Seed Starting Tips

At the moment I do not start a lot of my own seeds indoors because there just isn’t a great spot to set up a light system in our tiny house. But I began my gardening career starting and tending to thousands of tomato seedlings at a nursery and have started all sorts of seeds over the years. Even though I will be purchasing most of my own starts this year, I thought I’d share four tips for starting seeds indoors successfully.

Choosing what to start. I don’t usually start tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants. Even though these vegetables grow well from seed, I only plant one or two plants of each variety. So it doesn’t make sense for me to purchase an entire pack of seeds for each variety and grow tons of plants that I do not have room for in my garden. Instead, I reserve my limited seed starting space for vegetables that I plan on planting several seedlings of the same variety, such as broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, cucumber and pok choy. For plants that I want to grow from seedlings but don’t have room to start myself, I turn to local plant sales, farmers markets, and specialty nurseries because they often carry a big selection of unusual varieties.

Use seed-starting soil mix. This special seed-starting mix is lightweight, which makes it easy for the little seeds to send their roots down and their leaves up. It costs a bit more than regular potting mix, but I think its worth it.

Water with a spray bottle. It’s important to keep the soil moist as the seeds germinate and I find that spritzing the soil’s surface with water from a spray bottle is the easiest way to do this. Once the seedlings are up and growing, I put water in the tray below the plants. The seedlings wick water up as they need it and this strategy helps prevent mold and damping off—a fungal disease that thrives in wet soil and causes perfectly healthy seedlings to keel over.

Use a fan. I put a small fan next to my seedlings and turn it on low. This helps keep the air circulating—which prevents the dreaded damping off—and makes for sturdier seedlings.

Here are some great varieties to start at home:

‘Purple Peacock’ broccoli

‘Satsuki Midori’ cucumber

‘Forellenschluss’ lettuce

‘Red Choi’ pok choi (also sold as pok choy)

‘Chieftain Savoy’ cabbage