Growing Plants from Seeds

Growing from seeds is satisfying, inexpensive and great for starting plants early in the season. In this article, I am going to discuss general grow-from-seeds techniques to help you harvest. Note that since requirement varies from seed to seed, we are not able to cover all specifics here.

Growing Seeds Preparation

List of things you need for growing seeds

  • Seeds
  • Labels
  • Seed containers
  • Seedling containers
  • Plastic cover/ greenhouse
  • LED grow light
  • Soil-less mix

Before you grow

  1. The first step is to make an agenda for your garden. Imagine what your garden on-quarter of the size will be like, so you get better idea of the spacing between seeds.

  2. Prepare more seeds than you actually need, always assume a part of your seeds will not germinate (and that happens).

  3. Purchase or prepare labels for your lovelies, do not expect you would recognize the seeds! There is nothing more frustrated than forgetting the seeds.

Preparation

  • Seeds

    Have Your Seeds Ready

    A common question from our customers is how to choose starting seeds. For beginners, we recommend growing alyssum, basil, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cosmos, lettuce, marigolds, peppers, tomatoes and zinnias.

    Start with the seeds above, and then move on to more challenging ones. Those plants are easy to grow and will thrive in most environment. To purchase them, go visit local plant nursery stores.

  • Right Timing is the key

    The very basic idea of seed starting date is preparing your seeds for transferring outdoors when the weather is warm enough. The planting date can be mostly found on seed package, which reads like “plant in 4 weeks before last frost date”. That means planting your seeds indoors 4 weeks ahead the frost date. Frost date can be found using an online calculator, almanac frost date calculator. Here is a list of seeds starting date (data from gardeners.com):

    Weeks before last frost date

    Seeds/Plants

    4 weeks

    morning glory, nasturtium, melon, cucumber, squash

    5 weeks

    sanvitalia, cabbage, convolvulus, nicotiana, lavatera, nigella, phlox, phacelia

    6 weeks

    bachelor's buttons, agastache, aster, basil, marigold, sweet pea, calendula

    7 weeks

    ageratum, zinnia, more lettuce, radicchio

    8 weeks

    tomato, alyssum, cleome, salvia horminum

    9 weeks

    pepper, coleus, shallot, eggplant, cherry tomato

    10 weeks

    delphinium, matricaria, onion, parsley, Greek oregano, impatiens, rudbeckia, early broccoli

    11 weeks

    heliotrope, candytuft, primula, leek, viola, snapdragon, early greens (to be planted out in the cold frame or greenhouse beds)

  • Sow Your Seeds

    Use the correct containers

    Purchase pots, flats, DIY your own or use CLEAN, super CLEAN containers you’ve saved like yogurt cups, soda cans, as long as they are at least 2-3 inches deep with some drainage holes.

  • Prepare & Install potting soil

    Seeds like the soil-less mix the best for its sterility, easy to use and less inherit problems to ensure healthy, disease-less seedlings. Extra fertilizer is not required before germination.

    Before filling potting soil, moisture the soil a little bit but don’t overdo it. The key is to get it moist but not wet or gloppy. Then, firmly press the soil with your hands. Here we recommend checking the instructions on your seed package for how deep the seeds should be planted.

    To avoid damping off diseases, we suggest redrench with solution of 1/2 teaspoon of Benomyl fungicide per gallon of water. Allow the excessive water to drain from the containers.

Sow your seeds now

  • You are now ready to plant your seeds

    Please make sure you read the instructions on the seed package carefully as the instructions tell you how deep you should plant your seeds and whether your seeds need any pre-sowing requirements such as pre-chilling, soaking or exposure to light before seeding.

    Use the largest seeds in your seed package for a better germination rate. Most small seeds can be sprinkled on top of the mix and gently pressed into the mixture. Carefully distribute the seeds to make sure that they are not crowded. That will ensure all seeds acquiring enough room, air and water as they grow.

    Use the largest seeds in your seed package for a better germination rate. Most small seeds can be sprinkled on top of the mix and gently pressed into the mixture. Carefully distribute the seeds to make sure that they are not crowded. That will ensure all seeds acquiring enough room, air and water as they grow.

  • Green House for Seeds

    Create a greenhouse environment

    It’s time to use old aquariums as they provide wonderful greenhouse environment. Simply placing the seed pots inside the aquarium, and your seeds will find the way to germinate.

    If you don’t have aquariums, you can cover the seed pots with plastic, make sure to poke a few holes in the plastic for ventilation.

    If you are a DIY fan, you can also make an actual house for the pots using coat hanger frame and poly film.

    After the greenhouse is set up, place your containers in a warm area that has good light but not in direct sunlight.

    A good greenhouse environment will keep the moisture and almost eliminate the necessity of watering again before the seeds germinate. However, watch out for not letting the soil mix dry out completely. Watering seeds can be tricky, try using a meat-basting syringe that dispenses the water effectively without causing too much soil disruption.

  • Watering Seeds

    Expose your seedlings to light

    When you see the seedlings, move out the containers from greenhouses into brighter environment gradually. You have to be patient with it as exposing the newborn seedlings to over-bright environment is harmful.

  • Keep an eye on the moisture

    At this point, your seedlings are still developing their root systems, so make sure you check the moisture daily. The potting mixture MUST remain moist, but not wet or soggy. Too much water will lessen oxygen to the roots and risks killing your plants. bottom water your seedlings to protect the plants from fungus attack. Setting up a fan for good air movement is also advised to avoid fungus attack.

  • What are true leaves?

    Growth Stage: True Leaves

    The true leaves are the second set of leaves to emerge, see the image above. True leaves stand for your seeds being capable of photosynthesis. At this stage, your seedlings need 12-18 hours of light every day, to ensure a healthy growth environment, an led planting light can be used to implement the insufficient light time.

    From now, start feeding your plants lightly. Using a diluted 1/4 strength mix of plant food once a week. Bottom fertilizing should still be applied until the plants reach about 3 inches.

  • Repotting & Thinning

    When the seedlings develop 3-4 true leaves, it’s time to move them to individual pots. Transferring them to individual and larger pots that give extra spaces for the roots to develop. Remember to water thoroughly before transferring.

    Before repotting the seedlings, prepare a fresh container with a pencil size hole. Fill the container with soil, then, use the handle of a spoon as your shovel to remove the seedlings from the original pots, treat them gently and handle the seedlings by the leaves. (Handling the seedlings by stems can damage the stems permanently.) Next, move the seedlings to new pots and drop the roots in to the holes and gently press the mixture around the roots.

  • Hardening Off & Going Outside

    The basic idea of “hardening off” is to get seedlings ready for the outside world. Gradually moving the seedlings outside during this process. Move you plants outdoors, when the temperature outside is not too cold, to areas that are protected from winds. Bring the plants back indoors if there is a sign of temperature dropping. 2-3 days later, have the plants receiving half-day of sunlight, and again, bring them back indoors when the temperature goes down. Keep doing that for 2-3 days, allow your plants enjoy full-day of sunlight.

  • Transplanting & Living Outside

    Now, your plants are ready to move outside. Keep an eye on slugs and snails as they destroy your plants in few hours. At this point, you have successfully grown your seeds! Congratulations.

Common mistakes & Tips

  1. Be sure to label your seeds and seedlings! It is super frustrated while not remembering the seeds.
  2. Don’t plant your seeds/seedlings too crowded. That will limit the spaces and nutrients for seeds to grow.
  3. Moving your plants outdoors too soon will kill your plants, as they were born in a “safe” environment and not ready for outside world.
  4. Don’t plant your seeds too early, strictly follow instructions on seed package will improve germination rate.
  5. One important factor of germination is sowing depth. If the seeds are planted too deep or too shallow, they may not germinate, check your seed package for detailed information of planting depth, and make sure you follow the instruction.
  6. Again, follow the instructions on the seed package as they provide specific-to-seed tips.

Trouble Shooting

  1. Only a small portion of the seeds germinated

    There are many factors of seed to germinate. First thing to check is temperature and light. Investigate if your seeds met the requirement of temperature and light. If the soil was over watered, your seeds may have rotted, examine your seeds by moving one out and examining it. A swollen and soft seed is a sign of rotting.

  2. My plants are tall and leggy.

    That’s because your plants did not receive enough light. A grow light can be used to implement sunlight and ensure that the plants receive 15 hours of light each day.

  3. The leaves on my plants look purple

    That usually means your plants are lack of phosphorus. It’s not a big issue if you increase fertilizer strength. If the fertilizer was diluted, you may want to increase it to full strength.

  4. My plants toppled over

    When the stems of your seedlings become topple over, they might have been killed by a soil-borne fungus. You can avoid fungus by using a sterile and soilless mixtures.

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