10 steps for success in seed starting

As we head toward the middle of February, we all know winter is pretty much downhill from here. Thank goodness for that! However, we still need to get through some of the harder months for gardeners as our patience starts to wane just a bit with Mother Nature. We can start thinking about ordering seeds and even starting them very soon. There are some that you could get going which are onions, leeks and those types of seeds. There are a few tips that we can use from Robin Trott with the U of M. Trott has put together the top 10 steps for success when considering seed starting.

Trott says, “Keep records to allow for better planning: record when seeds are sown, the germination date and success rate, when seedlings are ready for transplanting, and where you purchased the seed. These observations help you make adjustments for next year to ensure your plants are grown under optimum conditions. Use fresh seed when possible.  Germination can be greatly reduced when using old seed.  If you are saving seed, make sure it is stored in a cool, dark, dry place. Use a sterile container. Whether you are re-using cell packs, yogurt containers or new flats and liners, make sure your containers are clean and free of debris. Plastic containers retain moisture more consistently than clay pots. Use a sterile, soil-less potting mix to avoid damping off and other diseases that can be transmitted through other types of soil. Pay attention to planting instructions, some seeds require light to germinate, others prefer dark. Press seeds down to assure good seed/soil contact, and lightly cover with fine vermiculite or potting mix to help retain moisture. Don’t plant too deeply! Cover your planted seeds with clear plastic wrap or a clear domed lid to retain moisture and humidity. Once the seeds have germinated, you can remove these. Pay attention to temperature requirements, some seeds require chilling to germinate (delphinium and larkspur), others require heat (peppers). Place your planted seeds under fluorescent shop lights.  (We use 40 watt, 4 foot long lights. Make sure your bulbs are clean!) Lower lights to no more than 4 inches above your seed trays. Lift the lights as the seedlings grow. After 30 days, fertilize your seedlings with half strength 10-10-10 fertilizer. (Fish emulsion, sea weed and other organic concoctions can be stinky indoors.) Keep your seedlings adequately watered and fed until they are ready to transplant outdoors. Don’t let them dry out or sit in water for too long. Just like Goldilocks, seedlings like an environment that’s “Just Right.” The website for this list is http://www3.extension.umn.edu/local/event/successful-seed-starting-home.

Are you interested in becoming a better gardener? Have a bit of time to watch a couple of videos? Check out the following link, https://highlights.extension.umn.edu/content/videos-gardening-better-2018. The U of M Extension has two videos from our very own Extension Educators that will give you some tips on how to improve your gardening skills before we start to “dig” into gardening this spring. For more information about gardening, you can reach me at s.dejaeghere@me.com