The Sunday Gardener: Seed Starting


“How does your garden grow?” With this question in mind, we’re sitting down with terrain’s own avid gardeners to find out what they’re digging throughout the seasons. Each month, our experts will provide their lists of essential to-do’s for spending a Sunday in the garden. This month, Senior Plant Buyer Steve H. is spending an afternoon seed starting. 

“Here in the Mid-Atlantic, everyone is starting to get excited about the last frost," says Steve. "Now is when I begin prepping for the spring vegetable garden by starting cold weather crops such as lettuce, leafy greens, and kale from seed. I always look forward to clearing off the windowsill and finding the perfect, sunlit space to grow my seeds.” Steve tells us that it’s worth moving your indoor plants away from the sun temporarily to make way for seedlings. Though the move might put a strain on houseplants, seeds will flourish in south-facing sunlight. He adds, “I live in an older home, so instead of investing in expensive heat pads to keep my seeds warm when winter sun is lacking, I put them on the radiator. The toasty location speeds up the germination process and keeps me from having to rely on sun to warm the soil."

Before Steve starts to planting, he turns to his trusty paper pot press to create vessels for the seeds. “I’m usually not prepared for how long it actually takes," he says. "I'm ambitious about the size of my garden and end making 150+ seed starting pots. While it can take the entire afternoon, it’s time well spent. Once the pots are made, it’s time to fill them with soil, use a dibblet to make just the right hole for just the right amount of seeds, tamp the soil, and give each pot just a little water.” 

Steve’s Seed Starting Tips
1. Do fertilize (but not until your seeds have sprouted).
2. If you are growing in a tray, rotate the tray 180 degrees each day to prevent the plants from stretching too far towards the sunlight.
3. Resist the temptation to go out and plant your sprouts directly in the soil after the last frost. It's better to transition them outdoors over the course of 1-2 weeks, placing them outside in their tray for more time each day; this helps the young plants adapt to the change in sunlight and temperature.

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