We all have been receiving emails or garden catalogs, enticing us to purchase our seeds and plants. When we have an all white or brown landscape to view, day in and day out, it is very enticing to start to do something with starting seeds. There are a few that are recommended to start now, but most of them, unless you have a great working greenhouse, should wait just a little bit longer. Lisianthus, onion and leeks can be started now. So, how do you know what seed is the best for you? We can get discounted seeds to organic seeds in the stores, online and in printed catalogs so we have never had such a great abundance of choices.
The first thing to think about is what your goals are. There are many who want to grow organic seeds for those reasons but what about those mini packets of seeds versus a regular sized packet of seed? The rule of thumb is to never purchase more seed then what you can use in three years, and you will need to have a safe place to store those seeds between growing seasons. You will not have to worry about quality of seeds if you purchase any kind of seeds because the quality of seeds is governed by law. The trick is keeping those seeds in good shape during those three years. To keep the humidity low in the container, add a packet of silica gel. A teaspoon of powdered milk in a piece of facial tissue or paper towel will also absorb moisture. You can use anything from a plastic container to a recycled peanut butter jar.
Containers are the next thing to consider. There are all sorts of containers on the market for starting seeds. You don’t necessarily have to purchase these and can use recycled containers for this as well. Egg cartons work well for those who are not planning on seeding a lot of seeds. For the most part, you should place one seed per pocket unless you are talking about seeding out onions or leeks. These can be placed in a large flat without worry that the roots will be damaged when it comes time to plant them.
If you have kept older seed starting containers from years past, then they will need to be thoroughly cleaned before use. This is because there may be plant pathogens lurking around that will cause problems with your new seedlings. You can use a disinfectant such as bleach, allowing the containers to sit in the bleach for about 30 minutes. Seedling flats should have some sort of plastic that covers the top of the soil in order to keep moisture in but they will also need to be removed as the plants grow.
The next step is to find some soilless potting mixture. Commercial seed-starting mixes, usually composed of vermiculite and peat, without any true soil, are recommended for starting seeds. They’re sterile, lightweight and free from weed seeds, with a texture and porosity especially suited to the needs of germinating seeds and tiny seedlings. If you have seed starting mixes left over from last year, it would be a good idea to use this when mixing in your potting soil for your container plants and not using it for starting seeds.
We will continue our conversation on starting seeds next time. For more information on starting seeds, please go to http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/flowers/starting-seeds-indoors/#buying-seed. For more information on gardening, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org