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Seed Starting – A Hobby that Grows!

Starting plants from seed can be a rewarding experience. It allows you to be in control of the way plants are grown, the varieties that are grown, and the timing of plantings. If you are new to the process, start small, be successful and add more varieties next year!  

We like to think of gardening as a fun science experiment and encourage our neighbors to try new things, observe the changes with curiosity, and record data to compare the next time around. There is no ‘perfect ‘ way to start seeds, but there are a few basic best practices. These tips can get you started on the journey from a few small seeds to a full-time jungle of a hobby!

  • Don’t start too early. Vegetables and plants that you associate with summer need the soil temperature to be warm, not the air temperature. Check out the University of Maryland Extension’s handy chart for the perfect timing.
  • Use the right mix! Always use a potting mix or seed starting mix. These specialized blends hold moisture well and are lightweight enough for the tender roots to move through. The mixes are also weed and pest free. Never use garden soil as it is too heavy and can harbor weed seeds and insect and disease organisms. We love to use Espoma Organic Seed Starter, voted #1 by Better Homes & Gardens “because it is a fine, rich blend of natural ingredients and includes beneficial microbes to help promote root growth and encourage strong, healthy plants”.
  • Don’t dry out! Keep the soil moist, not wet, until seeds germinate. A spray bottle is a handy tool for misting delicate seedlings when the surface of the soil dries out, but the experts prefer to water from the bottom, allowing moisture to be drawn upwards to penetrate the tiny roots.
  • Light it up! A sunny window is sufficient, however, you will have more success and stronger plants if you invest in an artificial, full spectrum light source. There are lots of grow lights available on the market – pick something economical for your first experiment.
  • Use the data! Carefully read the seed packets for important details and special instructions like timing and spacing requirements. Use a gardening journal to record your own data – such as days to germination, growth over time, which varieties were more successful than others, and other variables that are important to your understanding of the process. It’s fun to review data and compare notes over years of gardening!
  • Toughen up! As seedlings grow, they may need to be transplanted from grow cells to larger peat pots to accommodate their size. Take care with delicate roots and stems when transplanting. Once your babies are big enough to be transplanted outside, they need to be toughened up to withstand wind and sun. This gradual process is called hardening off. On the first day, put your new plants outside for an hour or two, then bring them back in. Gradually leave the plants out longer every day until they are used to being outside all day and all night. This process should take about two weeks.

As always, the friendly and courteous staff at Himmel’s Landscape and Garden Center are happy to answer your questions, provide guidance, and give you a little extra help with your seed starting adventure. Stop by and pick up everything you need to get started!

Contact us today at 410-255-7730 or visit our location 7 days a week.

Himmel's Landscaping & Garden Center

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