Seed Starting Workshop – Ready, Set, Plant!

It was so fun to gather in February for our seed starting workshop! Sarah Young and I talked through the steps to set up a simple growing station at home, discussed different lighting options, and shared some tips on keeping seedlings healthy. 

The most difficult thing about starting seeds indoors is deciding which plants you want to grow. I always have more seed packets collected than room under my grow lights, so I start with unusual varieties that are not easily found at the nursery and fill in any extra space around those. Workshop attendees took home Floret Farm seeds, including zinnias, cosmos, Dark Opal Basil and Apple of Peru to jump start the season.
April is the time to plant seeds indoors; here is a recap of some simple steps to get you started:
Read the Seed Packets. Just about everything you need to know is listed on the back of the seed packet: when to start the seed indoors, planting depth, plant spacing, days to germination, and any special needs. Some plants prefer to be directly sown into the garden so save those for planting directly outside. Use Mother’s Day or May 15 as a rule of thumb for our last frost date. 
Use a Good Quality Seed-Starting Mix. Put your seed-starting mix in a bucket or bowl and moisten it with water before putting it in your trays or pots. Fill containers 2/3 full, sprinkle 3-5 seeds on top of the soil and lightly cover with additional soil to your preferred depth. As a general rule, seed depth should be 2 to 3 times the width of the seed. Be sure to label everything! You think you will remember which tray had your favorite zinnia variety but you will be repositioning trays under the lights and moving things around for several weeks. 
Water Consistently. Once your seeds are planted, you can water carefully with a spray bottle. Keep the soil moist during germination and do not let it dry out. It is great to use a plastic dome over your flat to keep humidity levels high. Once your seedlings emerge and have grown about 1 inch tall, remove the plastic dome. After a week or two of growing, snip off all but the strongest seedling in each cell or container. Don’t try to pull them out as you risk disturbing the tender roots of the seedling you want to keep. 
Temperature and Light are important. Most seeds germinate best when the soil temperatures are around 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat mats are great for providing a direct source of warmth right under your trays. For optimal growth, seedlings need 14 hours of light per day. Seedlings that don’t get enough light tend to be weak, tall and spindly. Position your lights a couple of inches above your seedlings and move them up as your plants grow, keeping that same spacing consistent.
Feed Them with a good seaweed or fish emulsion fertilizer. Check your seed starting mix, if it doesn’t include fertilizer, begin watering with fertilizer when seedlings have their first true set of leaves. If it does have fertilizer, they likely won’t need feeding until they are 4-6 weeks old. If plants start to yellow or look weak, consider a balanced fertilizer that has equal parts N-P-K. Some transplants may outgrow their starter pots. If the roots have filled the cell, transplant them into a larger pot with potting soil. 
Time to Plant Outside, but First Harden Them Off. Allow 7-10 days to harden off your transplants before planting them outside. Place plants in a protected shady area and gradually move them into the sun or partial sun (check the seed packets for specific growing conditions) over a week to 10 days. Bring them in at night if temps drop below 50 degrees.