General seed starting

Tue. Mar. 3, 2020

Click below to listen to my  2 min. Garden Bite radio show: General seed starting

We cold climate gardener are an optimistic bunch! I often call us Extreme Gardeners. As we hit Meteorological Spring,  we’ll be planting seeds indoors for an early start.  Be aware of HOW early you start some seeds. Right now (early March) you’ll plant seeds that take a long time to germinate. Check the info below!

University of MN Ext.

What do you need:

  • a place to put your seedlings!
  • sterile containers or peat pots or those peat pellets
  • soil-less seed starting mix
  • light (I use an old shop light on a pulley system)
  • heating mat
  • fan
  • seeds!
  • Check out this comprehensive article about Seed Starting by the University of Minnesota Extension including timing.  Adjust timing for your climate!
Peppers on a heat mat under a shoplight. Putting those pots in a tray worked better!

Bottom heat will help your seeds germinate and will also help prevent Damping Off.

tan, mushy spots are damping off fungi. photo by Michelle Grabowski UofMN

Once your seeds sprout, they’ll need light.  Always check out your seed packet for information on germination, soil and light conditions.  Generally speaking, your seedlings will need anything from 12 to 16 hours a day.  Tomatoes and peppers are a good example of 16 hour a day lighting.  Keep the light about 6 inches from the top of the seedlings (thus the pulley system).

Letting a fan gently blow across your seedlings will help strengthen their stems.  Leave the fan on for about an hour a day.

Since the home I live in right now doesn’t have the best light, I tried some experimenting last year… it didn’t work! However, I DO have a portable greenhouse which I will use starting, hopefully, in April!

yes, it was windy! Thus the hunk of limestone… last year it blew over WITH my seedlings in it!

Another tip from last season… get good seed starting mix. I was very disappointed with Burpee Eco-friendly Organic. It had great reviews but not from Master gardener friends of mine…. and my seedlings looked leggy and sad.

So I did some research and found these two products consistently made the BEST list… keep in mind there’s very little to no soil in seed starting mixes.