There is an ancient proverb that states, “Life begins the day you start a garden.” We aren’t sure about life, but we certainly believe that Spring begins with a garden. Here are some guidelines to help you get your seeds started, so they grow into strong plants.
First, you will need to determine what you intend to grow – flowers, herbs, vegetables. Next, determine where they will be moved to once they have taken root – based on soil conditions, space and sunlight, you may need to adjust your growing plan. Now you are ready to get started!
Materials Checklist – this is a basic list give your plants the best chance of success:
- Seed Starting Soil
- Seeding Trays or Peat Pots
- Plant Labels
- Mister or Watering Tray
- Heating Mat
- Optional: Growing Light
- Start cold crop vegetables first – in Pennsylvania this is the first half of March. These are generally hardier in case of a late-spring frost and include veggies like lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and swiss chard. These can take up to 100 days to reach maturity, so you should be ready to harvest in early-mid summer.
- Next plant your mid-season vegetables and flowers – it is best to start these March/April, so they will be ready to go into the ground once it is warm enough. Some of classics include cilantro, beans, cucumber, squash and tomatoes. These thrive in warm weather and are usually ready to harvest about 75 days but will produce all summer long.
- Follow the days of germination on the back of the seed packet for specific information by plant.
- Make sure to keep the soil consistently moist – not too wet or too dry. A misting bottle is a simple option, but if are looking for a lower maintenance solution, a watering tray can work well. Whatever method you use, be consistent and check the soil regularly to ensure that your seeds are not swimming or drying out!
- Seeds love warmth and light! This creates a bit of a challenge when starting your plants off to a healthy start. If you place them in a well-lit window, it may be a bit too chilly, but if you move them into a warm room, there may not be enough light. Sunlight is always the best light source, so a heating mat can help keep them snug and thriving. Alternatively, growing lights work very well to provide growing plants with both warmth and light. Talk to your garden center to find the best solution based on your home set-up.
- You may need to move larger individual seedlings into larger containers as they grow.
- Never move seedlings directly from a warm, indoor environment directly into the ground outside. Get them hardened off before planting. This means, bring them outside during the warmest part of the day and then moving them back inside at night. Increase the time they are outside over the course of several days until they are acclimated to cooler temperatures and varying light conditions. Never leave new plants outside in temperatures below 42 degrees.
- Once they are hardened off, then it is time to move them into the ground, planters or raised beds. You will want to make sure that the soil is clean of debris and aerated well to accept your young botanicals.
- We recommend using a mild liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion with the first planting. This will absorb in without burning the roots or tender leaves. As the plants grow and become sturdier, you can introduce other fertilizers and feeds.
- Finally, use cages, fences or netting to protect your new plants from hungry garden visitors. Nothing is more appealing to bunnies than tender lettuce shoots!
Whether you are a life-long gardener or just starting out, it is always exciting to nurture something from a seed into a fruit or flower-bearing plant. Wishing you joy in the process!
Want to learn more? Check out this video on our YouTube page!