There are few things more magical then watching a tiny seed grow into a plant loaded with tomatoes, or a giant sunflower reaching for the sky. Now is an excellent time to start planting seeds indoors, or if you're in a warm climate, planting seeds directly into your garden!
Choosing which seeds you'd like to plant is probably the hardest part! Maybe you have a good idea already - "Carrots just like Granddad's" or "Daisies for Daisy chains." For a first time gardener, just a few vegetables, flowers and sweet smelling herbs are best. Look at the seed packets for different varieties to try. If you see the words "All-America Winner," those seeds should do very well anywhere in the country. Also, look for plants with interesting names: Four O'clocks, Polka Dot Plant, Zinnia Lilliput Mixed, Mammoth Sunflower, Moonflower, Tomato Pixie hybrid, Pumpkin Baby Bear. There are even specially packaged, fun-to-grow seeds just for children.
Now comes the planting! If you're starting seeds indoors, you need a place that's sunny most of the day. When to start is important: check when seedlings can go in the garden in your area, and plant the seeds four or five weeks earlier. Start with clean containers that have holes in the bottom or that are made of material to let water seep through. Small flower pots or cell-packs or peat pots are fine, or you can use cardboard egg cartons or even paper cups. Or you can purchase a seed starter tray that comes with small pots or planting cells. Always use a commercial potting soil or seed starter mix.
Put one seed in each container, but plant a few extra - they don't all sprout. Cover with a little soil. Write the name and variety of the plant on a label. Water by setting the containers in a pan of shallow warm water. When the soil looks moist, remove them, cover loosely with clear plastic and set in a warm place (the top of a refrigerator is good). Check every day and keep the soil moist with a mister. As soon as the first green seedlings pop through the soil, remove the plastic and set them in a sunny window.
Seedlings can be transplanted outside once the night temperatures fall no lower than 45 degrees. First you'll need to "harden them off" or get them used to living outdoors. A week before it's time to transplant, set your seedlings outside every morning. Put them in a shady spot the first day. Every day after that, give them a little more sun. Towards the end of the week, start leaving them out all night.
To plant, water the seedlings in their containers, and the garden too, if it's very dry. Check how wide the full-grown plants will be, and plant seedlings that far apart. You can use your hands or a trowel to make a planting hole, then hold the seedling gently and push from the bottom of the container. Set the plant into the hole, and gently press the soil back.
To plant seeds outdoors, all you do is follow the directions on the seed packet. It's a good idea to make sure the soil is well prepared by working some organic matter into it, then rake it smooth. Write the name of your crop on a stake. Follow the package directions for how close together to put the seeds, and when the seedlings are an inch or so high, you'll need to thin them, removing the extras so the plants have room to grow. Be sure to pull them out slowly and gently as the roots may be tangled together.
If you have any questions about seed starting or planting, please leave a comment below.
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