Seed Starting 101:  Start your own seeds this spring

For those who enjoy growing their own vegetables, sowing your seeds is the way to go so save money and create your best garden

Mastering the basics of seed starting is an important part of your garden planning.

Choose Your Seeds wisely
Starting seeds early in the season is a great way to save money on both herbs, and vegetables.  Seed companies in your area, sell the right seeds for your climate. San Diego Seed Company is the one I am currently using.

Read the Packet
Following the instructions on the seed packet will give you the best possible start for your seed growth. Instructions normally list everything you need to start seeds, like when and where to sow, planting depth and spacing, special watering requirements and days to germination, this information gives you the best chance of success.

You can start seeds in just about anything you can find around the house that will create a mini-greenhouse, or you can Seed-Starting Trays from your local garden stores.

You can buy a pre-made seed starter soil like Propagation Light Warrior Mix or you can make your own with a mix of three parts peat, two parts compost, and ten percent perlite.

Keep your soil moist for most seeds, germination will be best in a greenhouse with the right amount of humidity. Check your soil daily to keep it from drying out. You can also put water in the bottom of the tray to help it soak up into the soil as needed. Do not let the water get stagnant.

Seeds do not need light until they emerge from the surface of the soil, just warmth, but then they will need strong sunlight for most of the day to prevent them from becoming leggy (overly tall and spindly = weak). You can supplement a lack of sunlight with fluorescent lighting, either buying a set of grow lights made for seed starting or by making your own with florescent shop lights. Seeds can be started in a windowsill.

Generally, the seed instructions will suggest that you plant 2-3 seeds per pot and thin out all but the strongest.

Hardening Off
As the seedlings grow into plants, it is time to start hardening them off, which means to toughen them up for their natural environment. You can start by opening a window a bit to get the air flowing and then start moving the trays outside in a shaded spot, increasing the time outside a little every day until they are ready to have full sun days in the garden.  Once the risk of frost has passed and the seedlings that measure 3 inches and have at least 3 true leaves, then they are generally ready to be transplanted into the ground.

For more information about seed starting, including local classes:

Seed Starting Classes: Chrissie's Garden

San Diego Seed Company