Seed starting is easier than you think.
There’s nothing to be afraid of if you follow our simple steps.
A lot of gardeners will back away slowly when the conversation turns to seed trays and heating mats, and they start muttering things like, “I just buy organic seedlings from my local nursery.”
That’s one way to go.
But to get the most out of your gardening dollar you cannot beat starting vegetables and flowers from seeds. Plus (and this is what motivates many gardeners) you can choose exactly the vegetable variety or much-loved flower that you want.
In our new video, Tricia walks you through the seed starting process and explains the different equipment options. Your major decisions will be:
|—Starting time for your seeds —Seed starting trays —Heating source|
If you already have your seeds in hand, check your seed packet for germination times.
Still making up your mind? Here’s a chart from North Carolina State University with germination times for popular vegetables and flowers.
The date of the last frost in your area is crucial. Planting your seedlings outdoors before the last frost typically leads to heartbreak when the seedlings are zapped by a cold snap. So please, don’t try to jump the gun on that outdoor planting date.
Count back from the last frost date to calculate when to start your seeds. Get the last frost date from your local Master Gardeners or Cooperative Extension office. In California you can find your Master Gardeners by county with this list. There’s a national map too, to guide you to your local Cooperative Extension and Master Gardeners.
|Speedling Tray||Plantel Tray||Soil Blockers||Cow Pots|
Speedling trays have their own insulation and are designed to air prune plant roots. Standard plastic trays are easy to work with and very durable. To minimize transplant shock, try Soil Blockers or the new CowPots that are made from manure and can go straight into your garden soil.
|Organic Quickroot||Haws Watering Can||Widger||Heat Mats|
Fill your containers with a soilless mix, like our organic QuickRoot, place your seeds two to a cell (Tricia likes to use the Widger as a seed spoon), and water well with a fine spray. Our classic Haws watering can has a removable “rose” on the spout that will sprinkle your seeds and seedlings with droplets. Make sure your seeds and seedlings get a continuous supply of water. If they dry out during germination they will die.
Using Speedling trays, with their built-in insulation, means you don’t need a heating mat but can simply put the trays in a warm place (like the top of the refrigerator).
Heating mats will help with all other containers—including soil blocks, which are set onto undivided trays. Most plants germinate best in a temperature range of 65F to 75F. During cool weather that means a heating mat will be required.
Damping off —Use a soilless mix, which allows for air circulation and discourages the fungus organism that attacks seeds and seedlings in saturated soil.
Root-bound seedlings—Tricia talked about the air pruning that happens with seedlings grown in Speedling trays. Air pruning allows enough oxygen near the seedling roots to burn them, and then encourages new roots. The result is a well-constructed root system that is ready to expand as soon as it is transplanted.
May 20th, 2011 at 7:24 pm
Hi - I got a 200 cell speedling tray recently. If one puts the tray on top of the frig how do they get the light they need? Is light more important than heat here? I spoke with a friend who used a similar ‘air prune’ system - she said she watered her tray by placing it in a water-containing tray so the plants got water from the bottom up. Would that be ok with the speedlings or must I mist from above? Thanks
Charlotte from Peaceful Valley Says:
Feb 14th, 2012 at 5:57 pm
oxmyx1, The warmth on top of the refrigerator is the important part of sprouting. As soon as you see the sprout, move it to a location with brighter light. With speedling trays it is easiest to mist them from above. They are somewhat buoyant and that makes watering from below potentially tricky.