If you’re serious about growing your own food, then you need to start your own seeds. Growing veggie plants from seed instead of buying plants will definitely save you loads of cash. Seed starting is also a great way of jumping into the garden season while it’s still freezing outside! Have a seed starting party as a spring kick off — BYOS (bring your own seed) — trade varieties and big tomato stories. Here are a few tricks the pros use to successfully start seeds.
Use a seed starting tray with no drain holes.
When seed starting goes all wrong, it’s usually because the seed tray dried out. Whether you’re using tray inserts or soil pellets, using a tray with no holes allows you to water less frequently. Assuming you don’t have the time to baby sit your seedlings all day, filling one of these trays 1/4 full with water can keep the seedlings watered for 1-3 days, depending on the age of the plants and the temperature in your propagation room.
Place your tray on a heat mat.
Many of the most popular veggie seeds (tomato, pepper, eggplant, etc.) want 70°F or higher soil temperature for optimal germination. Putting your seed tray on a heat mat will speed up the germination time and increase the percentage of seeds that actually germinate. The seed packet will tell you the ideal soil temperature for your seeds.
Newly planted seeds depend on the moisture in the top level of the potting soil. A humidity dome will help keep the soil surface moist, without having to constantly mist the seed tray. Actually, a dome will eliminate the need to mist the tray all together!
Get a grow light.
After your seeds germinate, they can become stringy and permanently damaged in as soon as a couple of days — even in a sunny window. A simple fluorescent grow light will help you have fatter, healthier plants. You can purchase a light setup designed for plants, or just make your own with a shop light. The young plants are only going to be under the lights for a short time before you plant them outside, so having the perfect grow light is not that important. You just need a little extra shine to keep your little babies from stretching.
The seed packet will tell you the ideal conditions and germination times for all of your seeds. For most veggies, start your seeds 4-6 weeks before you want to plant them outdoors. For lettuce, seed 2-3 weeks before planting outdoors. Watch this short video for more successful seed starting techniques :