Starting From Seed
 
Growing a garden from seed is rewarding and not as hard as it may seem. The key in germination is knowing what to do and when to do it.  Information on this page can be used as a helpful guide. 

Before getting started, here are a few things you will need:

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1 - Containers: Either purchased or saved (i.e. egg cartons or cleaned yogurt cups)
2 - Soilless potting mix: Starter or sterile soil is best; no chance of unwanted weeds
3 - Markers or Labels: Use to keep track of what is planted in each container
4 - Seeds: Your choice
5 - Plastic Cover or Bags: Use to keep soil/seeds moist by creating a micro-environment
6 - Water and Heat: Both required for germination to occur
7 - Light Source: Growing lights (6000-6500°K) positioned 4-6 inches over the seedlings is ideal

Most seeds can be started or germinated easily when the environmental conditions will allow. Reproducing the natural necessary conditions would include these basic needs: heat, moisture, light and oxygen.  Also, it's important to remember that seeds germinate at different times. Some will germinate in a few days where others may take several weeks.
 
The first important step is to check for or make adequate drainage holes in the containers, then fill each container about three-fourths full of the potting mix (seed starter mix or sterile new potting mix is best). Sow the desired seeds in each container and use a label to identify the seed type (this is really helpful later).
   
When seeds have been placed and covered with the potting mix at the desired depth (the standard being the same depth of soil as the width of the seed), it is best to use a squirt bottle to moisten the soil and avoid disturbing seed placement. Cover each container with a plastic bag but don't seal as air circulation is needed, or you can place them in a large storage container with a lid placed lightly allowing for ventilation. Place the newly sown seeds in a warm environment such as on top of a water heater or furnace, then check daily. Spay with water each day making sure that the potting mix doesn't dry out, but be careful not to use too much water so that the containers are sitting in water. The potting mix should be moist, not soggy. 
    
Soon, leaves will appear and will need 14-16 hours of light each day. Since a sunny window, atrium or greenhouse may not available, use growing lights that are placed about 4 to 6 inches above the plants. The best lights to use for starting plants are those that burn 'cooler' or emit blue light (6000-6500°K). Any plastic covers may need to be removed now, and remember to turn lights off during night as the seedlings will need rest. If the seedling grow long and seem to be reaching for the light, reposition them to be closer to the light source.  The small plants will need less frequent, but deeper watering (use a water-can now) making sure the soil is moist. A diluted water-soluble fertilizer should be applied with each watering.  Keep the small seedlings warm (55-70 degrees). Once the small plants are a few inches tall and have developed their true leaves (second set), they can start to be 'hardened' off (see our 'Gardening Tips' page).  This means that they are placed in an environment that allows the plant to become tolerant of a wider temperature range, and direct sun light.  A 'cold frame' is ideal (see our 'Recommended Books/Articles' page for 'cold frame' instructions).  Transplant the small plants to their final location after a minimal two week 'hardening' off period.  

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