Time to Plant!
Now you have chosen your seeds, found a place to grow them, and charted out when to plant each variety, you are ready to plant! The first thing to do is assemble your containers and your soil. When choosing containers to grow seeds in, all you have to do is remember three things: they must be clean, they must be deep enough for the new plant’s root system, and they must have drainage holes in the bottom. That last one is worth repeating: THEY MUST HAVE DRAINAGE HOLES IN THE BOTTOM. If they don’t, don’t even bother. The soil will become saturated, the roots will suffer, and the plant will most likely die or at best, struggle along and produce inferior flowers until you lose interest. So do yourself a favor, put drainage holes in the bottom if they aren’t there already. (And stones at the bottom won’t help, as the water will still collect there.)
You can buy clean six-pack planters or trays at your local garden center, or you can use what you already have at home; cut up water bottles, yogurt containers, Dixie cups, those things that mushrooms come in, tin trays… pretty much anything as long as it’s at least a couple of inches deep. Make sure that they are clean, and that… you guessed it… have drainage holes!
Here are come examples of what you can use, but there are millions of other choices:
So you see, the container/s don’t have to be fancy.
Next, you need soil. Our best advice is to go to your local garden center and buy some seed starting mix. Soil from the garden or even potting soil left over from last year can be full of disease or fungus, and although a mature plant can handle it, a seedling probably can’t. While you’re there, get some vermiculite as well. Vermiculite is a mineral that puffs up when it is heated. When mixed in the soil, it can keep the texture of the soil light which is good for new roots, and it can also be very useful when planting seeds that need darkness to germinate. More about that in a minute. This is what vermiculite looks like:
Once you have assembled your containers and soil, you are ready to get started! Fill your containers right to the top with the seed starting mix. Don’t press it down, or tap the container to settle the soil; that will get rid of the tiny air pockets that are essential to healthy plant growth.
Next, before you have planted any seeds, water the soil well. This will do two things: it will naturally settle the soil and leave a bit of “head space”, the space between the level of the soil and the top of the container, and it will get the soil nice and wet so that you won’t have to water the seeds as much right after you have planted them, which could result in possibly washing them away. Once this is done, plant your seeds according to the directions on the seed packet. If they are very large (like a sunflower seed) then use a pencil or something to make a hole the right depth. If the seeds are small, then scatter them as evenly as possible across the surface of the soil.
If the seed packet says “Needs light to germinate”, or some such thing, then nothing further has to be done. If they need to be planted 1/4″ deep, or “with a light covering of soil”, then break out the vermiculite and scatter an even layer of it over the seeds. This will do a good job of protecting the seeds from drying out, yet is light enough to make it easy for the new sprouts to break through.
Now that your seeds are planted, label them, and give them a light spray of water. Since you have already watered the soil well, they only need enough water to wet down the surface. A spray bottle or gentle sprayer like a bonsai wand will do the trick.
If you have a plastic cover, or a plastic bag, or some Saran Wrap to put over the seed tray, (see picture below) it will help conserve moisture. But if you don’t, don’t worry; but you will just need to pay a little extra attention to them to make sure they don’t dry out.
Next, put your seed tray in the place that you have decided to grow your seeds, and check every day to see if the soil is drying out. (If you have plastic over the seeds and you see small droplets of water on the inside of the plastic, then you probably don’t need to add water, but peek at the surface of the soil anyway to see if any parts look lighter in color than others as that may signal that they need a drink.) If you need to water, plain water is fine. Using fertilizer at this stage is a waste as the seeds have enough nutrients in them already to support the energy it takes to sprout.
Soon, you will have a nice crop of new seedlings! In our next blog, we will fill you in on what to do once the seeds come up!
Here are some pictures of newly planted seeds:
Here, half the flat is planted with seeds that need light to sprout, and half are planted with seeds that need to sprout in the dark. The ones that need darkness have been covered in vermiculite.
Here are some seeds that have been covered with plastic to help prevent moisture loss.
Until next time!