Starting seed indoors is one way for you to alleviate cabin fever and make it through those cold winter months, while still enjoying your favorite hobby.
Moisture, temperature and ventilation are all very important to good seed germination. Other seed starting essentials are:
- Growing mediums
Light - There are only two types of light from which to choose:
- Sunlight - Ideal, but seedlings need anywhere from 12 (cooler locations) to 16 hours of sunlight per day to grow and thrive. Since this is impossible in winter months, artificial light can be used in place of, or in conjunction with, sunlight. Place containers on windowsills or below windows.
- Artificial light – Place about 1-3 inches above seedlings for the first few weeks, then raise to 4-6 inches above your seedlings until transplant time. The types of artificial light you can choose from include:
- Incandescent light - The light provided is not of a very wide spectrum.
- Fluorescent light – Best source of artificial light.
- Grow lights – Expensive, results are comparable to that of fluorescent lights.
Whichever type of light you use, your seedlings will need a rest period with no light at night. Also, rotate the seedling trays so that the seedlings do not get spindly. Mirrors or aluminum foil can be used to reflect the light and give the seedlings the fullest benefit of the light available to them.
The only requirement of your seed starting container is that it hold 1-2 inches of soil and has good drainage. Individual containers are preferable because there is less disturbance to the plants' roots systems when they are transplanted to the soil. Square or rectangular flat containers make better use of space and moisture retention. Covers provide humidity and give a greenhouse effect.
Growing mediums should be weed free and have the ability to retain moisture. Plain garden soil is not a good choice as it hardens and young seedlings cannot penetrate through it. You can make your own using materials like vermiculite, perlite, peat moss and sphagnum moss. Good planting mixes are also available.
Seed-Starting Systems - Hydroponics
Some systems are completely self contained and require no media relying rather on hydroponics to grow and sustain plants. Special media has been developed which allows the seed to get the proper amount of air and water to increase germination times. This media will also support the growing plants to get faster more robust growth as well as a very generous root system that is ready to support the plant as you transplant them. No fertilizer is needed for the first 2 weeks then a liquid all-natural or organic fertilizer can be added to the water chamber to sustain the plants. Research at the Gardens Alive! test farms has developed a system creating a floating hydroponic island of special media plugs floating in a seed tray of water and ultimately natural fertilizer solution. All-Roots™ Seed Starting System will provides a great advantage to starting your seeds at home.
Seed should be of good quality. Find a reputable seed supplier and stick with them. Read descriptions and choose cultivars with qualities that are important to you. Check seed packet information to find out whether the seed you want to raise has special care requirements. Trading seed is another way of getting the types of seed you desire. Make sure the packets are clearly labeled with type of seed and care requirements.