Many gardeners choose to start seeds indoors for many reasons, but I’d venture to say the top reason is because your plants will bear fruit sooner. I live in the south so we have a really long growing season. Our last frost date is typically the first week in April, so I can direct seed fairly early in the season.
As we have higher temps longer our first freeze date is typically in late October, early November. I don’t remember the exact number but we roughly have 200 days in our growing season! Other areas are not so fortunate, so in an effort to give plants a head start gardeners begin seeds indoor.
Indoor seedlings most often are started in January or February of each year. This give your plants a two month head start. If you were to direct seed your plants in the garden (which I do for certain plants) those seeds go in the ground after the last frost. Most plants take 7-14 days to germinate the seed, another 30-60 to grow and bear fruit. By the time they grow into strong plants and bear fruit you are looking at your first harvest being in June or July.
When planting indoors you speed up this process by two months and are often harvesting in late April early May. Make sense?
Two things seeds need to germinate is warm soil and moisture. So when I started my seeds this year I did a few things to insure this.
First I placed my soil in the containers, then I lightly watered the soil allowing it to drip from the bottom until all the water had worked it’s way through. Next I added the seed and covered it with a small amount of dry soil. Finally I added saran wrap over the top. This last step is important. It creates a barrier keeping the moisture from escaping. The heat from the overhead lights create warmth and moisture producing good seed germination.
The lights need to be roughly 1-2 inches above the plants. As the plants grow, raise the light. Always keeping it 1-2 inches above the plants. Plants grow toward the light, so keeping the light within that range keeps the plants from growing too tall too fast causing the stems to be thin and weak.
Once the plant is full height you’ll need to transplant it into your garden. Hardening off your plants and transplanting them is another post, so stay tuned!
Do you start indoor seedlings? What tips do you have this beginning gardener?