The dark days of winter can be rough. Snow and cold can make almost anyone miss the verdant days of summer. Those of us that spend our spring and summer in the garden can really feel down when there’s nothing to tend to. If you just can’t wait to get your hands in the dirt, starting your seedlings early can give you a taste of the gardening you’re missing.
How to Start:
There are a couple of ways to start seedlings indoors. You can either grow plants from seed or buy seedlings that have already gotten their start indoors at a nursery. Watching seeds germinate can be extremely satisfying and will give you a little bit longer with the plant indoors, though buying pre-started plants is easier and sometimes more reliable.
Before you sow seeds check the date on your seed packet. Seeds have an expiration date and while they may germinate after this date, they will be less likely to do so. Most garden centers sell seeds of all kinds all year long, so you can begin to plant from seed at any time of the year.
To begin starting seeds you should place the seeds in a warm, dark, and moist area, such as between two damp paper towels on a set of plates. Keep them damp, but not soaking wet, and in a few days, you’ll see a root emerging from your seed. Once the root is exposed you can plant this seedling in the seed starting mix. When growing seeds indoors use peat pots to hold the soil, because once the outdoor growing season starts you can just plant them, pots and all, into the soil. This keeps the root systems from becoming damaged.
Keep Them Going:
Once your seeds are planted keep your eyes out for the first sprout they put out. You’ll see a tiny little set of leaves come up, and that will be the start of your new plant. Once you have seedlings growing you’ll want to keep them warm; if you are using natural light place them near a window. In the winter using natural light can become very cold so provide them with bottom heat by using a heat mat. If you are not keeping your seedling by a window consider using a grow light to help it along until spring. You should also make sure you give them plenty of air circulation to ensure that your new plants don’t succumb to fungal infections.
Time to Move:
When it’s time to move your plant outdoors you’ll need to decide whether you want to plant it into a larger pot or directly into the ground. Either way, you’ll need to “harden” the plant—meaning you’ll have to get it used to living outside. To do this, bring it outside for a few hours at a time for a few days. This will prevent shock and sunburn. If you plant in a container make sure it has drainage holes so that you don’t drown the plant. If you’ll be planting in the ground give the plant a little bit of compost to help it along and you’ll be harvesting in no time!