Seed seed starting

Seed Starting – It’s Easy – Even with less than perfect conditions.

Seeing that the big chemical companies like Monsanto, Bayer, DuPont, Dow, and Syngenta  are buying up all the seed companies  —- if we look to the future with some thought —- one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to start our own seed and save some seed.

I for one, don’t want companies whose history as well as current deeds have proven them to be the “bad guys”  — to be in charge of my food — either the end product or the beginning seed. That’s a good reason for me to grow from seed and try to save my own seed whenever possible.

Some of the information out there makes seed starting sound complicated. The fact is – seed starting is easy!  And you don’t need a lot of fancy supplies to get started either.

What you Need to Grow Seedlings Inside

1. Containers.  I’ve used flats, 3 inch pots, and even gallon plastic jugs cut almost in half as shown in my post on winter sown.

2. A medium to start them in. I use Pro-mix.  (I gave a bit of detail on this in a previous post.) Wet the mix well BEFORE you plant.

3. In order for your seedlings to grow properly inside you’ll need adequate light. That means either a bright southern exposure or some inexpensive florescent lights. No need to buy the expensive grow lights.  The inexpensive florescent lights will work just as well for seed starting.

Position the lights 1 to 2 inches above your seedlings.  Keep them on 14 to 16 hours a day.

What if You Don’t Have Room Inside?

I start my seed inside— one flat at a time on top of my refrigerator. (It’s a bit warmer there and gives those few extra degrees of warmth that helps speed germination.)

There’s no room in our house for lots of containers with seedlings. I especially don’t have room to rig something with florescent lights.  So seedlings have to be moved outside for light once they’re up. Then I move another flat to the top of the refrigerator to germinate more seed.

This might not be as ideal as staying warm inside with florescent lights supplying the light. But life at my house is not always ideal, so I find ways to work around the problems.

Ways to Protect the Seedlings from the Cold

How much protection the seedlings are going to need outside depends on the weather.

I keep flats off the ground  (or in my case cement) by by placing them on other mesh flats that are turned over.  Then I put a make-shift cold frame over them.  (Some old windows pieced together with plastic over them)

If it gets severely cold I’ll lay some row cover fabric gently over the seedlings and then put the cold frame over them.

This year I’m using jugs (as I did for my winter sown seed) to start the seedlings inside.  I’ll put them on top of the refrigerator to germinate. Then I’ll move them outside. The jug will work as a mini greenhouse.  On days when it’s warm, the seedlings will be just fine in the jug.  On days (or nights )when the temperature drops — I’ll set the cold frame over the jugs for extra warmth.

Do You Need to Pot Up to a Larger Size?

Just so you’ll know — I’m going to plant 3 seeds per jug.  That should give the seedlings room to grow and thus, save me from having to move them to a larger pot.  When you start your seed in flats, you’ll want to move them to larger pots to give them room to grow.

When to Start

Hopefully you’ve gotten a jump on the season with winter sown seed.  Seed suitable for winter sowing in December has germinated for me and is looking great. Six varieties of onions are up.  Also varieties of lettuce and other greens.  Parsley, snapdragons, iberis, and even rosemary has germinated.

I plan to start cole crops like broccoli and cabbage about February 15th.  I could wait until March 1st if I wanted.

Warm weather crops like tomatoes, eggplant and pepper I’ll start about 8 weeks before it’s time to transplant to the garden in mid May.

Seed Starting Charts

You’ll find numerous seed starting charts if you google them.  Organic Gardening has a simple one if you want to use it.

Resist starting cole crops and warm weather crops too early.  Try to time them so you won’t have to hold them in containers after they’re large enough to set out.

Final Thought

If you’ve never started seed before because you thought it was too complicated or thought you didn’t have the right set up ——-that should not hold you back now that you know the truth.  Starting seed is easy. And don’t worry about less than perfect conditions because you can still be very successful starting seed.


Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient —- and it’s a lot healthier.


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  • Wonderful, Gayle! And it is simple! All we have to do is go through the motions and tweak our techniques for that as we go!

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