Grow Seeds Indoors: Cultivate Your Inner Farmerby Brian Wheat on March 9, 2016 at 3:18 am
As the season turns, it’s like Mother Nature’s Broadway — a new cast of characters is in the wings and preparing for the next big show. The brown and lifeless landscapes give way to shades of green and the sprouts of bulbs begin to emerge. The chirps of robins and flashes of red cardinals wake up slumbering shrubs with explosions of yellow from the forsythia. Ah, spring is in the air.
I think we feel the change in our lives; the sun is warmer and the skies bluer, the air is fresher and it carries the promise of new growth. Our inner farmer begins to emerge; we envision ourselves in a simpler time, cultivating the land, growing our own food to feed our families and animals.
Fast forward 100 years, when all of these labors are almost forgotten. We just stop at the grocery store and pick up whatever we need to sustain ourselves. Many folks are harking back to a time when you knew where your food came from and how it was grown and processed. I’ve noticed a resurgence in gardeners wanting to grow their own vegetables and flowers, like their ancestors did. Sure, most of us don’t want to hitch-up a team of draft horses to a plow a rocky field, but we do want to get our hands dirty and get back to our roots by growing plants (pun intended).
Seed starting is rewarding and a great family project, getting the kids to understand where food comes from and how it grows. It helps instill respect for the wonders of Mother Nature and her gifts of the land, sun and moisture.
Some seeds are best seeded directly in the garden in spring, but many are started indoors four to eight weeks before they are introduced outside. Cold frames are often used to allow plants a good head start to their journey. Plants grown early indoors or in cold frames need to be exposed to the outdoors gradually to avoid shock.
Here are some important tips on starting seeds indoors:
- You need space near a sunny window.
- Start seeds four to eight weeks before the plant-out date in your area (average date of the last killing frost). Starting too early usually results in spindly plants due to crowding and lack of sufficient light.
- Almost any container with drainage holes in the bottom will work. Milk cartons cut in half, Styrofoam cups, tin cans, clay pots, peat pots and plastic pots all work.
- Use a rich, well-drained soil. Your backyard dirt is usually not the best to start indoor seeds; a fluffier soil with sphagnum peat moss and vermiculite are best, and weed-free.
- Sow the seed; don’t cover too deeply, and keep slightly moist, in a cool room (60 F -65 F) away from direct sunlight until germination.
- When seeds germinate, move them gradually into brighter light. When they’ve developed the first true leaves, thin them to prevent overcrowding.
- The key now: Water the seedlings carefully, not too dry or too wet. About a week prior to planting outside, gradually expose seedlings to longer periods outdoors unless temps are below about 50 F. At the same time, reduce watering to a minimum as long as plants do not wilt. This will help the plants adjust to full exposure without undergoing undue shock at planting time.
Your local garden center will not only have the best local seed selection, but all of your beginner supplies and expertise in getting you started.
So, with these few tips you can bring out your inner farmer and grow your own plants while teaching your children to be good stewards of our environment, and beautifying your landscape with colorful flowers.