Seed Starting Tips -- The Basics

Shari Altman
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Seedlings
Photo by Shari Altman
Now that you've ordered your seeds, here are some growing tips to ensure seedling success.

  1. Read the information on the seed packet and plant accordingly. You may need to find out the last frost date for your region.
  2. Plant seeds in a sterile, germinating mix. I like Gardener's Best Organic Seedstarting Mix.
  3. Planting options include newspaper pots, cell packs or even recycled containers such as egg cartons, grapefruit rinds or milk cartons. 
  4. Remember that seeds need heat to germinate and light once they sprout. My husband and I put our flats on top of our refrigerator to keep the seeds warm. Some of our friends have used electric blankets or heating pads.
  5. Provide the seedlings with 13 hours of light, using grow lights. You can often find used lighting fixtures, too. We bought a timer for our lights, which makes life easier.
  6. Water thoroughly but not too often to prevent mold from taking over.
  7. New seeds that have been packaged for 2010 are best. However, if seeds have been stored in cool, dry place, they can often last for 2-3 years. Less seeds will germinate, though, so be sure to sow a few extra per pot. This year, we've had good luck with 2 year old arugula seeds but not such good luck with 3 year old lettuce seeds.
  8. Thin seedlings once they are established and are a few inches tall. Simply snip the seedlings with scissors, leaving only one seedling per cell or pot.

The National Gardening Association has a wonderful video on Seed Starting with Charlie Nardozzi that is well worth your time.

What are your best seed starting tips?

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