Start Seedlings Indoors in Late Winter for Planting in the Spring

by on January 1st, 2011
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If you would like to get a jump start on your Spring planting, you may wish to take advantage of the last few weeks of winter to get your garden off to a great start. Starting seedlings indoors in late winter is a great way to have a nice supply of plants ready to place in the ground after the last frost of the season has safely passed. Think of all the money you will save on bedding plants by doing this yourself! You can do this with some basic supplies.

As with all plants, your seedlings will need soil, water, and light. You will also need some containers for planting. I find that the cardboard type egg cartons make great containers as well as being a great way to save money on supplies as well as recycle the carton.You may also use peat pots or paper cups, anything that biodegrades. Avoid using Styrofoam cups. I prefer the egg carton because it allows for easy cutting for separation and you can snip the bottom off before planting, placing the seedling in the ground with the egg carton still around the sides, to keep it sturdier than trying to empty it from the container.

Your soil should be good quality and should also be sterile. Check the package before purchase to ensure you are getting a sterilized soil, or else your fragile seedlings may fall victim to the dreaded fungi.Follow directions on your seed packets for planting, or use your best judgement if using seeds you’ve gathered from a previous season in your garden.Be sure that your seedlings receive adequate light as being indoors does not provide the amount of light needed for proper growth. If your plants have insufficient light, they will tend to grow too tall and spindly and have a pale appearance. In addition to sunlight from a window, you may wish to invest in a light source specifically designed for growing plants. Place this light source about one foot above your seedlings. Your growing plants should have at least 14 hours of light exposure per day during this critical time of growth.

Take it easy on the moisture, as you can give too much water at this point which is not beneficial to the plant. Opt for a medium level of moisture, staying away from wet, soggy soil. If using an absorbent medium for planting your seedlings, you may wish to simply pour some water into a tray your egg carton (or other medium) is placed on, allowing the medium to absorb and soak in the moisture, giving it a direct shot to the roots.

Toward the last week or two you plan to keep your plants indoors, you may wish to give them a boost of a diluted, weak solution of Miracle Gro or other plant food. Keep your seedlings indoors at least 4 to 6 weeks before attempting to transplant them outdoors. Again, wait until the last frost passes before doing so.If your plants appear sturdy, are a healthy shade of green, and have at least two sets of leaves, they are probably ready for outdoor planting.

Vegetable plants can really benefit from this early start, as well as some other flowers that require warmer temperatures before germination or blooming. It’s very satisfying to know that you personally started the plants in your garden. This is also a very good activity to share with your children and is both fun and educational. Don’t forget to gather and dry out some seeds from your favorites plants this year, so that you can start seedlings from them next year.

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