Growing from seed can be rewarding
Starting a few seeds indoors can be an inexpensive way to get a head start on this year's garden and bring a touch of early spring indoors.
Whatever your gardening preference may be, be it flowers or vegetables, there is a wide variety of seeds available to choose from.
It's not necessary to go out and purchase a whole lot of new equipment to successfully grow plants indoors. The only items you will need to buy are seeds and a good soil mix.
There are many items around the home that can be recycled and used as a container. Milk or egg cartons, yogurt cups or even plastic two-litre plastic pop bottles with the top two-thirds cut off will work just fine. Save the top of the pop bottle, these are great for protecting tender young transplants from any sudden temperature fluctuations after you've moved them outdoors.
Cell packs or trays from last years purchases can also be re-cycled. Punch holes in the bottom of all containers you plan to use to ensure adequate drainage and thoroughly sterilize everything that will come in contact with your soil, i.e. containers, tools and labels. The laundry sink or the bathtub, are ideal for this job if you have several containers to sterilize. Soak everything in a mixture of hot water and chlorine bleach at a ratio of about one to eight for a minimum of 20 minutes.
Fill your containers with pre-moistened soil to just below the top rim of the container or, to about a depth of three inches. Gently pat the soil surface to ensure there are no air pockets. Use a good potting soil since your plants can only be as good as the soil they are growing in. An alternative to soil is coconut fibre bricks. These bricks when hydrated with water are an excellent medium for growing seeds. I have had considerable success with these bricks and use them for all my seed starting. I've noticed that root development is much more extensive with the coconut fibre than the soil-less mixes.
Before beginning to plant, read seed packages carefully for all instructions and a recommended planting date. This is usually referred to as a specific number of weeks before the last expected frost date. Here, in Northern Ontario, it is somewhere around the first of June for all tender annuals.
Count backwards from this to calculate an optimum seed starting date. Don't plant seeds too early or they could get leggy before you can get them outdoors.
Planting depth, days to germination as well as any special requirements should all be found on the seed packet.
Once the seeds are planted, water lightly with a fine mist and gently pat the soil surface to ensure the seeds are in contact with the soil.
Using a waterproof marker clearly label each pot with the exact name and variety of what it contains.
Next, cover and seal the top of the container with a piece of clear cellophane wrap to maintain moisture.
A few toothpicks in the soil should prevent the wrap from drooping to the soil surface if condensation forms on the inside.
Place the pots in a brightly lit area out of any draughts and mist the soil lightly when needed.
After most of the seeds have sprouted remove the plastic wrap. The soil will dry out much quicker when the wrap is removed so continue to very gently mist the tender seedlings to keep the soil moist but not wet. Young seedlings will quickly perish if the soil is allowed to dry out. Lots of light and good air circulation will help prevent diseases and promote strong, healthy plants.
When the seedlings have developed their second set of leaves, begin giving them a half strength dose of a balanced liquid fertilizer once a week. If the plants begin to appear crowded, thinning or transplanting will be necessary.
Allow the soil to dry slightly before transplanting so the roots will be easier to separate. Gently lift a small section of soil and tease the seedlings apart. Do not pull them out or you may take the tender roots of any nearby seedlings too.
Replant into containers prepared as above and water immediately. If there are more seedlings than you require it may be more convenient to thin them by using a small pair of scissors to snip off the extra seedlings.
Continue to water and fertilize your new plants until temperatures outside are much warmer. You can then gradually begin to acclimatize them to the outdoors.
This important process is called hardening-off. Avoid days that are windy or too warm or when heavy rains are expected. Begin by placing them outdoors, out of direct sunlight, for half an hour a day, and slowly increasing this till planting time. Getting your plants accustomed to life outdoors before planting day will help ensure strong healthy plants all season long.
Article from: Susan Milne, The Sault Star