I should have been in bed.  The neighborhood was dark.  Everyone else — asleep.   But those newly-arrived  seed packets  were just too enticing.  Here’s how I got in touch with spring on a recent dark winters night.

Step one:  Backtime.  I know that our last average frost date is April 15.  If I start a fast-grower like tomato seed now, the plants will be ready too soon.  They’ll get tall, floppy and ugly growning under lights.  On the other hand, slower growing seedlings like petunias, flowering tobacco ,and Rudbeckia need about 8 weeks  to reach  transplant size. Read your seed packets, sort by NOW and LATER  and backtime. 

Step Two:  Pick good pots.  I like the one on the right, wide and shallow.  Moisture is critical when you are working with seedlings and dealing with less soil just works better for me.  I save my pots from year to year to year.  If I run out, I tap friends for their extras or buy some disposable cups.  But the cups tend to tip over and recycling  just makes me feel better. 

Step Three:  Clean your Pots.  I soak them in a  bucket  or  the sink with a little bleach in water. (1 part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water)   Then rinse and let them drip dry.  Don’t skip this step.   Seedlings are susceptible to damping off and other fungal problems.  It’s pretty sad to wake up to crop failure, so sterilize. 

Step Four: Use new grower’s mix made for seed starting and wet it evenly before you fill your pots.  The mix should be moist enough to hold together–but not dripping.  And make sure you are getting a seed starting mix.  There are a lot of soil mixes sold with fertilizer or moisture crystals mixed in.  You don’t want those.  I use Farfard Professional Potting Mix, but I just noticed a small bag of Hyponex seed starting mix at Lowes for $3.95.  Looked good. 

Step Five:  Sow your seeds thinly. Then cover LIGHTLY with more soil.  I don’t cover small seeds at all, but just press them into the surface of the mix.  I once read that most seeds fail because they are planted too deeply, so go shallow.  And you don’t have to sow all the seeds in the pack.  Save some for next year or the give the rest to friends.  And work really hard to spread the seeds out.   That’s pretty easy with big seeds, harder with small one like those below.  But it’s important to give your new plants space. 


Step Seven:  Cover your newly sown pots with plastic.  It will keep the surface from drying out.  If you need to water, do so very gently.  I use a soup ladle just like I’m basting a thanksgiving turkey.   Now the fun part starts!  After a few days, you will notice a little green.  Remove your baby plants from the plastic and put them under a serious light source.  I really loving having a good grow light– and my seedlings love it too. 

Next week–an update.  How I’m caring  for all these  baby plants.  And the most painful part of seed starting–thinning.  Oh my. 

So how about the rest of you?  Anyone else skipping sleep for seeds?  Let us know what’s keeping you up at night.