Whatever your motivation is for starting seeds indoors, the process can be fun and simple. When you understand what factors influence a seed you'll be able to create a formula for success, and then repeat it again and again.
Light is one of the most important factors to creating a healthy, strong seedling. There are some seeds, usually very tiny ones, which receive part of their signals to germinate from light. These seeds should be only lightly covered or sprinkled directly on top of moist soil. Some seeds, usually larger ones, can have their germination inhibited by exposure to light. It is vital that these seeds are sown deep enough to be in complete darkness until germinated. Your Botanical Interests seed packet will have any special sowing instructions you need to consider.
Ample light is also one on the major factors influencing the physical strength of seedlings. Sufficiently intense light of the right duration will make a shorter, stronger seedling than weaker light sources. A basic and adequate setup can be as simple as four fluorescent tubes, two cool and two warm spectrum, hung no more than three inches from the top of your seedlings. A timer will help you consistently deliver 14 hours or more of light per day.
Temperature is the factor in the life of a plant, especially germination, which governs the rate at which things happen. While the ideal germination temperature for some plants may be higher or lower, normal household temperatures are usually within the range that encourages germination in a vast majority of commonly grown plants. If temperatures are too low, germination may slow or stop entirely. There are some plants that germinate at a higher ideal temperature. Many of these are tropical plants grown as annual flowers and vegetables in cooler climates. They include but are not limited to: asparagus, begonia, celosia, impatiens, petunia, tomato, watermelon, cucumber, eggplant, pepper, pumpkin, zucchini, and melons. All of these plants germinate at an ideal temperature above 70° F. You can increase germination percentage and speed by applying heat to your soil. You can do this by placing trays and pots near a heat vent, radiator, or other gentle heat source. You can also buy a specially designed heat mat made for this purpose at your garden center.
There is more water in a plant than any other constituent. The way you apply it becomes one of the most important factors in determining the overall health of your seedlings. When a seed comes in contact with water it begins to absorb it. This signals to the plant that it is time to come out of dormancy, germinate, and grow. The plants are fragile in the early stages of life. At this time, consistent moisture is vital. When starting seed indoors, they depend on you to create and maintain the right amount of moisture in their surroundings. After sowing, seeds should be watered gently, but thoroughly. If your seeds are tiny, or are to be sown shallow, you may want to wet your soil before sowing. Moisture should be maintained consistently after the first watering, but never to the point of soggy soil. Saturated soil can create conditions that will rot your seeds before they germinate. You can cover your seeds with plastic wrap, removing it after seedlings emerge. There are also capillary mats that supply water, via wicking, to the bottom of containers. This is a good choice if your containers are relatively shallow. If your sown seeds are allowed to dry out too much after germination, they may die.
Now that you know what a growing seed requires you can try starting some, or all, of your garden indoors. The best place to start is with your Botanical Interests seed packet. The back and inside of the packet contains all the information you need to you plan your garden and start your seeds. First, read the packet and determine if the seed you've chosen should be started indoors, and if so, when. Next you'll notice that the packet tells you how deep to sow the seed. Following the guidelines above, assemble your containers and soil, and then sow your seed. After watering your seed, vigilance and the right temperature will produce a seedling that immediately needs to be placed in a very well lit environment. Now it is time to carefully grow your seedling into a viable and healthy transplant.
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