Thursday, February 10, 2011
Indoor Seed Starting
So with spring right around the corner its time to start thing about starting you seeds indoors.
Ok so lets assume you have picked you seeds, and you are just sitting home looking out at the snow waiting for spring . Well just about anything can be started indoors , although you do want to avoid root crops like Radish , carrots etc..
Let me start by saying I like to push the envelope on starting plants indoors & outdoors . With that said there are many places to find charts on when to start your seeds indoors . Its all based on a number of weeks before the last frost. One I like is a seed company called Natures Crossroads http://www.naturescrossroads.com/ They have a great planting chart online. Also Purdue extension is another good source.
All you need is a nice warm location, some sun , seeds , seed starting soil , and some containers.
Lets start with the containers. You can buy new seed trays at the store or you can recycle old ones . You can also use a varity of containers, plastic cups etc.. They just need to hold soil , and you can put some small drain holes in the bottom. Best practice when useing old trays is to wash them out with soapy water or a weak bleach water mix to sterilize them. This helps keep fungus away that might kill young plants. More on that later !
Next good soil . I prefer to buy a good seed starting mix in a bag ( not potting soil ) You can mix your seed starting mix . there are several formulas. Whats inportant is making soil light, well drained yet have the ability to hold moisture in . One easy mix is 2 parts potting soil 1 part peat moss 1 part Perlite or Vermiculite, and if you choose a little fertilizer.
Sterile soil is good soil . Many times you sow the seeds indoors after taking care to by the best seeds you could find . Next the seeds sprout, and then just die off . This is called dampening off . A fungus attacks the young plant , and it looks pinched at the base of the stem then just dies !
How to stave this problem off ...Clean trays , sterile soil ! even bagged soil is not always sterile. So bake it in the oven for 200 degrees for 30 min , and you should be good . If you are doing lots of plants and this is not going to be to big of a task, then try to get the best freshest mix you can. Also do not over water, get good air flow around the plants, even a fan on low. You can try spraying a 3 % mix of hydrogen Peroxide solution on the new seedlings it works as a fungicide. I have also heard a light sprinkling of Cinnamon on the soil before planting helps, Also smells good.
So now its time to go clean soil, clean trays, and all your favorite seeds. First fill your trays to the top with soil. Tap lightly to let soil settle, yet keep it loose so roots can grow. Wet the soil before you plant the seeds . Check seed pack for planting depth. After you plant wet the soil again. Over the next few weeks keep the soil moist, but not to damp . Water dailey. Once the seedling are 2" tall or so they will need lots of water, sun , and warm air . Once plants are taller its good to put trays under pots , and water from bottom . If plants get too large, and start to get root bound its time to transplant into a larger pot. Once its getting close to time to transplant outdoors you need to harden off plants. Put them outside during the day , and get them used to the cooler weather. Be sure to bring them in at night. Make sure its past the last frost then plant them in your garden . Most plants get put in ground at the same level they were in pot . However Tomatoes get planted deep. As much as 1/2 the plant can go underground .