As an eco gardener, what's the first thing that pops into your mind come spring season? That's right, should you grow plants from seeds or would you rather buy plants from your local nursery?
Some plant varieties are best grown from seeds, especially if you’d like to start gardening in the earlier season. Of course, having the right tools is a critical part of the seed starting process. Seedlings are quite delicate and are prone to pests and diseases. With the right tools, you can provide the best care for your seedlings while enabling you to carry out different jobs.
Seed Planting Supplies
Seed Starting Mix
One of the most important supplies you need for seed starting is a seed starting mix. Sure, you can use regular potting soil for seed starting but the results won’t be as good. Potting soil contains debris that creates a barrier between the seed roots and the soil particles, inhibiting the proper absorption of nutrients.
A seed starting mix is a type of finely screened mix that will help seeds germinate and grow roots. The mix can be used on its own or combined with potting soil. If you’re planning to mix the seed starting mix with potting soil, just pour a layer of potting soil in the bottom of the cells and then fill the rest with the seed starting mix.
Cell packs are containers made from cellular plastic. These are special planters used for plant propagating. They are often used with flat trays. Usually, cell packs come in 4 to 6 cells per pack. With cell packs, you can grow and germinate many seedlings using these containers.
Flat trays are trays that are set at the bottom of the cell packs. These trays can be filled with soil for seed starting. Once the seeds germinate and grow, you can transplant the seedlings using a small tool.
Growing seedlings with fragile roots? Peat pots will come in handy! These biodegradable pots make transplanting seedlings much easier because they can be buried directly into the ground. Peat pots are perfect for plants with fragile roots because the root system of the seedlings won’t be disturbed as you transfer your seedlings.
Starting seeds on the cheap? Try using egg cartons instead of peat pots. Use the cells to grow the seeds and just cut the egg carton apart once you’re ready to plant the seedlings. Just like peat pots, egg cartons are biodegradable and can be planted directly into the ground, an important feature if you’re an eco gardener.
A true blue eco gardener could always use a soil blocker. This small metal tool enables a gardener to create his or her own soil blocks for plant propagation. If you prefer using biodegradable materials for seed starting then soil blocks make a terrific alternative to plastic pots.
Seed Starting Tools
Plastic Dome Plant Cover
These are plant cover-ups that help gardeners grow plants early in the season. Plant covers protect the seedlings from harsh weather conditions while speeding up the maturation of vegetables. These tools speed up germination by enhancing the humidity while trapping heat.
Once the sprouts have emerged, remove the cover-ups to avoid exposure to extreme heat. An alternative to a plastic dome cover is a Saran wrap. This plant cover-up is made with a thin plastic material and is often sold in rolls.
These are perfect for creating an organized seedling nursery… or for trying to remember what plants you grew. With plant tags, you can label rows of seeds so you can remember what’s planted.
Sometimes the climate refuses to cooperate with your seed-starting schedule and on days when the weather is too cold for seed starting, use heat mats. Heat mats are devices with a self-regulating thermostat that keeps the temperature at the perfect level for germination. The ideal temperature for germination is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. With a heat mat, you can simply set the optimum temperature for a specific plant. The mats are sized to fit under individual seedling trays, allowing for even soil temperature.
Vegetable seedlings need at least 6 hours of sunlight every day, which can be a problem if you are growing seeds indoors. While you can always use incandescent light, it does not generate the red and blue rays plants need for photosynthesis. If you are growing plants that require hours of direct sunlight each day, invest in grow lights. Grow lights are equipped with a special bulb that generates the red and blue rays that plants need to survive. Just a couple of grow lights is enough to provide sprouts uninterrupted light any time of the day!
Spraying water from above is just as important as watering the seedlings from below. A spray bottle disperses a fine mist of water that will not damage delicate seedlings. In addition, this technique allows moisture to settle on the soil as opposed to being drained down the roots. Sometimes the humidity drops too low and a light misting from above raises the humidity level.
The perfect temperature is crucial to growing healthy seedlings. This goes especially if you are seed starting indoors. A thermometer allows you to check the temperature of the room where you are growing your seeds. The ideal temperature for germination is about 65 degrees. With a thermometer, you can control the room temperature for optimum plant growth!
A soil thermometer is an absolute essential for growing seeds. This tool allows you to check the soil temperature for germination. The soil should be warm enough to encourage germination and most seeds will germinate between 5°C to 32°C. However, the ideal soil temperature should be between 21°C to 28°C. With a soil thermometer, you can check the optimal soil temperature at a glance.
Benefits of Seed Starting
Grow Different Plant Varieties
Love growing different varieties of plants? Seed starting is the perfect gardening technique for you. Buying plants from a local nursery is great but the selection is often limited. By growing your own seeds, you have more options. You can even grow certain plants that your local nursery does not carry.
Growing plants from seeds is much more affordable than buying a plant. You can buy several packs of seeds for a few dollars! On the other hand, buying plants could set you back $.50 or more depending on the plant you’re getting. You can also swap different seeds with a friend to expand your seed collection. Let’s not forget, growing your own produce means more savings too.
It's a Different Experience
Growing seeds is a different experience than buying and transplanting seedlings or fully-grown plants. Through seed starting, you can hone your gardening skills, learn different seed starting techniques, and grow a variety of plants, rare and common varieties alike.
There is an immense feeling of satisfaction in knowing that you do not have to depend on anyone to grow your plants but yourself. Growing plants from seeds, tending to your expanding garden and harvesting all that amazing produce is such a rewarding experience.