Gardening Ideas: Starting Seeds Indoors

selective focus photo of plant sprouts

It’s easy to get excited about spring in North Carolina. The weather’s nice, the sun is shining, and the pollen is billowing with every breeze. Even though we are currently (at the time I’m writing this) under a stay-at-home order, everything inside us wants to be outside in the spring sunshine. 

Outdoor gardening is one way to get outside while still enjoying your time at home. If you start things from scratch, you can even watch your plants grow from seedlings to full-grown. Starting your plants from seeds is also a great project to do with kids!

In most cases, seed packets often have guidelines about when to start seeds indoors, germination information, the estimated days to maturity, and other growing tips. These packets are a good place to start when you’re looking for information about your selected plants, including what to expect from certain growing zones (like how the seeds will respond to North Carolina weather).

Containers and Soil

When starting from seeds, you don’t need to have huge containers. You can start with small containers and then transfer the seedlings to the ground or larger containers once they are established. What kind of containers? You don’t even need to make a trip out - you can use what you have on hand! Egg cartons, yogurt cups, milk cartons, berry containers, cherry tomato containers, are all good options for starting seeds. If you’re feeling really crafty, you can even make your own biodegradable pots from newspaper!

When it comes to soil, make sure you start your seeds in potting soil. Don’t try to use dirt from the garden or recycle dirt from your existing houseplants. To make sure your seedlings get the best start possible, fill your containers with fresh potting soil mix.

Planting

Your seed packet will give advice on how deep the seeds should be. Some smaller seeds can be sprinkled right on the surface of the soil, while larger seeds will need to be buried a little deeper. Make sure you place more than one seed in each container (try two or three), just in case one doesn’t take. You can always thin your seedlings later once they’ve sprouted.

Water

When you’re starting seeds, the soil should be moist, but not soaking wet. Too much water can inhibit germination. Cover the container to hold in humidity while the seeds sprout, but allow for a little air circulation. When you see the first signs of green, you can remove the cover.

Light & Warmth

Both of these are important to get your seeds started, but warmth is probably number one. Keeping your seeds warm helps with the sprouting stage when the root and leaves emerge from the seed. You can get this effect by leaving your seed containers on a warm, sunny windowsill.

Check your seeds daily. You don’t have to baby them too much - just make sure the soil stays moist (again, not soaking wet), and that they are in a warm place. Once the seeds have sprouted, you can gradually move them outside. Place your new plants in a protected spot outdoors (partially shaded, out of the wind) for a few hours a day. Bring them inside at night as they gradually become accustomed to the outdoor environment. Over the course of about a week to ten days, your seedlings can be exposed to more and more sun and wind, and you can finally plant them in the ground or transfer them to a larger container.

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