This post was originally published on 2/27/20 and updated on 3/15/21.
Spring is right around the corner, and you know what that means. Time to start seeds indoors! I know it might seem a little hard to believe, but even though it’s still cold outside, you can still get your grow on.
Get a Head Start on Harvesting
Right now, here in Virginia Beach, it is still too cold to think about planting most seeds. The soil needs to warm up for seed germination, and we need to make sure we have seen the last of frosty nights. Seedlings cannot handle the up and down weather we’ve been having.
But lucky us, we have the capabilities of creating a micro-climate inside our homes. These mini environments will be just enough to get seeds started until conditions outside are just right. If vegetable seeds are planted inside, they will get a jump-start compared to waiting for the soil to warm up to the point where they could be directly sowed. By starting your seeds indoors now, you will be harvesting earlier and for a longer period of time!
How to Start Seeds Indoors
You’re going to want to begin by collecting your seeds. I like to save my seeds when I harvest, so I have a bunch that I basically got for free. If I want to grow something I didn’t grow in the past or I didn’t save enough, then I’ll buy seeds. When I buy, I like to make sure it’s from a reputable source (like our garden center). Some online websites can be a little sketchy and send you seeds that are old/ simply don’t germinate. We carry quality seeds from both Livingston and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
I recommend you have a greenhouse, a grow light, or the sunniest window you can find to place your seeds under.
If you’re using a grow light, you don’t need the best one on the market. Just something with enough light that your seedlings will not get leggy. Make sure to follow the light’s recommendations for how far you should put the light away from your plants. Too close and they’ll burn. Not close enough and the plants will start stretching and get leggy. And if you’re using grow lights, put them on a timer like this one! This will help you immensely. Set the timer to have the lights on for 16 hours and off for 8 hours. This is the amount of light the seeds will need to germinate.
You need a nice, loamy soil to give your seedlings a really easy space to put out its first roots. You can make yourown potting mix this year using a 1:1:1 ratio of peat moss, topsoil, and perlite. I like making sure there’s plenty of perlite, as a personal preference. This is mainly to help with over-watering. The perlite acts as aeration and helps with fast-drainage, which ensures my plants are never sitting in water, which can lead to root-rot/seeds not germinating.
You can use seed trays, like the one pictured above, for planting your seeds. Really any small pot will work. Having a smaller pot will help you make sure you aren’t watering too much and will help when transplanting.
Fill your pots with soil, lightly. Don’t tamp it down too hard.
After you plant the seeds, lightly water them in. For this you want to use a spray bottle or anything with a light flow. You don’t want to dump a cup of water on it because that will displace the seeds. Keep the seeds damp but not wet until they germinate.