Step-by-Step Gardening 101: Sprouting Seeds
You’ve always wanted to grow your own vegetables… from scratch! None of that “buying seedlings from the local garden center” for you! The trouble is, you’ve never really grown anything since you put those beans between cotton wool pads in Grade Two. You’re also pressed for time, but you know that you’d love the process of ‘connecting’ with nature that growing your very own tomatoes and spinach would afford.
Well, lucky you! Here’s our down and dirty, step-by-step guide to getting those seeds planted and growing strong and healthy.
First, you’ll need to decide if you want to get going early by planting your seeds in seed starting boxes indoors and then transplant outside when it warms up, or if you want to wait until you can plant directly into the ground.
Seeing as we are in B.C. and although we have a temperate climate, it’s a little cool for outdoors planting at present, we’re going to opt to plant indoors.
Check the instructions on the seed packet. It might seem obvious, but sometimes there are things you’ll need to do that aren’t obvious unless you’ve done this kind of thing before. For instance, some seeds have to be soaked, scratched or chilled before planting.
Choose your seed starter container. It can be plastic flats, peat pots, or even old egg cartons. Make sure there are a few holes in each planting space and make sure the container is clean. Then label the container so that you know exactly which seeds you planted in which container. It’s frustrating trying to guess a few weeks later when they start sprouting.
Make or buy a good quality seedling mix. Seedling mix is made up of soilless peat moss mixed with equal parts vermiculite and perlite. Do not use potting soil. The seedling mix allows oxygen to move through while holding the right level of water for the seeds to grow.
Put the seedling mix in a bucket or large container and add warm water. Use just enough water to moisten the mix.
Fill each seedling container to just below the rim with the seedling mix.
Spread your seeds from the seed packet out onto a clean surface then choose the largest seeds. Once you have enough of the largest seeds to fill the containers it’s time to plant.
Plant the seeds according to the instructions on the packet. You can use a small stick or a pencil to make tiny holes in the seedling mix. Pop the seeds into the holes and cover as directed on the packet.
Cover your seedling starter containers with plastic wrap then use a sharp knife or skewer to prick holes in the wrap to allow for ventilation.
Water. Very. Carefully. It’s difficult to water seeds without drowning them or washing them right out of the seedling mix. The best way is to use a mister or a baster. The mister will obviously make the water into a fine mist that will fall on the surface gently without disturbing it. If you don’t have a mister, then a baster will allow you to water each seed as gently as possible by slowly releasing the water over the container.
Sprouting seeds is a little like hatching eggs. The seeds need to be kept warm. Putting the container on top of the ‘fridge is a good idea. The optimum temperature is between 18 and 24 degrees celsius.
When the seedlings begin to show, take off the plastic wrap and move them into bright light.
Once you see that the seedlings have 2 sets of leaves each then they are ready to be transplanted into larger pots filled with potting mix. Make sure the potting mix has compost mixed into it. Keep them watered and in bright light, but not direct sunlight.