If you are unfamiliar with gardening, this post will give you some information on the perks of seed starting versus purchasing already-grown seedlings from a nursery. Seed starting is where you plant your seeds indoors in the spring to give them a jump start on the growing season, so you can grow earlier and get your fresh grown fruits and veggies on your table sooner!
So why start your own seeds? Here’s some information on why seed starting is so important:
1. Earlier harvests and blooms jump start your season and help you to enjoy the fruits of your labor earlier!
2. More for less… even after the costs of the seed starting supplies, growing your own plants to transplant in the ground when the temperature is warmer is still more cost effective. A packet of seeds only costs a fraction of what a tray or “flat” of flowers or seedlings grown by a nursery would cost.
3. You do your own quality control. When you start your own seeds, you know exactly how long they’ve been around before being planted, as opposed to seedlings started by a nursery, where you don’t know how long they’ve been sitting around before you purchase them. You also control the quality of what you’re planting… any weak or stunted plants can be disposed of as opposed to being planted and failing.
4. Variety is the spice of life… nurseries tend to only stock “tried-and-true” varieties, while if you start your own seeds, the possibilities are endless. The nursery may only stock 4 types of tomato seedlings, while ordering and planting your own seeds may give you the option of over 50 varieties.
Seed starting at-a-glance
Vegetables germinate best in warm soil. Whether starting your seeds indoor or outdoor, temperature plays a critical role in the success of your seeds. Below we’ve listed a few common vegetables with the time needed for them to sprout, temperature needed and when to plant them.
Sow broccoli seed 6 weeks before the last spring frost to 12 weeks before the first fall frost. Seeds sprout in 3-10 days at 70°-75°. Grow seedlings at 60°-70°.
Sow cabbage seeds 8 weeks before last spring frost to 12-14 weeks before the first fall frost. Seeds sprout in 4-10 days at 70°-75°. Grow seedlings at 60°-70°.
Sow cauliflower seeds 6 weeks before last spring frost to 12-14 weeks before the first fall frost. Seeds sprout in 4-10 days at 70°-75°. Grow seedlings at 60°-70°.
Sow cucumber seeds 5-6 weeks before last spring frost. Seeds sprout in 6-10 days at 70°-80°. Grow seedlings at 70°-80°.
Sow lettuce seeds 6 weeks before last spring frost to 9 weeks before the first fall frost. Seeds sprout in 4-10 days at 60°-75°. Grow seedlings at 55°-75°.
Sow onion seeds 8-10 weeks before last spring frost to 17 weeks before the first fall frost. Seeds sprout in 7-12 days at 65°-80°. Grow seedlings at 60°-70°.
Sow pepper seeds 6-8 weeks before last spring frost. Seeds sprout in 10-20 days at 75°-85°. Grow seedlings at 65°-80°. Pepper seed takes longer to germinate than most seeds. The warmer the temperature, the faster they will grow.
Sow squash seeds 4-5 weeks before last spring frost. Seeds sprout in 3-10 days at 70°-80°. Grow seedlings at 60°-75°.
Sow tomato seeds 5-7 weeks before last spring frost. Seeds sprout in 6-14 days at 75°-80°. Grow seedlings at 60°-75°.
The last spring frost is climate dependent. Generally this occurs around the full moon in May for Northern states. As you go south, every 100 miles equals one week earlier on the calendar. To speak broadly, the best seed starting time is when the temperatures are no longer freezing at night.
Your list of materials needed for a successful seed starting!
The first thing you’ll need is a soilless mix or a seedling mix. Soil is too heavy for germination, so the soilless mix is your best alternative. It is a sterilized mixture of peat, core fiber, vermiculite, perlite and other material depending on brand. Being sterilized, the soilless mix prevents any diseases that might have been in any soil you would use.
You can use either a Seedling Flat to plant your seeds, or Peat Pots, which are plantable pots that are made of peat, vegetable fibers and nutrients. Another option are our Cow Pots, made of dry, composted cow manure that fully decomposes once planted with no waste or odor. An easy way to deposit seeds into your seedling flats is our Mini Seedmaster.
A good way to give your seeds the warm temperature they need to germinate is our Seedling Heat Mat (Large / Small). With a single seedling flat and a propagation dome, you can create the ideal growing environment that your seeds crave.
The optimum time to start fertilizing your seedlings is after the second set of leaves appear on the plant. We prefer Neptune’s Harvest, as its 100% organic! You can also use Compost Tea Bags to supplement your seedlings.