As someone who’s been growing a garden – or at least helping to grow a garden – since I was a child, it is almost unfathomable to me that someone could not know how to plant a seed. I’ve had several people ask me about seed starting recently, though, so I have to assume that there are more people out there who have yet to acquire this knowledge. Good news: It’s simple!
To get a head start on the growing season, plan to start your seeds 4-6 weeks before you’ll be ready to set them out in the garden. This will be determined by your region’s last frost date. You don’t want to plant your garden too early, only to have Jack Frost kill all of your little plants.
You will need:
- A container: You can reuse nursery containers if you have them, or alternatively, use plastic containers scrounged from the recycle bin*
- Potting soil (available at nurseries or hardware stores)
Fill your containers with potting soil to within 1″ of the top. Seed packets include planting directions and will note the planting depth for each type of seed. Generally speaking, if you’re planting a large seed (beans, peas, squash) push your finger into the soil just beyond the first knuckle to create a hole about 1″ deep. For small seeds (tomato, pepper, broccoli), make a small divot in the soil about a quarter inch deep. Set a single seed in the hole you’ve made, cover it with soil, and water it.
The most important thing about growing seeds is that the soil needs to be kept moist during germination. If the soil dries out too much during germination, the little seed will die before you even see a sprout. On the flip side, you don’t want to drown them. Try to maintain a moisture level equal to a wrung out sponge.
You also need to make sure that they have a nice steady temperature and enough light. Some people like to use grow lights, but it’s really not necessary if you have a sunny window. Temperatures in the 65-70 degree Fahrenheit range are ideal for starting most seeds. If you don’t think your home stays this warm during the time you’ll be germinating seeds, you may want to try using a heat mat.
Have you ever planted a seed? Are you new to gardening, or an old hat?
*Yogurt containers, sour cream containers, and plastic bottles with the top trimmed off are all fair game. You MUST make drainage holes in the bottom, though. To do this, heat the pointed end of a large nail and push it through the bottom of your plastic container to make four or five drainage holes.