Starting Seeds Indoors
Terry L. Yockey
I always start some plants in the house so I can get a jump on the growing season. I enjoy following the whole life cycle of my plants and trying different varieties than the usual ones you find at the nursery. The seed catalogs are full of new types of flowers, vegetables and herbs and for a very small investment, you can grow a whole garden of different varieties. When you are only spending a small amount up front, you can afford to be adventurous!
Use only a few seeds per compartment so you don't have a tangle of germinated seeds to thin out. I like to presprout my seeds and then just plant the ones that germinate. To presprout, put your seeds on a folded paper towel that has been moistened. Cover them with a glass and place it in a very warm place or on a heated grow mat. If you prefer to directly seed into the APS System there should be enough heat for germination if you place them directly under grow lights (don't set your APS onto the heated grow mat). Make sure the seeds never dry out and they should germinate in a few days to a week.
The growing plants should have plenty of ventilation. A small fan will keep the air moving. At this point warmth isn't needed nor desired because the plants will be sturdier with cooler temps (60 - 65 degrees). They do need lots of light and fluorescent lights work very well because you can lower them to right above the seeds and small plants. Many seeds need light to germinate, so start the lights right after you seed or when you are presprouting.
When should you start your seeds? It really depends on what you are growing and the seed package usually tells the optimum time to start inside.
The last thing to remember is not to plant them outside without hardening them off first. This applies to house plants you take out for the summer, as well. Plants grown in the house do not take kindly to the fluctuation in temperatures and the air currents they find outdoors. It's best to get them acclimated to it gradually. Some people take them out a little longer every day starting with an hour the first day, but I put mine in a cold frame for a few weeks lifting the plastic for longer periods each day.
I know its very tempting to order a packet of every new variety you see in the catalog, but if this is your first try at seed starting it might be better to start small. Remember, the great thing about gardening is that there is always next year.
There are many seed catalogs that have sites on the Web (I've listed my favorites below). For more comprehensive listings try Cindi's Catalog of Gardening Catalogs.
For more information on starting seeds and using the APS System, see the article at Gardener's Supply .
Another way to start hardy annual, biennial and perennial seeds is winter sowing in containers outdoors while there is still snow on the ground. For more info on winter sowing and a video I made of how to prepare the containers, etc. see my article.
Gardener's Supply (APS System)
128 Intervale Rd.
Burlington, Vermont 05401
300 Park Avenue
Park Seed Co.
Renee's Garden Seeds
Felton, CA 95018
1-888-880-7228 or FAX 1-831-335-7227
The Cook's Garden
Johnny's Selected Seeds
Albion, ME 04910
Thompson & Morgan, Inc.
Jackson, NJ 08527-0308
"Amazing Annuals" by Marjorie Mason Hogue. The author is a nursery owner living near Toronto and has been growing annuals for over 30 years. "Amazing Annuals" includes a growing chart for starting more than 150 annuals from seed and descriptions of over 300 container and garden plants.
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