On your mark, get set, Start Your Seeds!

The basic idea behind starting seeds is that you plant seeds and keep them indoors while it is still too cold outside. Then when it is warm enough for the seedlings to thrive outdoors you transplant them to their permanent (or annual) home in your garden. You can of course purchase seedlings at a garden supply center, and some people prefer to do so. But there are several advantages to starting your own seeds.

For people who wish they could be gardening year-round, starting seeds can be a fun and fulfilling way to be involved in the growing process earlier than you would otherwise be able to.  Starting plants from seeds is the way to be able to grow more than the basic varieties available at your garden center. If you love to try new varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, then starting seeds is for you.

Keep in mind that not all plant varieties do well as starts. For instance, cilantro, dill, fennel, chervil, and borage should be planted directly into your garden because they don’t like to be transplanted. To know which plants will transplant well, you will simply have to read seed package labels, ask a knowledgeable garden center employee, or talk to people who have experience gardening in your climate.

In general (and, again, check your seed packet for specifics), you will need to start your seeds six to eight weeks before the average date of last frost in your area. You don’t want to start seeds too early, or they will be too big and weak for transplant by the time it warms up.

To start seeds you will need containers, a seed-starting medium, seeds and a way to label your starts. You definitely don’t need anything fancy in the way of containers. Just an egg carton or clean yogurt cups will work great. You do need to purchase a starting mix that is specific to seeds, as seeds don’t actually want or need a very nutrient dense soil. Ask your garden center employee to advise based on what is available in your area. Seeds can be purchased at garden centers, or, for more specialty purchases, special ordered through garden centers online or from your local farmers. Lastly, make sure you label your starts. They will be indistinguishable for a while, and you want to make sure you know what is what. Again, nothing fancy is required here—a piece of masking tape and a permanent marker will work great.

If there is any one best tip for success when it comes to seed starts, it would be to carefully read and heed the instructions found on your seed packets. Seeds vary in their temperature, water, and light needs and your seed packets will tell you everything you need to know. In fact, it would be a great idea to make a photo copy, or save your seed packets for future reference.

Do you have any advice for people just learning to start seeds? Clue us in in the comments below, or leave your tips on Facebook or Twitter. Also, don’t forget to check out our Pinterest page or YouTube channel for more great gardening tips!