From the Desk of Ed Hume: Starting Seeds

April 11, 2011 at 12:25 AM 2 comments

Starting seeds is easy, fun, and can be very rewarding.  All you need is a container, soil or starting medium, a warm, bright spot, water, and the seed.  If you want to get a jump on the gardening season, many vegetables and flowers can be started indoors in late February, March, or April.  The young seedlings can then be set outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.  Here are some easy tips for starting seeds indoors.

Keep in mind that there are many seeds that do not need to be started indoors; instead you can seed them directly outdoors.  For example, never start seeds of root crops indoors (carrots, radish, beets, etc.).  Sow the seed directly into the garden.  Likewise, I think it’s best to direct sow peas, beans, and corn.  Pre-starting in pots usually results in creating stress on the seedlings and often causes them to become stunted, so little if anything is gained.

Don’t waste your time starting flowers that are easy to start by simply broadcasting the seed directly into the garden.  For example, godetia, nasturtiums, clarkia, alyssum, California poppies, cosmos, sunflowers, and wildflower mixtures head the list of a few of the easiest ones to sow directly outdoors.

How to Start Your Seeds Indoors:

If you want to start the seeds of some warm weather crops (like squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, egg plants, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc.), you can start them indoors right now.

You can use a flat, pot, tray, egg, or cottage cheese carton, or really any kind of container that has drainage.  Use a solution of 10% bleach and 90% water to clean-up slimy or dirty containers.

Use a quality potting or seeding soil to start seeds.  If you are on a budget, you can sterilize garden soil by simply pouring boiling water over the soil or by baking it in the oven at 170 to 180 degrees for two hours.

Mound the soil in the container so that air will flow over the soil to help deter damp-off or other diseases.

Read the backside of the seed packet for directions as to how deep to plant the seed.  In most cases, barely cover the seed with soil as people often have a tendency to cover the seed with too much soil. The directions on the seed packet will also specify spacing, time to germinate, and other pertinent information.

Place the seed container in a spot that will get bright light (some sunlight if possible). It can also be placed under florescent lights.  Temperatures should range about 60 to 70 degrees for starting seeds.  If the seedlings begin to get leggy, reduce the temperatures a little and/or increase their exposure to additional bright light.  A special seed heating pad set under the container can also help in seed germination and establishing a strong root system.

Keep the seed soil moist (but not continually wet) until the seeds have germinated.

Once the seedlings are an inch or two high, they can be transplanted into individual pots to keep them growing bigger until weather conditions are suitable for planting them outdoors.

Starting your own seeds can be easy, fun, and very rewarding!  For more information on vegetables and flowers, log on to

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bambi Anderson  |  April 14, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    Do you have suggestions for tall perrenial flowers that do not require staking? I am tired of the rain destroying my garden and don’t like the look and hassle of stakes.

    • 2. edhume  |  April 18, 2011 at 1:44 AM

      Hi Bambi,

      A few of the tall perennials that we have had good success with are phlox, artemisia, some varieties of delphiniums, mallow, and some chrysanthemums. Wire hoops and low cages sometimes work out and the plants will sometimes hide most of wire.
      Hope this information helps!




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