Seed Starting Basics

Follow these simple seed starting tips to get a head start on gardening season.

| June 2018

In Welcome to the Farm: How-to Wisdom from The Elliott Homestead, Shaye Elliot teaches readers how they can live a homestead lifestyle without a farm. In this fully illustrated how-to, Elliot shows readers how to harvest their own vegetables, milk a dairy cow, can jams and jellies, and more! The following excerpt is from Chapter 1, "The Home Garden."

Why start seeds? Great question, my friend. One would start seeds if one needed to get a jump-start on the gardening season. Up here in the north, we need to start a few crops indoors if we ever hope to get a harvest before the first frost. Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and other long-season vegetables require more frost-free days than we have. So starting them indoors allows us to grow them for a while inside, move them outside to the garden beds when it's safe, and harvest the bounty before the frost arrives in the fall.

There are other benefits to starting seeds yourself, not the least of which is control over what you grow. Unlike the nurseries and home — improvement stores that carry only a few dozen varieties, there are (literally!) limitless options of seeds available to the home gardener. This means you have freedom to choose exactly the variety you'd like. On top of increased growing options, the cost of seeds is significantly lower than buying starts.

Tips for Seed Starting

Don't start too many. Often, it's easy for us gardeners to get overzealous (points to self) and start too many seeds from too many different varieties. Keep it simple. Once you've mastered a few basics, expand your repertoire.

Water from the ground up. Seedlings are extremely sensitive and watering them from overhead with a watering can may cause disruption in the airy potting soil and can also cause the soil to crust over a bit. Instead, plant the seeds in pots with drainage holes in the bottom and place the pots in a tray that can hold water. This way, the soil and seedlings can absorb water from below as they need it, maintaining a consistent moisture level and preventing any damage to the soil aeration or seedling.

Follow package directions. Often the seed packet will tell you exactly when to start your seeds. These instructions are there for a reason. If started too soon, some seeds (such as cucumbers) will suffer. I know rules are meant to be broken... but try to control yourself a wee bit.

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