Sowing the Seeds of Love
So, this is 2021, huh? As I am writing this, snow is blowing sideways outside my dining room window, and weather forecasters are expecting anywhere from one inch to over eight inches depending on which expert is talking. Groundhog’s Day indicated six more weeks of winter. But spring always comes at the same time, in mid-March, so you do the math. Six weeks will be here before you know it.
It's a perfect time to start thinking about sowing some seeds, indoors. Last year I started a variety of vegetables on my kitchen counter with seeds a good friend gifted me a couple months earlier. With the assistance of some LED growing lights, I had a good rate of success. I was rewarded with fresh produce late spring and all summer long. It gave me joy during the start on the pandemic as well as a sense of normalcy. I decided I would do it again this year.
Here are my tips, as an emerging seed starter, that are easy to follow and bound to bring some joy to you as well.
- Acquire seeds from a reputable source. This will help guarantee a better germination rate.
- Use a potting mix specifically designed for seeds. This type of mix does not include soil as we know it. Instead, it’s a blend of ingredients that includes those that help with drainage and hold onto water. I know that seems counterintuitive, but good potting mixes include both, plus nutrients that the seeds and plants will need to grow.
- Grab some containers, but make sure they have holes in the bottom for drainage. Old six-packs of plants can be recycled for this purpose, as well as old food containers, or bio-degradable cartons. I have seen some even use old cardboard egg cartons, too.
- Plant the seeds at the correct depth. Most tiny seeds need only a slight cover of soil, but larger seeds may need to go deeper. Check the back of your seed packet for sowing instructions.
- Keep the newly-planted seeds in a warm location; around 70 degrees is ideal. Some gardeners use a warming mat underneath the containers. Monitor for germination.
- Keep your containers moist but not saturated. I like to use a spray bottle that lightly mists the tops of the containers evenly. Some grow packs come with a lid. This helps to keep the humidity constant. However, at the first signs of growth, remove the lid. If left too long it can cause the seedlings to “dampen off” or rot at the soil line.
- Place your newly-sprouted seeds in a bright location, like near a sunny, south-facing window. I bought an LED grow light last year and it worked wonderfully with a timer. Be sure to place the light very close to the seedlings or else they will get leggy.
- Once your seedlings have two sets of leaves, it’s time to thin them out. I usually drop three or four seeds in each container so that I am assured that at least a couple will germinate. Once they begin growing, select the sturdiest one to remain and clip the rest at the soil line.
I hope these tips provide you with success if you choose to sow some seeds indoors this year. It’s never too early to start planning your garden for the coming growing season.
Stay safe, and let’s garden together.
Eric W. Wahl is landscape architect at Pennoni Associates, and president of the Delaware Native Plant Society.