Growing plants from seed is a fun and economical way to grow your own vegetables and flowers. By starting seeds indoors under controlled conditions, with no trouble from weeds or weather, your plants get a big head-start that brings earlier harvests and greater yields. It's easy to grow from seed to harvest with the right light and some simple equipment.
- Choose your seeds. The best seeds for indoor starting are those plants that are typically grown singly and that take a fairly long time to go from seed to maturity in most climates, such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, broccoli, winter squash and melons. If you are new to seed-starting, tomatoes, basil, marigolds, zinnia and nasturtium are easy varieties to start indoors.
- Find containers. Seeds should be sown in containers that are at least two to three inches deep with adequate drainage holes. Paper cups, milk cartons and yogurt containers can be recycled for this purpose, or purchase seed-starting trays with a built-in watering system at your local home improvement store.
- Prepare the soil. Look for potting soil that is specifically formulated for starting seedlings: light, fluffy and able to hold just enough moisture. Soil that is too wet and heavy will smother delicate roots. Soil that is not sterile can promote disease. Fill the containers with moistened, firmly packed potting soil.
- Sow the seeds. Consult the seed packaging to determine how deep you should plant the seeds. Gently moisten the newly planted seeds with a mister or small watering can.
- Provide ample light. Ample light is crucial for healthy plants. Most gardeners use artificial lights so they can raise more plants and make sure they get enough exposure. The lights should be positioned three to four inches above plants as they grow, and plants should receive 16-18 hours of light per day.
- Water the plants. While seeds germinate, they should be covered to keep in humidity. Once sprouts have emerged, water them from the bottom by pouring water into the tray underneath. This prevents damage and disease. Because potting soil contains few nutrients, you will also need to feed seedlings regularly with a liquid fertilizer.
Stay tuned next month, when we'll discuss how to transfer your young plants to the outdoors! For more do-it-yourself gardening tips, visit www.diynetwork.com.
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