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Although buying vegetable starter plants from the nursery can be a fast way to have a vegetable garden, starting vegetables from seed is easy, saves you lots of money and allows you to choose from a larger variety of vegetables to grow! Follow our simple guide below to grow your own vegetables at home from seed in a window.
1. What do you need to start seeds indoors?
This is very basic information, but no less important and worth going over. The location in your house (or greenhouse) where you start seeds will need..
- Adequate sunlight– I use a kitchen window box but any windowsill will work.
- A water source– this can be you ofcourse, but they need to be watered regularly so put them somewhere that you will notice if they need care.
- Good quality soil– I use an organic potting soil, but any potting soil will work. Preferably new soil as reused soil can be lacking in nutrients and potentially carrying diseases or pests.
- Good quality seeds– This I really recommend doing your research on. Choose a seed company that has great reviews. Get fresh seeds, and know that using older seeds may result in lower germination. My seed sources vary depending on what I want to grow, in person I sometimes get seeds from my local nursery or sometimes the local hardware store (always check the date on the back of the seeds!). Most often I order seeds online for a greater selection. I really like Eden Brothers, but I have also had great results from other vendors online. Check the reviews. Often people will write if the seeds did well or color, size etc didn’t match the picture.
- Seed starting equipment – This can be a very wide range of things. I get large black planting trays from Ace Hardware, and then I re-use the plastic six packs from the nursery to start my seeds. Some people reuse everything from yogurt pots to egg cartons. You can also use compostable seed starting pods available at nurseries and hardware stores.
- Labels– I use a pack of wooden plant labels from the hardware store, but any popsicle stick or even repurposed bit of wood or plastic will do the trick. Anything you can write on.
2. Read the seed packets well and create your labels
On the back of each seed packet will be detailed instructions on when to plant indoors, how deep to plant the seed in the soil and in how many days you should expect to see growth.
Choose seeds that should be started now, resist the temptation to start seeds too early or too late when you are just getting started. Stick to the suggested time to start given your last frost date. Once you really get to know your garden and climate, starting seeds late and early will be easier. When you are starting out, following the seed packet guidelines will give you the best chance for success. If you really want to have late tomatoes, early squash etc., look for varieties that are designed for the season you want to have a harvest.
Use your labels to write (preferably in ink that won’t wash off when watering the seedlings) the name of the plant seed, date planted, and how many days to germination.
This will help you to avoid a common pitfall of seeing one set of seeds come up (say lettuce) and thinking another slower plant has failed when in fact it simply needs more time.
3. Follow the seed packet instructions to start the seeds
Following the instructions as closely as you can, will give you the best chance of success. Below are some simple tips for getting seeds started in your soil.
- Don’t overfill the pots, leave a small gap between the top of the soil and the top of the pot to allow space for watering.
- Don’t overcrowd the seeds, more seeds will not result in more seedlings if they do not have enough nourishment from the soil.
- Place pots in a tray so that once the plant comes up through the soil you can water from the bottom. This will water the seedings without crushing the baby seedling or getting the soil on the leaves. It also encourages root growth.
- Water from the top until you see growth so that the seeds do not dry out.
4. Care as they grow
As you start to see the seedlings emerge, water regularly from the bottom without letting the seedlings sit in water for too long. You want the soil to stay moist but not soaking wet.
Thinning out the seeds
Once the seedlings have leaves and are starting to get close to an inch tall, this is when I thin the seedlings. If there is more than one seed per pot you will get multiple seedlings coming up. Rather than pulling out plants and disturbing the roots of the seedlings that you want to keep, I recommend using scissors to clip any seedlings you do not want.
5. How to transition plants to outside, how to harden off.
Once roots start to emerge from the base of the plant, it’s time to start gardening off.
- Why to harden off plants outside – The changing temperatures outdoors as day turns to night, the wind and the sun exposure, are enough to damage or even kill your new little vegetable plants. Hardening off will allow them to gradually toughen up before they are planted out in the vegetable garden.
- Where to harden off plants outside – Find a spot outside that is protected from any strong winds or the glare of the sun. I put my seedlings on the fire pit, it is close to a wall, protected from most winds and gets lots of indirect sunlight as it dapples through the trees.
- How long to harden off plants outside– Harden your seedlings off over a week or two, start with one hour a day and gradually build to an afternoon outside. You will see the stems of your seedlings thicken and strengthen. Keep your seedlings watered and bring them in at night.
- Feed your seedlings – Towards the end of this process, you may start to notice that your seedlings look pale, this is because as they grow, the nutrients available in the soil is used up. A nice liquid organic fertilizer added to the water in the tray, in very small amounts will help support your seedlings as they grow. Many brands offer special light fertilizers for seedlings.
Growing your own vegetables from seed will allow you to choose more interesting varieties, save money, and experience the pride of growing your garden from scratch. For more information on growing vegetables at home, check out our articles on..
- Easy Vegetables for Beginners
- 5 essential skills every vegetable gardener needs to know
- How to Start a Vegetable Garden
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