Vegetable Garden Starters
Vegetables like Tomatoes, Eggplant and Peppers require a long growing season. To get the most productivity out of their plants, most gardeners start their vegetable gardens indoors early. Starting your own seeds not only ensures a more productive harvest season, but is also less expensive than buying a transplant.
Here some tips for starting your vegetable seeds early indoors.
Keep in mind around here the best time to start this is mid March.
Use seed starter mix. They don't actually contain any soil but it is the ideal condition for sprouting seeds. It provides good drainage as well as water holding capacity creating the perfect environment for the seedlings. Don't use garden soil. It generally doesn't drain well and may contain plant disease spores. ( great for older plants outside, but not for vulnerable sprouting seedlings)
3. Plant seeds at proper depth. It doesn't have to be exact, but the rule of thumb is to plant the seeds 2-3 times as deep as the seed is wide. For example tiny seeds should be barely covered by the soil while a bigger seed like a bean should be about an inch deep. Too deep and they won't have enough stored energy to make it to the surface.
* It's likely that not all your seeds will germinate, so plant extra.
2. Make sure the container you use has drainage holes. If you're using old yogurt containers poke holes in the bottom.
4. Now you can set your plant somewhere warm to germinate. The top of the refrigerator or near a radiator are usually good for the warmth these little ones will need. Check your pots daily for growth.
6. As soon as the plants emerge you can place them into a bright location. A sunny window works if you don't have access to a fluorescent light. If you do, hang the fluorescent about an inch or two over the plants. They would do better in a cool room. You'll get stronger sturdier plants if they grow in temperatures in the high 60's while still maintaining the good light source. Too hot and your plants can get leggy.
7. Begin fertilizing weekly, half strength once your seedlings have 1-2 sets of leaves. Organic fertilizers are always a good choice. Make sure it's specific to vegetables.
Once you have two sets of leaves it's time to thin.
This may be the hardest thing to do, like choosing between your children. You only need one seedling per pot. You planted extra in case some didn't germinate. You now have to choose the strongest, healthiest looking seedling and snip the rest off at the soil line and discard them.
I'm sorry. I know you will be tempted to keep them. I myself have a hard time with this but you can't disturb the roots of the healthy one and try to dig it up and give it it's own pot. I've thought about it too. It's better for everyone if they go.
5. Keep that seed starting mix moist.
The seedling root needs both air and water.
You're aiming to keep it moist not saturated. Never think that if you saturate the mix now it buys you more time so you don't have to keep checking. (It doesn't work like that) Think of it like a damp sponge containing both air and water.
Now you're ahead of the game for the spring. When everybody else is still waiting for tomatoes you'll already have had a good harvest. Summer is so short, why wait.