It’s easy to go out and buy all of your plants already grown and ready to plant, but for many gardeners half the fun is starting their own seeds.
For one, buying seeds is much more cost-effective than buying full plants, not to mention the fact that you can also get seeds from your own mature plants — totally free of cost.
That said, in order to grow a plant from any seed, you need to know how to start your seeds. Let’s go over the proper methods, as well as some essential tips for success.
Starting Your Seeds: Step by Step
Let’s go through a step-by-step tutorial on how to start seeds from A to Z. There are 7 main steps to follow.
1. The Right Time
If you are like most gardeners, your aim will be to have your seedlings ready to move outside once the weather becomes ideal for outdoor planting. The right time to start your seeds will depend on the type of plant in question.
Some need to be started indoors a few weeks before the last frost, and some need to be started outdoors once the weather is already reasonably warm. Therefore, you need to do a bit of research to find out when the best time to start your specific seeds is.
2. The Right Container
The next step in starting your own seeds is to find the right containers. Even if you plan to transplant the plant to a large pot afterwards, seeds should always be started in very small containers.
This will allow them to develop a strong root system before being moved to a larger location. A small container that is around 3 inches deep and has good drainage is best. Some people choose to start seedlings in egg cartons or in small paper cups.
One of the best options to consider are seed trays like these which allow for proper drainage and ventilation, and seedlings are easy to remove from these trays for transplanting.
3. The Right Soil
The next step to starting your seeds is to get the proper soil. You will want to go for high-quality soil which is sterile and does not contain many nutrients. Seeds cannot handle a lot of nutrients and fertilizers. If they are exposed to too many nutrients, they will most likely die.
Using potting soil specifically designed for starting seeds is your best bet, such as this one. Once the seedlings have grown a little bit and have become more mature plants, you can transplant them into nutrient-rich soil or use some kind of liquid fertilizer to stimulate growth.
Before you plant the seeds in the soil, make sure to moisten the soil so that it’s a bit wet and crumbly, but not soaking wet. Then take this wet soil and place it in the cups, trays, or containers outlined in the above step. Tightly pack the soil so that there are no large gaps. Fill your containers almost to the top.
4. Planting the Seeds
Now that you have done all of the prep work, you can plant the seeds. All plants are different, and some seeds need to be planted differently than others. Therefore, your best bet is to follow the instructions as outlined on your seed packets.
Generally speaking, for most seeds, you will need to make a small hole or divot in the soil, usually about 1 inch deep. Place the seed in this hole and then cover it back up with soil. Be sure to very lightly pack the soil down once the seed is covered, but not so much that you may damage the seed or obstruct its growth.
5. Water and Air
In order for the seeds to germinate and grow, they will need water. Be sure that you don’t soak the soil, as it will drown the seeds before they can begin to grow. A good practice is to let the soil dry out in between watering. Most seeds and seedlings will need water only every few days.
On this same note, you will also want to set up some sort of air fan that helps create airflow. This will help the soil dry faster and it will help regulate humidity. In fact, a good amount of airflow can also help train the stems of your plants to become thicker, stronger, and more supportive.
Some people will also start feeding nutrients and fertilizers to their seedlings within the first few weeks after planting. It is recommended that you research the nutrient needs of your plants before doing this, and also keep in mind that the soil you have may already contain some amount of nutrients as well.
6. Lots of Light
One of the most important things you will need to do to make your seeds grow is provide them with lots of light. Try to keep the containers in a sunny window and rotate them on a regular basis to ensure that the seedlings get light from all sides.
If your seedlings do not get enough light, they will grow tall, thin, and weak, otherwise known as “leggy.” This can result in your plant tipping over due to a weak stem, thus killing it. If you need to, you can always use a grow light like this one, as your seedlings should get around 15 hours of light per day.
7. Moving Them Outdoors
The final step is to start moving your plants outdoors. Beware that your young plants should not be moved from indoors to the outdoors in a single day. They have been growing in a controlled and favorable environment.
Moving them outdoors into direct sunlight and windy conditions in one shot can kill your plants. You need to harden them up first. About a week before you plan to fully move them outside, start by placing the plants outdoors in indirect sunlight, in an area out of the wind, for a couple of hours.
Increase the time they spend outside each day by a couple of hours, and gradually move them to sunnier and windier locations, always remembering to bring them inside during the night. After 1 to 2 weeks, your seedlings will be ready to move to their final location.
If you follow the above steps, you should have no issues starting your own seeds. Just be sure to research the proper germination and planting methods for specific plants, as each plant is a bit different. Other than that, the steps outlined above will apply to the vast majority of seeds which you may want to start.