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Growing your own seeds is fun, easy, and satisfying. It’s a great, inexpensive way to grow an array of interesting and unusual vegetable and flower seeds—a much bigger and more exciting variety than you’ll ever find in starter plants. You can get an earlier start—and therefore, an earlier harvest of vegetables or earlier color in your garden—when you start seeds indoors. And what better way to beat the “Winter Blues” than by having pots of veggies, herbs, or flowers growing on your windowsills.
To start seeds, there is a vast array of seed-starting supplies from which to choose. Peat pellets, compressed peat that expands when soaked in water, make excellent little ‘pots’ just right for planting two or three seeds. The mesh covering on the outside of the pellet allows new roots to show, alerting you when it’s time to move the seedling to a larger container. There are also plastic trays that come with removable cells in which to start seeds. Some even come with greenhouse lids available. If you use trays, be sure to use a sterile seed starting soil to start. Seed starting soil mixes are finely textured and moisture retentive, ideal for tiny fragile seed roots.
Peat pots, made of pressed peat fibers, are great to have on hand when it’s time to transplant seedlings. Most pots range in size from two and a half inches to around four, allowing you the flexibility to move seedlings up as needed. And because the pressed peat in bio-degradable, you don’t have to remove the seedlings from the pot when it’s time to move outside. Just plant pot and all.
Young seedlings need a good amount of sunlight to perform well. If you lack a bright south-facing window, you’ll want to invest in indoor grow lights. Actual lighting units have adjustable lights
enabling you to raise or lower them as necessary. They use fluorescent tubes that will need to be about four inches above your seed trays. You’ll need to leave them on 16 to 18 hours a day, however, they can be plugged into a timer for convenience. You can also use grow light fixtures that come with clamps that you can clamp onto windowsills or whenever you need them. Be sure to use light bulbs suitable for growing plants. These lights should be no further away from your seedlings than 18 inches and, again, need to be on 16 to 18 hours a day.
Some seeds do not need to be started indoors. Beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, and melons sprout quickly and grow fast so can be direct-sowed in your garden. Root vegetables such as carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes, do not transplant well so should also be direct sowed. Some flowers, like marigolds, also grow quickly, so are best planted directly outside after danger of frost. When in doubt, the back of the seed package will tell you the best time to start that variety.