Alfrea Farming expert - Julie / April 2017
With your quality seeds in hand (check out our blog on seed catalogs), it’s time to plan how to start your seeds. While there’s no one size fits all solution for seed starting this guide will help get you off on the right foot.
Here are five seed starting tips.
1 - Potting Soil
Not all potting soils are created equal. Choosing the right potting soil can make a big difference in your seedling’s success. I always buy potting soil that has been certified for organic use, which is designated by a label that will say OMRI Approved and/or NOP Certified. I often see misleading labels that will have the words “natural” or “organic” in the title but lack the OMRI or NOP label. Be aware of these confusing marketing tactics.
2 - Containers
There are so many containers to consider starting seeds in. Do you want to upcycle those egg cartons? Great, but consider the fact that if your seeds will be in there for more than a week or so mold will likely take off in this environment. Peat pots are another common container. While they seem like a better alternative to plastic, many peat bog ecosystems are being overmined. Cowpots are one of my favorite containers. They’re made using pasteurized cow manure (they don’t stink) that would otherwise end up potentially polluting the water. The added bonus is that you can plant them right in the ground and as they break down they act as a fertilizer.
3 - Planning
Having a good plan for your garden as a whole and your seed starting will help you tremendously. I typically plan out exactly how many plants of each crop I would like to have, based on the space I have and how much I want to harvest. But even the best laid plans often go off track so I always seed about 20% more than I think I’ll need. For example if I want to plant 10 tomato plants I would seed 12 plants. It’s always better to have extra seedlings because in gardening you can’t go back in time.
4 - TimingMost seedlings need 4-8 weeks of growth time before they are ready to go into the ground. Follow the instructions on the seed packet and count back from your planned planting date to figure out when you should start your seeds. Start them too soon and your seedlings could get root bound. Start them too late and the small seedlings may struggle once transplanted into the ground. Knowing your last freeze date and understanding what crops can or cannot tolerate a frost will also help you figure out the timing.
5 - Planting
Moisten your soil and fill your containers. Plant 2-3 seeds in each container. Once the seeds germinate and size up a few days, thin the container by culling out the weaker, smaller seedlings. Keep seedlings watered for 4-8 weeks before transplanting into your garden. Crops that prefer to be transplanted (start seeds indoors): Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers, Fennel, Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Onions, Scallions, Head Lettuce, Kale, Collard Greens, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Summer Squash Crops that prefer to be direct seeded crops (plant seeds into ground): Carrots, Dill, Cilantro, Beans, Beets, Radishes, Turnips, Salad Mixes.
Cross reference Alfrea blog postings:
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Our Land Sharing option helps people who want to rent a garden plot, find landowners to want their space put to productive use. By starting a garden share, you can:
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