Here are some simple but important tips to follow when sowing your seeds indoors:
- Select the best seeds. Old seeds have low germination success rates. Make sure that you buy fresh, viable seeds from reputable sellers. Check the seed packets for expiry dates. If you are collecting seeds from your own vegetables and fruits, wait until the seed pods are matured enough before harvesting, then store the seeds in cool and dry containers.
- Use a damp tissue to sprout seeds faster. Scatter seeds in a damp paper towel, fold it up, and store it inside a Ziplock bag. After about 48 hours, the most viable seeds will most likely have sprouted, and you can then plant them into soil.
- Prepare your own potting mix. Regular gardening soil is usually unsterile, too compact, and too low in nutrients for seeds to successfully sprout. Cocopeat is a sustainable material made from Coconut fibers and is known to promote faster rooting . Instead of using synthetic fertilizers, add in some organic compost in the form of worm castings or cow/chicken manure which can provide beneficial microorganisms to your soil.
- Clean your seed trays and gardening tools. Unwashed containers may harbor fungal or bacterial diseases which can easily kill sensitive seedlings. Diluted Hydrogen Peroxide not only sterilizes tools, it is also a natural component of rainwater that promotes healthier roots in plants.
- Use seed trays, egg cartons, or old ice cube trays to separate seeds. Shallow containers with individual compartments will keep the allotment of space organized. This way, each seedling will develop a definite root system that won’t overlap with its neighbor.
- Don’t bury your seeds too deep or too shallow. Press small holes into the soil using your finger and place one seed in each compartment. As a rule of thumb, a seed should not be planted deeper than three times its diameter. Lightly sprinkle some soil into the holes to cover the seeds.
- Label your seeds. Use plant tags or popsicle sticks to indicate plant names and the date of sowing.
- Cover the tray with a transparent lid, glass top, or cling wrap. Seeds prefer dark, damp, and warm conditions to germinate. A cover of some sort will help retain the moisture inside. However, once the first leaves have sprouted, place your tray next to a well-lit window. Seedlings need a lot of bright light to grow strong and avoid becoming leggy.
- Keep the soil slightly moist at all times. Over-watering can cause your seeds to rot while dry conditions can hinder germination. Mist the topsoil when it starts to dry, or use wide, shallow containers for bottom-watering. Refill the water as needed.
As Spring comes closer, slowly harden off your seedlings by exposing them to outdoor temperatures in increasing hours each week.
Once your seedlings have outgrown their trays and the outdoors are warm enough, you may now grow them regularly as crops in your garden. With the help of a spoon, gently scoop one seedling out of its compartment. Make sure the roots are holding the soil together firmly for easier transplanting and for minimal transplant shock. If not, keep the tray outdoors until the roots have grown sufficiently.
Following the transplant date instructions on seed packets, repot your seedlings into individual pots or directly on prepared garden plots. It also helps to make a calendar of each crop’s harvesting schedule, so you can start seeds with similar growing cycles together.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the growing process, and take note of each mistake and failure so they’ll serve as lessons for future gardening seasons!