Spring is just around the corner and it’s that time when we gardeners start to get itchy to play in the dirt. It’s also a great time to start ordering seeds and to get a jump start on the growing season.
For those of us who live in colder climes, we either have to sow our seeds indoors or rely on stock from a greenhouse. I’m in Zone 3. Brrrrrr! I take my dad’s advice and I never put out my garden until June. Yes, that late. We could have frost anytime at the end of May and the ground isn’t warm enough until then. Planting tender seedlings in the cold ground is not the way to get a longer growing season, even if the air feels warm. Your plants will never really recover.
But that’s okay. If you have a sunny window, a small table or TV tray, you can start any time around 6 weeks before the last frost. If you live in the south, you can even get two crops in by starting indoors. It only takes a few simple supplies and most of them are things that you probably already have on hand!
Things you may need to buy:
- Some good potting soil
- Small peat pots
Here are the things that you can find around the house to make your own indoor greenhouse.
- Reusable plastic food containers or takeaway trays with lids
- Clear plastic bags
- Make-up remover pads or paper towels
- Plastic food container or jar lids
- Cardboard egg crates
- Clean tin cans
- Plastic shopping bags, garbage bin liners or plastic sheeting
- Larger plastic containers, such as peanut butter jars, yogurt containers or margarine containers
For seeds that do better when soaked first, like peppers, place a cotton pad or paper towel into a container lid. Soak with a little water. Scatter seeds on top and cover with a clear lid or some food wrap. Wait a few days and when the seeds have sprouted, gently…very gently remove them. If the root end of the sprout has dug its way into the padding, just snip around it with small scissors and plant it with some of the padding material. A damaged sprout won’t survive. Pop a couple of holes on each side of each egg crate cell for drainage and plant one sprout per cell, or peat pot.
Most other seeds can be planted directly into the soil, so you just need to fill up as many egg crate cells or peat pots as you think you will need. Moisten the soil and sow your seeds at the depth recommended on the packet.
Now that your seeds have been planted, place your cells or pots on the lid of a reusable food container. Put the bottom of the container on top. If you don’t have a matching pair, and that happens more than I’d like to admit, cover the lid or tray with a clear plastic bag. Don’t close the end. It will keep moisture in while allowing your little seedlings to breathe. This will also prevent them from getting mildew or mold. You can use any type of waterproofed box or container. I lined some old wooden boxes with plastic.
As your seedlings grow, you will need to move them into larger containers. Usually, this is done when the first set of “true” leaves are well underway. The cleaned tin cans and other jars and containers will do the trick. I cut large circles from some plastic bags and use them as liners. Just make sure that the circle will be large enough to fill the container and fold over the edge. Cut a small hole in the centre of the circle. Shred the rest of the bag with scissors and put it in the bottom of the container for drainage. Fill with soil and fold the extra over and tie down with some string or an elastic band. When you need to transplant the seedlings again, or when they are ready to set out in the garden, just undo the string, lift the liner out of the tin, remove the liner from the plant and set the plant into a hole. This will prevent a lot of root damage and it’s a lot easier than trying to get a well rooted plant directly out of a pot.
So now you can start collecting these odds and ends and in my next post, I’ll talk about which seeds are great for starting indoors, which ones aren’t and when would be a good time to start sowing for your zone. Until then, happy garden planning!