Starting Seeds Indoors
Starting seeds indoors is an excellent way to get an early jump on spring. For best results, follow the packet planting instructions.
Choose a “soil-less” growing medium. Select a container with ample drainage holes and a lid. Fill this with the pre-moistened growing medium. Plant the seeds to the depth and spacing as indicated on the seed packet. Sowing the seeds in rows will make it easier to transplant the seedlings into peat pots or plastic pots. Place the flat with adequate levels of light.
Once germinated, remove the top. Low light levels will lead to stretched, leggy seedlings. Ideally, temperatures of 15 to 24 C (60 to 75F) are recommended. If grown on a windowsill, turn daily to encourage straight seedlings. Keep moist at all times. Watering via the bottom prevents dislodging or knocking over the tender young seedlings. After the first set of true leaves develop, it is time to start fertilizing with a plant starter fertilizer such as 10-52-10 at one quarter the label strength weekly.
When the seedling reach a height of 5 cm. (2 in.), or a set of four true leaves, transplant seedlings into a larger container. The transplants often droop or wilt after transplanting, however will recover quickly. Keep in good light and moist.
Damping-off is caused by fungi that occur in all soils. It commonly occurs in flats planted for transplants and is quickly evident as it attacks the base of the young seedling causing irreparable decay. To prevent this problem, a fungicide can be used on the soil. As well, other helpful strategies to reduce this problem include using sterile, well-draining soil and containers, providing good air circulation, water from the bottom, refrain from excess watering and high humidity and over crowding of seedlings.
One week before planting outside, the hardening off process is started. Gradually acclimatize the transplants from a warm, comfortable indoors to the cool, windy outdoors. Place plants in the sun for an hour the first day, gradually increasing the exposure for about a week until plants can accept a full day of direct sunlight. Make sure the transplants are well watered during the process. After a couple days of full days outside, the plants should be left out overnight, unless there is a danger of frost.
After all danger of frost is past, plant outside into the garden. Before planting, very gently break up the root ball which aids the roots to spread into the soil as the plants grow. Make the planting hole large enough to hold the plant with extra room to spread out the roots. A teaspoon of bonemeal mixed into the planting hole will help promote root growth and development. Gently firm up the soil around the plant after planting. As soon as planting is finished, water and fertilizer with a 10-52-10 fertilizer. Keep seedlings moist but not too wet.