Seeding and Transplanting
Depending on the plant and your growing season there are some seeds you will want to start indoors.
Until you are ready to plant your seeds keep them in a cool dry place. We do this because seeds are alive but remain dormant until they are exposed to proper growing conditions. Seeds come in all different shapes and sizes and it is important to read the seed package! Seeds have different requirments: soil temperatue, prefered soil types, length to maturity, etc, but in general all need water and warmth. Sunshine is not actually required during seed germination. All of the nutrients a seed needs for its first stage of growth are packed into its outer coating.
Starting seeds indoors ensures warmth and safety for sprouting plants. So how do we begin?
- Read the back of the seed package, how long does this variety take to mature? What temperature does it prefer? You can also ask people at the farmers markets what plants they recommend starting indoors.
- Make your own or buy organic potting soil. Organic potting soil generally contains a mixture of compost, peat moss, and pearl lite.
- Put your potting soil in a big plastic box or wheel barrow and test its moisture content. It should feel like a well wrung out sponge. If it is too dry add more water, if it is too wet, add more soil.
- Get trays to plant your seedlings in. Fill the trays with potting soil. Do not pack the soil down just spread it on top of the trays.
- Make holes using your pointer and middle finger, the general rule is to plant the seeds twice as deep as the diameter of the seeds.
- Place your seeds in the holes. If you accidentally drop a couple in a hole do not worry, you can thin the trays later when they start to sprout.
- Gently spread potting soil over the seeds.
Now you have seeds planted in trays, comfortably starting their growing process warm and safe indoors. The most common mistake people make is OVERWATERING. The soil should be moist, but definitely not soaked; put water in a spraying can to water your seeds. If you start to see green mold on the top of the soil you have overwatered the seedlings. Keep the trays where they will receive the most sunlight.
When the plants first pop up they will form a set of leaves. These leaves are called the first leaves or cotyledons. After the cotyledons, “true leaves” will appear and these resemble the specific plan. In general most plants are ready for transplant to the outdoors or a larger pot when their first true leaves apper. But before transplant we want to put our seeds through a process called “hardening off”. Hardening off takes about a week and the purpose is to prepare the plants for the outdoors. Generally we start by putting the trays outside in the sunlight for a few hours each day, gradually increasing their time outdoors so that by the end of the week they are spending the night outside.
When the time comes to transplant a cloudy day is preferable. Roots do not like to see sunlight, and some start to die within ten seconds of exposure. That being said make sure you know your spacing, have the holes dug, the soil moist, and be prepared to quickly transplant the seedlings. Gently pinch the plants out of their trays from the bottom, and place them in the holes, most like to be planted the same depth they were growing in the trays. Firmly, but gently, pack the soil around the roots.
You may want to build a simple cold frame for your plants. These protect the plants from frost and pests. Click the picture below for more instruction or search: cold frames and row covers for more information.