Starting plants from seeds provides an economical way to beautify the landscape. Gardeners often start seeds indoors a few weeks before the final frost. Certain types of seeds can also be planted directly into the garden soil once it reaches a temperature of at least 65 degrees F.
The Seed Packet
Garden centers sell seeds in packets. These packages provide a wealth of information for the novice seed gardener. The back of each packet features the light requirements for the seeds, spacing, watering needs and eventual mature plant care. Save the seed packets after initial planting for future plant care. Follow the instructions carefully for best results.
A host of different containers exist for starting seeds. Peat pellets feature peat moss surrounded by a fine mesh to hold the planting medium in a rounded shape. Add water and the pellet expands for planting. Pressed peat pots provide a convenient option when using potting soil for planting. Trays with plastic domes serve as mini-greenhouses to retain moisture while seeds germinate. Purchasing specialized containers isn't necessary to grow seeds. Fresh, unused potting soil and clean pots work fine for most types of annual, flower and vegetable seeds.
Potting soil isn't actual soil. This material contains peat, sand, and a fluffy white mineral substance called perlite. Perlite and peat helps the material retain moisture while sand provides aeration in the mix. These soil less mixture are pure and contain no diseases. Fresh potting soil provides the best opportunity to seeds to germinate in a disease-free environment.
Germination of seeds occurs when the correct contact occurs between the potting medium and the seed. The addition of moisture and heat causes the seed to sprout somewhere between seven and 21 days. Moisture must be consistent throughout the potting medium. Seeds germinate better when placed on a heat source such as the top of a refrigerator. Bright sunlight won't spark seed germination and will only dry out the soil.
The appearance of two leaves on a seedling requires thinning of the plants to allow more space for growth. Seedlings become leggy with extended stem length between leaves with inadequate growing room. Transfer seedlings to small 4-inch pots and water regularly to promote strong stem formation before moving the plants to the garden. When transplanting to the garden, provide a light fertilizer at half strength to help the plant become established in a new home.
Plants grown indoors require an adjustment period called hardening off. This transitional time allows the plant to become slowly acclimated to outdoor weather conditions. Hardening off involves placing the plants outside for 2 hours to adjust to the sun's heat and different temperatures in the outdoor environment. Allow the plants two hours outside for two to three days and gradually increase the time over the next seven to 10 days. Provide water and shelter from hard rains.