Growing from seed saves money, provides the opportunity to grow endless varieties and, most importantly, nurtures the soul.
Being able to say “I grew it from seed” just feels good.
The key is to start off with the right kind of growing medium. Use a planting mix or seed-starting mix from your favorite nursery. Don’t use garden soil or potting soil; it’s too heavy.
Moisten the mix before putting it into the container. I use plastic six-packs from last year’s flowers, but anything with drainage will do.
Lay the seed on the mix and cover it. Press down to assure good contact between the mix and the seed.
Cover the container with clear plastic and place it in a warm, bright location. You might be able to get away with a bright south-facing window, but you’re better off growing under fluorescent shop lights. Hang them from chains just inches above the plants. As soon as the seeds germinate, remove the plastic.
Start fertilizing at half strength a couple of weeks after sprouting, then continue about once a week.
When temperatures warm up, get the transplants outside to acclimate them to the weather — at first only for an hour and eventually overnight. The process takes about a week. Tender plants like tomatoes and peppers can go out into the garden around the third week of May. I usually wait until Memorial Day when the soil has really warmed up.
This year, I’m going to try a trick I learned at Janoski’s Farm and Greenhouse in Clinton. On a tour of the farm in April, I saw rows of tomatoes covered with two layers of floating row covers supported by wire hoops. A floating row cover is spun bound translucent fabric often used to extend the season. It’s really a greenhouse in the field. I’m going to try it with just a couple of plants.
Growing from seed is fulfilling, educational and fun. Give it a try.