Starting seeds indoors is great to get a jump on the gardening season. It’s also a major perk to grow organic veggies, save some money, and it’s cool watching your seeds grow into plants. This year is our first calendar year living in New England. With a short growing season, starting seeds early helped to plan out the future garden. We were blessed with an “early start to spring” with warm weather in the 50’s and some high 70’s! The warm March prompted me to start my garden “early” by growing some seeds indoors. Our nights are still in danger of frost well into Mid May, with this year’s predicted last frost date of May 13. Ironically, while I was writing this post last week, we had 6″ of snow (it’s early April).
To give you a visual of our short growing season in Keene: are two photos from April 6, one from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, versus my house, 200 miles up north.
What do you want to eat and grow?
If you love butternut squash but don’t want a zillion butternut squash, it’s probably better not to plant butternut squash. If you plan on canning pesto for the winter months, you probably want more than a few basil plants. Think about your food habits and how a garden and help you in the kitchen.
We love cucumbers, tomatoes, especially cherry tomatoes, pepper, and lettuce are the big staples in our house. There is nothing better than a refreshing cucumber, tomato, and basil salad fresh from the garden.
How much space you have for your garden?
Think about how you can maximize your space by learning which plants can actually be potted together. Basil and Tomatoes pair very well. Here is a helpful list of plant pairings. Lettuce and arugula can grow indoors year round. Consider what plants can yield the most, for example one cucumber can yield dozens of cucumbers (and grow vertically) in a summer, versus carrots are a low yield vegetable and need more space.
How much light do you get?
Seeds need on average 6-8 hours of sunlight a day to get started. Heads up, if you do not have this then perhaps sticking with the plant nursery is the best alternative.
Let’s get planting:
You will need: Soil, Pots, A Spoon, Working Hands, Optimism
You want a great potting soil that is organic, with a mix of organic fertilizer with some pumice and perlite. The better soil you happier your plants will be.
Here are some helpful tips on getting started on planting your pots:
- Make a grid that corresponds with your planting grid or setup. This is helpful since as a newbie, I have no idea what sprouted arugula or any of these veggies look like.
- Fill with dirt and water if the soil is not moist. This helps the seeds “stick” to the moist dirt and keep them planted after their first drink of water.
- Place a few seeds in each pot. I like to put 3-5 seeds in a pot depending on their size. Cucumber seeds are larger 3 is plenty.
- Follow your seed packets instructions on how deep to plant the seeds (it’s usually 1/4″ deep), and cover accordingly.
- Water. I like to use a spray bottle since I am super nervous about the seed floating up to the surface.
- Place in sun and water daily. I found that these pots dried out very quickly with the amount of sun that we have. After a few days, a spray bottle method wasn’t keeping them moist enough and they needed to drink from a watering can.
Egg Carton Planters are also a great way to start seeds.
Just poke some holes in the bottom of each pot and you’re ready to go. If you use a plastic egg carton, you’ve got an instant greenhouse. Just keep the lid shut and it’ll create enough humidity and moisture to keep the seeds moist and happy.
Thrilled how quickly, in 4 days little Arugula sprouts started to pop up! It was cool to see the seeds pop back up being pushed by the plant afterwards.
The moist Soil smells like spring rain. It’s heavenly.
These little pots were drying out and needed water in the morning and at night.
Week 3: Transplant Day
The seed starter pots looked very crowded unhappy. My Arugula looked rough and spent, and I was worried I’d stunted their roots cramming them into a little pot for so long. Since there were multiple seedlings per mini starter pot, I had to be extra careful separating the roots.
Day 30 (two days after transplant)
Two days after transplanting the seedlings, there was noticeable growth with the little guys. The basil leaves starting popping up. They are about the size of a nail head.
Planting Time: 1 hour Total Budget: $30.00
The most time consuming part was actually deciding on what seeds to plant. I tend to get very ambitious about gardening / growing produce. Overall, an hour’s worth of time spent is priceless when you factor in the savings on the (dozens of) plants that I have grown in a short few weeks, and new hobby/skill. It fascinating watching these little seeds grow and really helps brighten the day!
The little planting pots were too small for the amount of seeds that were growing into seedlings. This is quite unusual for almost all of the seeds to grow. They were crowded and needed transplanting early on to ensure proper growth. Also, the planting pots got moldy, perhaps it’s the damp weather we have been having, but I found mold on the outsides of the pots. It was quite unusual and will look for alternatives in the future. Paper egg cartons got VERY dry and my flowers dried out and died. I’ll have to find an alternate method with those.
Recap / Next Steps
With a 80% success rate, the seeds are doing well, with most of them officially turning into plants! Thrilled they were able to make it through some colder nights. I’ve got a lot ahead of me–planning the garden and giving permanent homes for these little babies. With another month to go until they’re safe to go outside, I’ll be planting new seeds from veggies to flowers, and exploring different methods of starting seeds, stay tuned for that.
Have you had success starting seeds? Do you have any tips on easy plants to start by seeds?