Garden

Planting Seedlings

Seedlings in a sunny windwo

Gathering Materials

Ready to plant some seeds? It is a gratifying experience to carefully choose you want to grow, buy the seeds, gather the materials and get your hands dirty. It is even more fun to watch them pop through the soil medium and then cultivate them with care.

In order to plant seeds and succeed at it, you will need a few items to get started: containers; a soil-less, seed-starting medium; heat; and light.

Soil-less Mixture

The first step to planting seeds is to get your soil ready. Or, rather, your soil-less mixture. Using a seed starting mix that does not actually contain soil is a great way to ensure your seeds get off to a good start. Blending components such as compost, perlite, vermiculite and peat moss or coconut coir help seeds grow in a medium that is light and fine, holds onto moisture without getting soggy and prevents mold or fungi that is sometimes present in soil.

The soil-less mixture I used is as follows:

  • 4 parts compost
  • 1 part perlite
  • 1 part vermiculite
  • 2 parts peat moss or coconut coir

You can find all of these components at a plant nursery or gardening center. You can also buy a ready made seed starting mixture if you only plan to plant a few seeds. But if you want to get the most bang for your buck, it’s best to buy each component separately and make it yourself.

Compost is formed from decomposed organic material. It can be made of decomposed leaves, manure, fruits and vegetables, and other yard waste. Compost will feed the seedlings once they sprout.

Perlite looks a bit like Styrofoam (and I used to think that’s what it was!) but it is actually little bits of volcanic glass. It helps the soil-less mixture drain well and not get too compacted.

Vermiculite is a type of mineral that does not provide nutrients for the seedlings but instead helps the structure of the soil-less medium. It traps water and nutrients, which can then be used by the seedlings as needed.

Lastly, notice the recipe calls for peat moss or coconut coir. Peat moss is formed over hundreds of years in bogs, and is being over-harvested. A more sustainable alternative to peat moss is coir, which is a by-product of coconut fiber. I only recently learned that peat moss is not sustainable, so in the photos and video you’ll see that is what I used since that is what I had previously bought.

When you’re ready to plant your seeds, add some water to the soil-less mix so the soil holds together a bit and is ready to incubate a little seed.

My soil blend

Trays

I ordered trays online that had 40 cells per tray, as well as a base and a cover. These worked out well for me, however, I think next time I may order more trays with larger, fewer cells per tray. Some of my seedlings did not get as large as I’d hoped before I was ready to transplant them.

Take a look at the seeds you hope to plant and ask yourself how much space will it need to put down roots? How much time do you plant to keep it in the trays before transplanting? If the seeds are started in January and not transplanted until May (ahem, that was me) then you may want to opt for larger cells in your seed starting trays. But if you plant the seeds in February and plant them in April, then they may do find in the smaller-celled trays.

Seedling Trays

Heat Mat

I used heat mats underneath my seed trays in order to provide them with constant warmth so they could germinate quickly. Heat is important to the seed. It sends information that it’s safe to come out. The conditions are right, and it can start to grow. These are the heat mats I used.

Watering

It’s important to keep the seeds moist in order for them to germinate. You can buy special seed watering attachments, such as this one, but I chose instead to use a hack involving a colander and a pitcher.

I placed my tray of seeds in the sink, held the colander over top, and poured water gently through the colander. It worked pretty well!

Keep your seeds moist but not soggy in order for them to germinate quickly.

My watering hack: a colander and a pitcher

Plant!

When your set up is ready to go, you are ready to plant. As a general rule, the smaller the seed, the more shallow you plant it. The larger the seed, the deeper your plant it.

Refer to the seed packets for specific information regarding each seed type. Some seeds need to be soaked overnight or nicked to encourage it to germinate.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more ideas on how to turn your land into food.

Rebekah