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How to start seeds

Growing anything from seed can be very rewarding – if they grow! It can be discouraging to spend time and money with little or no results.

There are some ways to make sure that your seeds actually germinate and eventually produce either healthy flowers or delicious veggies.

It's all about timing

The reason for starting seeds indoors is so that they will be ready to plant outside as soon as conditions are right, normally after the frost.

Read the packet of the seeds, or look this up online and you will see the recommended time to plant indoors and then outdoors. Often a packet will say something along the lines of ‘plant inside six weeks before the last frost.’

Seed packets will also tell you which seeds are best started indoors and which are best suited to direct planting, which means they do better sowed into the place they are to grow. 

Planting depth

One of the reasons many seeds do not germinate is because they are sowed too deep. Again, read the packet where it will tell you the exact depth to plant your seeds. Some should be planted in around an 1/8 inch of soil while others are simply sown on top. 

Once you have planted your seeds you should place a humidity dome over them until they start to appear. This can either be a layer of cling film or a transparent egg carton box.

Keep the humidity dome on until the seeds have germinated and leaves appear. Using a mister or small watering can moisten the soil.

Water your seedlings

Once the seedlings are growing you can use the mister or small watering can to keep the soil moist but not soggy. The soil should dry between waterings.

If your container has holes in the bottom you can add water to the tray it is standing on so the water is absorbed from below.

Watering from below ensures that the upper leaves do not get wet and develop rot.

Feed your seedlings

While seeds have all the nutrients they need to start, once they have their second set of leaves they need extra nutrients if they are to get stronger.

You should use an organic liquid fertiliser mixed at the ratio on the bottle.

Prepare them for outside

You should start to gradually harden off your seedlings, rather than planting them directly in the ground. This process is called hardening off and allows your seedlings to become accustomed to the outdoor weather.

About a week before you plan to plant them outside, set your seedlings outside in a sheltered spot for a few hours each day. They should be out of the wind and direct sunlight which can harm them. Check the water levels if the days are very hot.

Gradually over a week you should expose the seedlings to more sunlight and natural weather

Now get planting

Once your seedlings are fully acclimatised, you can plant them in the ground. Make sure that you have read the ideal conditions for them as each plant is different. Some will thrive in direct sunlight while others need shade or semi shade.

You may want to protect your seedlings from birds by placing chicken wire over them and staking them as they grow taller, so that they do not bend and break.

Final thoughts

With a few precautions and considerations for your seeds, there is no reason why you cannot start your seedlings on a bright windowsill and then transplant them outside when conditions are right.

While some will grow and others not, it is always fun to try and see what you can grow, and possibly eat.

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