I love the idea of growing my own plants from seed and I’ve tried starting my own seeds indoors on numerous occasions. Something different went wrong each time. First I wasn’t watering enough and the seeds germinated sporadically. I tried again and ended up with mold growing from things staying too wet. Other times the plants were long, spindly things that just flopped over. Eventually, I just gave up. I guess I just don’t have a knack for delicate new plants.
Recently, however, I had the good fortune to pay a visit to Golden’s home and see his seed starting set up. He was kind enough to talk with me about his process for starting seeds indoors. Golden knows his stuff. He is famous in the Salt Lake County Gardening Association for having tomatoes on the vine long before most people are even thinking about planting them. He starts his tomato seeds in January and has a greenhouse where he can continue growing the plants until they can go outside.
Here is what I learned from Golden.
Know when to start. If you have a greenhouse like Golden, you can start your seeds much earlier because you have a place for them to continue to grow as you’re waiting for outside conditions to become favorable. If you don’t, you’ll need to do a little planning.
Start with good quality seeds. That means buying fresh seeds and if you don’t use them all, be sure to store them properly for use in subsequent years. Seeds need a cool, dry environment to retain viability. If stored properly, many seeds will remain viable for several years. Also take into consideration the characteristics you are looking for and find a variety that meets those requirements. Seed catalogs offer a much larger selection than local retailers.
Use the proper growing medium. Notice I didn’t say soil or dirt. You need to use a sterile growing medium. This will keep extra things like mold and fungus from growing in your moist warm containers. It is also very light and allows young seedlings to emerge from the soil easily. Seeds start with all the nourishment they need built right in, so fertilizer is not necessary until the first set of true leaves appears.
Simulate ideal growing conditions. If you’re starting warm season crops a heating mat will create the nice warm soil those plants need to grow. If you’re starting cool season crops a heating mat isn’t necessary and will actually cause the plants to grow too quickly.
Quality of light matters. We all know seeds need light to germinate and grow. What you may not know is that the quality of that light is just as important. Those spindly plants I grew were the result of poor lighting. Even though they were placed in a sunny window they weren’t receiving the amount of light they needed and as a result, they stretched to get closer to the light source. Golden pulled out his light meter and showed me how even a few inches can make a dramatic difference. For best results, you want to use fluorescent lights and position your pots just a few inches below the bulbs. Golden says you don’t need special grow bulbs. He uses regular kitchen fluorescents.
After my visit with Golden, I had a new confidence that I could be successful and was inspired to give it another try. Hopefully, these tips will inspire you too!