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Getting started: growing from seed

How to grow vegetables from seed indoors

Is this the year you’re going to get a head start on growing some of your garden’s vegetables from seed? Do you have your seed packets in hand and are now asking yourself, “What is the right way to start seeds?”

We have good news — there isn’t one single “right” way. Seed starting is as personal and diverse as gardeners are themselves.

Even so, if you’re ready to get started indoors with growing from seed, so are we. We’re going to talk you through some seed starting basics — keeping it simple with just the bare bones, important foundations of seed starting, answering the basic questions we’ve had about the process.

The most important thing is — don’t overthink! You can do this, and it’s a fully enjoyable process to grow plants from seeds.

So let’s go. (If you’re more of a visual learner, go ahead and watch the video. It’s full of information and shows the step-by-step process of planting seeds from start to finish, with lots of tips along the way.)

What kind of soil should I use to start seeds?

To grow plants from seed, use soil specifically labelled “Seed Starter Soil”. This seed starting mix is lighter than regular potting soil. Its composition is lighter in order to help tiny seeds root themselves. Seed starter soil also is less rich in nutrients than regular potting soil — seedlings don’t need a lot of food until they get bigger.

Tip: when you’re nearly ready to sow seeds, make sure to lightly moisten your soil first.

What kind of container do I need for planting seeds?

A six-cell pack or a four-cell pack is a great place to start for seed trays. You likely have some around from getting seedlings in previous years from garden centres, and they’re super easy to re-use. If you don’t have any cell packs on hand, you can also get creative, by reusing and recycling. You can use pretty much anything that can hold soil — from recycled takeout containers to cardboard toilet paper roll.

Tip: if you’re crafting your own seedling containers, be sure to poke drainage holes in the base of the containers to allow for water release.

Should I place seedlings in a windowsill?

Growing seedlings in a windowsill can absolutely work, and many people start their seed-growing journey this way. You may have to ferry your seedlings around your home — to chase the sun — from windowsill to windowsill to make sure they get all the sunlight they possibly can, for optimal plant growth and photosynthesis. And one other thing to consider — the windowsill method often results in leggy seedlings, as plants will spend considerable time stretching toward the sun.

Should I use grow lights?

If you want to get serious about starting seeds indoors, it’s a good idea to invest in a grow light. Any size light will do to provide seedlings with the necessary spectrums of light, and these days, grow lights are extremely energy efficient.

Grow lights provide consistent light directly above seedlings for several hours longer than the amount provided by the sun during late winter/early spring short days. This will make a huge difference to the amount young seedlings can grow indoors.

Grow lights don’t replicate the full sun provided by natural outdoor light, but they do make a substantial difference in the amount of light your seedlings will receive.

Monitor your seeds

Seedlings are delicate little things. If you make sure to check in on your seedlings every day, you’ll better your chances of success. Keep an eye out for seeds to germinate, and check on soil moisture and room temperature daily.

Once seeds sprout, don’t miss a watering. Be careful to not overwater, though, as seedlings do not like to sit in water. A spray bottle is a good tool for keeping seedlings moist without soaking.

Final tips for seed starting success

Two final quick tips.

When you begin growing from seed, start small. Expansion of your set-up can — and probably will — happen over time. But if you start small, you’ll learn what works and doesn’t work for you and your space. Once you know what you can handle with success, you’ll be able to take it forward in bigger steps in subsequent years.

And our second tip: grow what you like to eat. It’s so satisfying to make a meal with food that you grew yourself from seed, and such contentment to be had from taking care of a garden full of your favourites.

Happy gardening. When you’re ready to transplant seedlings to the great outdoors, you might want learn about hardening off seedlings before planting your tender young plants into the garden.

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