For most of North America it is still not to late to plant your seedling pots. This will give your vegetable plants a head start on their growing season.
No need to spend time and effort insuring your seeds are planted the correct depth and properly spaced.
Whether you are using homemade paper pots, egg cartons, paper or plastic cups or have splurged and purchased ready to use peat pots insure you fill them with a well draining starter potting mix.
Optimal seed-starter mix will allow:
Retention of Moisture
Drainage of Excess Water
Emergence of Seedlings (upward growth) and Penetration of Roots (downward growth)
Have Beneficial Microbes
DIY Organic starter mix:
4 parts screened compost
1 part perlite (a mineral available at most garden stores)
1 part vermiculite (another mineral available at most garden stores)
2 parts coir (coconut fiber) Optionally peat moss
A different version:
3 parts peat moss
1 part vermiculite
1/2 part perlite
1/4 tsp lime for 1 gallon of peat moss
6-8 Parts Pre-Soaked Organic Coir or Sphagnum Peat Moss
1 Part Perlite
1 Part Vermiculite
1 Part Vermicompost(worm based compost) or Compost
Seedlings require a considerable amount of light, make sure you have a sunny, south facing window. If seedlings don’t get enough light, they will be leggy and weak.
If you don’t have a sunny, south facing window, invest in grow lights and a timer . Set the timer for 15 hours a day, water regularly. If your seedlings roots dry out it will surely die.
Read the back of your seed packet to see how deep you should plant your seeds. Some of the small ones can be sprinkled right on the soil surface. Larger seeds will need to be buried. I plant two or 3 seeds per pot. If all seeds germinate, I snip all but one and let it grow. It’s helpful to make a couple divots(dimples) in each pot’s soil to accommodate the seeds. After you’ve dropped a seed in each divot, you can cover the seeds.
Moisten the newly planted seeds with a mister. To speed germination, cover the pots with plastic wrap or a plastic dome that fits over the seed starting tray. This helps keep the seeds moist before they germinate. When you see the first signs of green, remove the cover.
Water, feed, repeat as the seedlings grow, use a mister or a small watering can to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Let the soil dry slightly between watering. Feed the seedlings regularly with a liquid fertilizer, mixed at the recommended rate.
Seedlings need a lot of light. Rotate the pots regularly to keep plants from leaning into the light.
If you’re growing under lights, adjust them so they’re just a few inches above the tops of the seedlings. Set the lights on a timer for 15 hours a day. As the seedlings grow taller, raise the lights little by little.
Harden Off seedlings by move seedlings outdoors gradually. It’s not a good idea to move your seedlings directly from the protected environment of your home into the garden.
You’ve been coddling these seedlings for weeks, so they need a gradual transition to the great outdoors. About a week before you plan to set the seedlings into the garden, place them in a protected spot outdoors (partly shaded, out of the wind) for a few hours each day, bringing them in at night.
Gradually, over the course of a few day’s or up to 10 days, expose them to more and more sunshine and wind. A cold frame is a great place to harden off plants.
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