By Jannie Vaught
What Are the essentials needed for starting seeds indoors?
They need a good starting mix, heat, light, and Moisture!!!
So you have your table up and ready. Your lights are hung above the table and you have your starting cell trays with bottoms trays that are new or clean and a bottom heating pad for seed starting.
Lets start with the Starting Mix: this is specific designed mix with Peat and perlite mixed 5 parts peat to 1 part perlite. Some will come already prepared with some nutrients and minerals added, a very small amount. This is a soft and fluffy mixture for easy wetting and moisture-holding with the pearlite so the seed can begin its transition to plant. First is the beginning root or Radical than the cotyledon or ‘”seed leaf.’ They do not need light until they break the soil as this all happens in the dark under the soil. When filling the trays gently press the mix into the cell but do not pack it in. You want the fluffy air for the roots to develop.
Now lets look at Heat: If you have heat starter mats that have temperature controls get them warmed up when the trays are ready. Heat is important to control. Peppers like 80 degrees and cool crops such as lettuce like 70 degrees. I try to stay at a constant 75 and as I do not have a way to control the heat I will check the mat with a thermometer daily. And use the off-on switch to regulate.
Moving on to light: Once the “first leaves” are up they need light, Some people use a sunny window and that will work if you do not have LED lights. 16 hours of light and 8 hours of dark. Some leave the lights on 24 hours but this is not necessary and is forcing tall stem growth and you’re after thick stems and many leaves. An overhead LED 2000 watt grow light will work fine and if you get one with a stand that you can raise and lower all the better. Start low to the plant 12 to 6 inches depending on the heat they are giving off. and raise as they grow giving that 12-inch space above the plant. There are many options for LED lights, some multi-colored, and many people simply use fluorescent bulbs, but they can get warm so watch if the plants get scorched. or if your multi-level growing with metal shelves the shelf above can get warm from where the light is attached.
Now for Moisture: After the seed, trays are full of Started Mix plant your seeds then with a fine water spray wet the tray and make sure it drains out the bottom. Water only when the surface appears dry. and water from the bottom tray to prevent water-borne diseases that occur when soil and water splash onto the stem. Keep them damp not soggy or setting in water. This happens in the outside garden as well.
The Seeding: The size of the seed is the indicator of how deep to plant. For instance, a large squash seed will go in-ground 1/2 inch deep. and lettuce and poppies which are seeds like dust will be Surface Sown. If they are planted too deep they will not have enough energy to germinate and break soil. Surface Sowing is placing 2 to 3 tiny seeds per cell. After the seedlings are up it is time to thin the trays to one plant per cell.
We are in February and in the next week, it is time to start those seeds. Also as they grow a light fan blowing across helps develop the stem, we are trying to mimic the outdoors. Plan your garden, sort your seeds indoors starts, and outdoor in-ground seeds. Read the packages and they will tell you the germination times and use plant markers for designating what seed is planted in what cell. We are often eager to get outside, but remember we are still in winter and in preparation mode.
Growing Green and ready to get the seeds in the trays with Jannie