I partnered with Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Co. to bring you this blog post about a simple way to start seeds indoors.
Starting vegetables from seed has several advantages:
- With the large selection of seeds available online, you have more variety in what you can plant.
- Starting your own seeds means less risk of introducing unknown pests and diseases into your garden from purchased transplants.
- It’s exciting to have something growing inside when it’s too cold to garden outside. I love puttering with my seedlings and checking on their growth.
Looking for a simple way to start seeds indoors?
I’ll walk through the steps to take you from a package of seeds to a transplant ready to be planted in the garden.
1. Start seeds indoors at the right time
Look at the last frost date for your area and count back from there. Not sure when your last frost date is? Enter your zip code into this Frost Date Calculator.
Here are a few vegetables typically started indoors:
Tomatoes – start seeds indoors 5-7 weeks before the last spring frost.
Peppers – start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last spring frost.
Eggplant – start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last spring frost.
Broccoli – start seeds indoors 8 weeks before the last spring frost.
Cabbage – start seeds indoors 8 weeks before the last spring frost.
Brussels sprouts – start seeds indoors 14 weeks before the last spring frost.
3. Start seeds easily using Grow Plugs
Using Grow Plugs simplifies starting seeds and has several advantages:
- No mess. They are self-contained and simple to handle right out of the bag.
- Made from environmentally-friendly ingredients.
- Contain natural beneficial bacteria for seed germination. No worries about soil-borne pests or diseases that cause young seedlings to die off suddenly (damping off).
- Roots develop quickly.
- Water is absorbed as it is needed. No worries about mold or other diseases.
- Easily transplant into larger containers or right into the garden.
To plant seeds using Grow Plugs:
1. Put cell growing tray in empty water reservoir tray.
2. Place the desired number of moistened Grow Plugs into cell growing tray.
3. Plant one seed in each hole (dibble) of Grow Plug.
4. Label seedlings.
5. Fill the tray ½ full with water – the tray will begin to float.
6. Place humidity dome on top of the seedling tray.
4. Provide light for growing seedlings
Sprouting seeds expend all their energy to break through to the surface and need a new energy source. This is why providing bright overhead light is so important (light from a nearby window is seldom, if ever, enough). Not enough light leaves seedlings spindly and unhealthy.
Adjust the light height as seedlings grow, always keeping the light within an inch or so of seedlings. Use a timer to have light on for 12-14 hours each day.
5. Provide warmth to speed germination and root development
Most vegetable seeds germinate best at soil temperatures warmer than typical homes. Adding a heating mat speeds germination and warms the rooting area which encourages root growth. Once seedlings emerge, they also benefit from the added warmth a seedling mat provides. A seedling mat automatically warms roots to 10-20°F above current room temperature.
6. Care for seedlings as they sprout and grow
- Once seeds have germinated and reached 1 inch in height, remove the humidity dome.
- Add water as needed to keep tray about half full of water. The Grow Plugs absorb the right amount of water without risk of over-watering.
- Adjust the grow light to within 2 inches of growing seedlings.
- Add fertilizer to the water after true leaves emerge on seedlings.
- Once several true leaves have emerged, transplant seedlings into larger pots or outdoors. If transplanting outdoors, be sure to harden off seedlings first by gradually exposing them to conditions outdoors.