• Tips from The Old Farmer’s Almanac - How to start your seeds indoors . . .

  • Here are tips from The Old Farmer’s Almanac on how to start your seeds indoors and transplant them:

    Starting Seeds Indoors
    Before You Start Seeds
    • Team up with a neighbor for starting seeds, since a packet often yields much more than you will need.
    • Don’t start your seeds too early, especially tomatoes! Most annual flowers and vegetables should be sown indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost in your area.
    • See our annual Best Planting Dates for Seeds chart so you get the timing right!
    • You may have to soak, scratch, or chill seeds before planting, as directed on packet.
    • Use clean containers. Most seed catalogs offer seedling flats, peat pots, and other growing containers, but egg carton compartments make good containers, too. Be sure to poke holes in the sides near the bottom of the containers you use.
    • Label your containers now! There’s nothing more frustrating than forgetting what you planted.

    How to Start Seeds

    • Fill clean containers with seedling mix. Use soilless peat moss and mix in equal parts vermiculite and perlite to hold enough water and allow oxygen to flow. Don’t use potting soil.
    • Pour soilless mix into a large bucket and moisten with warm water. Fill your containers to just below the rim.
    • Plant your seeds according to your seed packet. Most seeds can simply be gently pressed into the mixture; you can use the eraser end of a pencil to push in seeds. When planting seeds, plant the largest seeds in the package to get the best germination rate.
    • Cover containers with plastic. Prick holes with a toothpick for ventilation. Water as directed.
    • Water newly started seedlings carefully. A pitcher may let the water out too forcefully. A mist sprayer is gentle but can take a long time. Try using a meat-basting syringe, which will dispense the water effectively without causing too much soil disruption.
    • Find a place in the kitchen where there is natural bottom heat—on top of the refrigerator or near the oven. (Move the tray if the oven is on, as it may become too hot.)
    • Seeds sprout best at temperatures of 65 to 75°F (18 to 24°C).
    • When seedlings appear, remove the plastic and move containers into bright light.
    • When the seedlings get their second pair of leaves, prepare individual pots filled with a potting mix with plenty of compost. Move the seedlings carefully to the new pots and water well. Keep pots out of direct sun for a few days.

    Transplanting your seedlings:

    Transplanting Seedlings

    If you started vegetable plants indoors from seeds, here is advice on transplanting your seedlings.

    • Check our Planting by the Moon’s Phase calendar.
    • Be sure the plants harden off; that is, gradually get used to unsheltered life outdoors.
    • During their last week indoors, withhold fertilizer and water less often.
    • 7 to 10 days before transplanting, set the seedlings outdoors in dappled shade that is protected from winds for a few hours each day, gradually increasing their exposure to full sun and windy conditions.
    • Keep the soil moist at all times during the hardening-off period. Dry air and spring breezes can result in rapid transpiration.
    • If possible, transplant on overcast days or in the early morning.
    • Set transplants into loose, well-aerated soil that will capture and retain moisture, drain well, and allow easy penetration by seedling roots. See when soil is ready for planting.
    • Soak the soil around new seedlings immediately after transplanting.
    • Spread mulch to reduce soil-moisture loss.
    • To ensure that phosphorus—which promotes strong root development—is available in the root zone of new transplants, mix two tablespoons of a 15-30-15 starter fertilizer into a gallon of water (one tablespoon for vining crops such as melons and cucumbers), and give each seedling a cup of the solution after transplanting.
    • Anything that raises soil temperature will help plants adjust to the shock of cold ground. Try raised planting beds and plastic mulch to boost soil temperature.