As we know many areas of the country is still well under freezing conditions and some even under inches (or feet) of snow! All of our minds are quickly turning to spring, the beautiful blooms, trees and grass and GARDENS. Now is the time to be thinking about starting your organic garden from seeds.
Advantages to Starting Organic Garden Plants from Seed
While many choose to purchase seedlings from nurseries or garden centers, it is relatively easy, and economical, to start your organic garden from seed! Although starting plants from seed will take more time and effort there are many benefits that include:
- Starting vegetable plants from seed can offer more options.
When you choose to start plants from seed, you have many more options available to you simply because you are able to order seeds from anywhere. This will help you to curate a beautiful, healthy and varied garden.
- Starting organic plants from seed helps you to ensure organic treatment.
When starting your plants from seed you can ensure that all parts of the growing process conform to your own standards of organic. Oftentimes, major manufacturers will use chemicals to force seedlings to germinate quicker. You can avoid this entirely by raising your own vegetable seedlings.
- Starting organic plants from seed can save you money!
Seeds are much less expensive and can yield far more seedlings for little investment.
Why wouldn’t you want to have greater variety, for less cost and ensure their organic nature?
Where & When to Start Growing your own Organic Vegetables from Seed
As an organic home gardener you may have a great many questions about where and when to start growing your organic vegetables from seed. Continue on and hopefully we can answer many of your questions!
Choose the right container and soil /starting medium. Choose a pot or container that is no more than 3-4 inches across. Seedlings do not need a vast amount of room to grow as their root systems will not be developing to an advanced state before transplantation. You can use any biodegradable pot, or even recycle old containers from previous seedlings. Just be sure that whatever you choose will offer both containment for the seeds and soil, as well as drainage.
If you are in doubt, there are many seed starting kits available. Start simple with one of these kits to reduce your time spent preparing.
Set up your Growing Area for Success.
Your plants, above all else, will need sunlight. Depending upon how far North you live, you may be able to use your sunroom, or even a large window, with good light, to become your “nursery” area. Look for an area with windows that face South. This will allow for maximum exposure each day.
Many gardeners in northern climates will consider purchasing grow lights to give their seeds the quantity and quality of light needed. While these grow light kits can range in expense from relatively cheap to prohibitively expensive, many gardeners have great success with general utility T-12 or T-8 Fluorescent Shop lights from their local hardware store. Whatever lighting setup you choose, just be sure that you can adjust the height of the lights as the seedlings begin to grow.
Germination and Growth
Your seeds will progress through two main stages. Germination and growth.
During the germination process your seeds will begin to sprout. Many gardeners may choose to start the process of germination with a thin layer of soil / medium on a shallow tray and covering the seeds. This will serve multiple purposes:
- Help the medium retain moisture.
- Allow heat to evenly affect all the seeds.
- Assists the Gardener with evaluating the health of the seeds.
After your sprouts are around 1/2 – 3/4 of an inch tall, they are then deemed ready to transplant into their pots.
As the seedlings continue to grow, once they are transplanted, this is the point at which they will begin to need a significant amount of light to continue the process. Ensure that your lights remain 3-4 inches away from the plants, for a minimum of 16-18 hours per day.
Sow your seedlings into moist soil. To properly water your seedlings, add water to the tray. NEVER water seedlings from the top! This can encourage disease or rot. How often you water, depends upon how moist your soil stays.
Be sure that your seedlings are in a well ventilated area and check them at least once daily. Each day you should be checking for temperature, soil moisture, lighting, etc. Do a full check daily and watch your baby plants begin to grow! Within a few weeks to a month you will be ready to transplant your seedlings to your organic garden and watch them grow throughout the entire summer!