and place them in a sunny window.

I hope this helps get you started. Starting seeds is so much fun and totally worth the wait. Good luck with it!

– Hannah

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