How Does Your Garden Grow?

How to start seeds at home

By Katherine Clarkson
Posted 3/25/21

With proper planning and the correct supplies, you can get a head start on your garden by starting seeds indoors and growing your own transplants. In addition, you can sow a wider assortment of …

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

How to start seeds at home

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With proper planning and the correct supplies, you can get a head start on your garden by starting seeds indoors and growing your own transplants. In addition, you can sow a wider assortment of plants and get an earlier harvest. This is beneficial for long season crops in Wyoming’s short growing season. This article will outline resources and supplies needed to establish your garden from seed.

We can grow any seeds indoors, but often people choose long season crops such as tomatoes, broccoli and eggplants. Some plants, such as peas, beans, carrots and radishes, do not transplant well. For this reason it is best to start these seeds outside.

Some of my favorite places to purchase seeds include Gurney’s Seed and Nursery, which has an ample assortment of a wide variety of vegetable seed. Burpee has an extensive selection of organic, heirloom and herb seeds. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has rare and exclusive vegetables and flowers. In addition, check out your local nurseries. 

After you select your seeds, you need the correct containers and soil. 

Always begin with a biodegradable container because if you need to transplant the seedling you will not disturb the roots. There are two things to keep in mind when selecting a proper container: drainage and size.

If the pot you want to use does not have drainage, make a hole with a drill or nail in the underside. If you are using something that you cannot poke through, add some small rocks to the underside to allow the water to drain from the soil.

Seeds like cucumbers and squash will rapidly outgrow a small pot so keep a medium size on hand. Seeds such as tomatoes will need the soil built up as they grow. Therefore, start tomato seeds in medium size containers with about 2 or 3 inches of soil and add more soil as the plant grows. In the past, I have used eggshell, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls and newspaper pots as my seed starter container and had ample success.

Now that you have selected a container, it is time to mix or choose your soil.

When sowing seeds, you want to use a seed starting soil. I prefer to make my own using the following recipe: In a 5-gallon bucket add one-third sphagnum peat moss, one-third fine compost, one-third vermiculite, 2 cups worm compost and mix well. However, if you want to buy a seed starting soil, choose one that has a guarantee, such as Black Gold or Fox Farm. 

Next it is time to fill your containers with soil and plant your seeds. When planting seeds, plant them at the proper depth. You can find this information on the seed package. Also, do not forget to label your seeds with name and date planted. 

The next step is to find the right location for your seeds that will maintain soil temperature and the correct amount of light.

The approximate seed sowing soil temperature range for warm weather plants, such as cucumber, pepper and tomato is 68-79 degrees Fahrenheit. However, for cool and cold crops such as kale and Swiss chard, 50-68 degrees is an ideal condition. 

It is important to mention that the soil and the air temperature are not the same. Soil temperature will fluctuate less than the air, and you can measure it with a soil or household thermometer. Once your seeds have germinated, seedlings need as much as 16 hours of light a day. South-facing windows will not provide this much light. You can use artificial light to achieve the ideal amount.

A desirable supply of water is also important. Check the moisture at least once a day and water from the bottom. There is less of a chance of over-watering when you slowly add water to the bottom. After watering, touch the surface of the soil to ensure the moisture has reached the top. 

Following these steps will help you germinate seeds. Next month we will discuss how to harden off your seedlings and troubleshoot some common problems.

Thank you for reading and if you have questions please reach out to me at: katherineclarkson2@gmail.com.

(Katherine Clarkson is the president of the Park County Master Gardeners. She lives in Wapiti.)

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