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Starting Garden Seeds Indoors

Jan 23, 2008
It can be easy and inexpensive to start garden seeds indoors for spring planting. Here at The Garden Glove, we use several methods.

Method #1- Purchase an inexpensive dome style seed starter from your local garden center or discount store. These usually sell for less than $10, and contain everything except the seeds to get you growing, including a humidity dome to keep in heat, and soil or soil less cubes. The only downside to these is that the growing blocks are usually pretty small, so if you are going to plant fast growing annuals such as sunflowers, morning glories or squash, you might want to wait to just two weeks before last frost. Otherwise, you will have to transplant your seedlings into larger containers as they outgrow the seed dome.

This method works very well for growing perennials, since they are slower growing than annuals as a rule.

Make sure the growing medium is moist, place the seeds at the depth recommended by the packet, and place the dome on. You will see moisture condense inside the dome. This is great for starting out, as the heat and moisture is trapped in. However, once seedlings start to appear, you MUST remove the dome to prevent "damping off" a fungal disease that will kill the seedlings. Add water as necessary to keep the soil moist, but not wet.

Method #2

The second method is the most economical one. This is where we plant seed into reusable or recycled containers. These containers must have drainage, and be able to be moved easily. Tupperware, egg cartons or pots made from recycled newspaper are several popular ideas. Placed on a tray, such as an old cookie sheet they make great planting flats, if not too terribly attractive. It helps when using this method to enclose the entire tray in a clear plastic bag until seedlings appear. This does the same job as the $10 dome, by keeping in heat and moisture.

Method #3- This is my preferred method, and one I just started using two years ago. I picked up a tabletop portable greenhouse. It has several metal shelves for seedling flats covered by a poly "tent" to keep in heat and moisture. This makes it very easy for me to move the entire set up outdoors for daylight, and the tent keeps the heat in, even when it hovers near freezing outside. I can grow several hundred seedlings in this setup. I caution you against leaving it outdoors during windy conditions, however. Also keep in mind during sunny days it can heat up inside the greenhouse quite quickly, so make sure you tie up one side and occasionally monitor the temps in your greenhouse. When the weather is warm enough, remove the poly tenting entirely.

Once the seedlings are up, they must have very bright, though not direct light. Using a windowsill during bad weather is acceptable, but to grow healthy and strong, seedlings should be placed in either artificial light, or on a protected porch for much of the day. Make sure you bring them in at night, and don't leave them out on frosty weather.

You can create an artificial light system easily with a cheap shop light from the home improvement store, and a both a warm and cool 40 watt fluorescent tube. It does not have to be one of the more expensive plant growing tubes. Hang the lights from chains off a scrap 2x4 stand. Keep the lights very close to the seedlings, and leave on for at least 12 hours a day.

Starting garden seeds indoors will save you money and allow you to grow plant varieties in your garden that are special and unusual. It's easy, so try starting your seeds indoors today!
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