Starting your seeds indoors will give you a jumpstart to the gardening season and allow you to experiment with more varieties of plants, flowers and vegetables. However, when starting your seeds indoors, it’s important to know how, when and which seeds to use for optimal success.
When is a good time to start seeding indoors? Most annual vegetables should start indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost in your area. Starting them too soon is a common mistake, which will likely result in exposing them to harsher climate conditions than what they require.
There are many benefits to starting seeds indoors, including:
- Less expensive
- Control over plant quality
- More variety with seeds vs. store-bought plants
- Get a few more weeks of growing time
Below are some tips and tricks to start seeding indoors that will help you get a jumpstart on your harvest and in turn, a greater yield:
Seeds will need ample sunlight in order to grow and thrive, which can be either in the form of artificial plant lights or natural sunlight. Artificial plant lights are the way to go, so that you can use them on cloudy or darker days in the winter. Plants will need about 16 hours a day of light, while your vegetables will only need about 6 to 8 hours of direct light per day.
Seeds need to be in 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit in order to germinate. You can purchase seedling mats to ensure your seeds are at the correct temperature, or place a heater facing the seeds. Your seeds only need to be regulated for temperature before they sprout.
To keep your plants from drying out too quickly, a good tip is to cover your containers with plastic. To make sure they’re nice and ventilated, poke some holes in the plastic. You can remove the plastic from the containers once the seeds germinate and move it underneath direct light.
One rookie mistake when it comes to starting your seeds indoors is forgetting to label the containers. It’s extremely frustrating to forget what you’re planting, so make sure to write down or print out a label for the type of plant you’re planting and the date you planted it.
It’s possible to water your seeds both too much and too little. The general rule of thumb is to keep your soil damp, but never wet. Overwatering is the most common way to fail at starting your seeds indoors, so make sure to check your seeds every day and pay attention to how much water they’re getting.
The process of “hardening off” is critical in the gardening process when you start your seeds indoors. Hardening off should take place before transferring your seeds to the garden, and it prepares the seeds for the change in environment from indoors to outdoors. Gradually expose the plants to outdoor sunlight and windy conditions each day, and water them a little less.