Blog Post

Start your Own Seeds!

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Now is a great time to start seeds! Plants like basil, cabbage, kale, broccoli, zinnias, corn, lettuce, squash, melons, and cucumbers transplant into the garden well and benefit from an early start inside. Check out our guide for Starting Seeds with Kids, below. Happy planting and happy spring! We’re so glad it’s almost here.

1. Some plants have to be started from seed to produce food in our short summers (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants).  Many (kale, broccoli, lettuce) do better if you start them from seed.  Almost any plant can be started from seed for transplant outside. It is fun to experiment, especially in years with a late spring. Even if the seed packet says direct seeding outside (like sunflowers or corn)—give it a try inside. When gardening with kids it can be helpful to have a tray set aside for full contact—They’ll want to touch, smell, and taste the emerging seedlings that are edible—These seedlings will probably not make it to the garden but it is part of the fun!
2. Wet your potting soil before putting it in pots and planting seeds, otherwise it spills over and seeds are lost when you try to water it.
3. Don’t worry too much about planting depth—just poke your finger in and make a hole—it will work! Gently pack the soil down over the seed. It can be difficult for little fingers to get a single seed in a hole. Once plants have their first set of real leaves (after the seedling leaves) it is easy to go in with a scissors and clip the stem of any unwanted plants to leave a single plant per pot. Pulling unwanted seedlings results in too much root disruption.

4. Light/heat: the biggest challenge in starting seeds inside is they can get too tall and have weak stems. Keep your grow light no more than 4 inches above the top of the seedlings. Some seedlings (the heat-loving summer plants: peppers, tomatoes, basil, eggplant) do best if placed near a heat vent/on a mat. The rest will be perfect in average room temperature (65 or so).

5. Water: Keep the soil moist but not wet or soggy. Damping off is a fungal disease that can cause seedlings to die—good air flow around the plants and adequate but not excessive watering will keep them healthy. Holes in the bottom of the pots or permeable pots, especially if the children are watering, would be a good idea. If moisture domes are used to aid germination remove them as soon as the first green appears.

6. Hardening Off: a week or so before you want to plant seedlings outside, they need to be toughened up so they survive the move. You can cut back on watering, place a fan on them, or bring them outside and then back in for a few days to get them ready for the real world

7. Planting: As much as possible, I always plant seedlings on a cloudy day. If this is impractical, they do best if planted in the more gentle sun of the afternoon rather than in the morning so they have the night to recover. They are a little fragile for the first 2-3 days so it is also best not to plant them right before a storm.

8. Planting: handle the seedlings gently and try not to expose the roots to air. Gently but firmly press soil around your plant in the garden. Water every transplant.

On our farm we use May 15th as our average last frost date. In the 10 years we’ve been growing vegetables, May 17th is the latest frost we’ve gotten. Frost-sensitive plants like tomatoes, peppers, basil, squash, zinnias, and melons should be planted outside after that date.

Our kids love starting seedlings. Hope yours do too!

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