HOW TO START SEED INDOOR
Can't wait to get started in the garden every Spring? Well, you should not be waiting for warm weather to get started. You can get a significant jump on the season if you start your seed indoors weeks ahead of the warm weather.
Rather than starting with seed in the garden, start your seed indoors and you will get a 3-4 week head start on the growing season. You will have more success in planting seedlings (young plants) than with seed directly in the garden. Also, you will have mature vegetables, ready to eat, weeks earlier.
Growing seed indoors is not difficult, however, there are a few tips you should know. And, that is what you will find here.
Pick the Proper Plants
The first step is to pick the proper plants to grow. Practically any seed can be grown indoors, but you must select plants that are suited for your area. As an example, don't try to grow watermelon in a short summer area. If you can not grow it naturally outdoors, you probably will not be successful even if you start with seed grown indoors.
I have attempted to grow watermelon in a Northern costal area with a short summer. Although I was slightly successful one year, all other attempts were failures. Even when I started with seedlings grown indoors. The summers in that type area are too cool and too short for the home gardener to grow watermelon. So select plants that are suited for your area.
You should start your seeds 4-6 weeks before you intend to place them in the garden. This should be 4-6 weeks prior to the last frost date in your area. Use peat pots designed for starting seed indoors. These are available in various sizes in your garden shop and are not very expensive. I recommend these because they may be planted directly in the garden without removing the plant from it's container. Thus you will not shock the plant by disturbing the roots.
Plant 3 seeds in each peat pot at the planting depth recommended on the seed package. Water and cover with a sheet of clear plastic (kitchen food wrap). Place in a warm area (normal indoor temperature 65-75 degrees).
As soon as the seedlings emerge, remove the plastic covering and place in an area that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight. If this is not possible, you must use grow lights. An inexpensive grow light may be made using neon shop lights, replacing the neon tubes (bulbs) with special tubes designed for indoor plants. These are available at most hardware, garden shops and big box stores (WalMart). These lights may be assembled for about $20 including the special grow bulbs.
When the seedlings are about 2 inches tall, cut out all seedlings except the strongest looking one from each peat pot. When the seedlings are 4 inches tall, fertilize with a weak mixture of liquid fertilizer.
Be very careful watering your seedlings. Over-watering is probably the most common cause of seedlings dying. If you use peat pots you can tell when to water by observing the color of the peat surface. When dry it will turn a light brown color. You can also pick up the peat pot and observe the bottom for moisture.
Planting Your Seedlings
One week before you intend to plant your seedlings in the garden, take the seedlings outdoors and leave in the garden area. Avoid direct sunlight for the first two days. Leave the seedlings outdoors for 2-3 hours the first day. The second day, leave out 4-6 hours. The third through seventh day leave out during all daylight hours, allowing direct sunlight. On the eighth day plant the seedlings in the garden.
Plant in a suitable sized hole so the top surface of the peat pot is just slightly above the level of the ground. Water well. The peat pot will settle slightly, leaving the peat pot surface even with the ground level.
Now, sit back and watch 'em grow, knowing you have several weeks jump on the growing season.