Seed Starting Tips

Seed Starting Tips

Ready to get your garden growing?

Here are some tips to keep in mind when starting your own seeds.

What do you need to get started?

Having the right supplies (beyond the seeds) is half the battle when seed starting.  You'll need a planting medium (we recommend a seed starting mix), a tray or small pots to grow in (with drainage), a light source, quality seeds, and a starter fertilizer.

How to decide what to start and when?

At Culver's, our team is happy to help answer questions on what should be started and when.  Right now, onions, leeks, and a few other cool season vegetables can be started.  You'll want to hold off a few more weeks before starting warm season vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers to avoid leggy plants.  Leggy (tall, thin-stemmed) plants are harder to transplant and will not perform any better than those that were started a few weeks later.  Check out this seed starting guide from Iowa State University Extension & Outreach.  Column 3 will help you determine how many weeks the seeds will need to grow prior to transplanting outdoors.  Keep in mind, the frost free date in your area.

Seed packets also provide great information for starting.  Seed packets can help you determine if you should start the seeds indoors or just wait and plant directly in the garden once the weather is fit.  For instance, carrots are a seed that should only be sown directly into the ground or a deep pot to avoid loss of the crop or crooked carrots.

Tips for Success

  • Make sure your container or tray has drainage.  Too much water is more detrimental in seed starting than too little.
  • Start with moist potting mix (avoid soil).
  • Lightly cover your seeds with planting mix unless your seed packet says otherwise.  If seeds are too deep, they often will not grow.
  • Make sure the seeds have good contact with the soil.  Initial watering should be done slowly and with a gentle watering can to prevent seeds from floating.
  • An osculating  fan should be used to help strengthen the stems.  This mimics wind outdoors.
  • Pay close attention to optimal growing temperatures listed on the seed packet.  Some plants prefer warmer growing conditions than others.
  • A good light source is important for growing seeds.  A southern window is best, followed by a west window.  A light source can be used, but should be close to the soil when starting your seeds.
  • Transplanting outdoors should be done gradually when the weather is fit.  Take your tray out for a few hours each day, then allow seedlings to be out for full days before transplanting directly into their final growing location.  This will help prevent transplant shock.



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