Seed Starting Season is almost here!
With the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having, it’s easy to forget there are still seven weeks until spring.
For those of us eager to get our hands dirty again, it’s never too early to get ready to start planning our gardens.
There are several garden staples that can be started now or very soon, so now is a great time to get organized!
Understandably, many new gardeners are not familiar with when or how to start vegetables from seed.
Some of our favourite vegetables should be started indoors in pots or trays, because they cannot grow to maturity in the short, cool summers of our climate.
Starting them indoors gives them a head start and provides an optimal environment in which to germinate.
For these seeds, it doesn’t take a large investment or professional greenhouse to get started, just a bit of time and patience.
Before you begin:
- Decide where you want to start your seeds. You will need adequate light from a window, or somewhere to set up a grow light (broad-spectrum fluorescent lights or LED’s are great options). The location of your set-up will determine how much space you have, so you can then decide how many and what type of containers you have room for.
- If you want to re-use a container that had plants in it before, make sure you clean it well, to remove any residual bacteria or fungi that may harm the delicate seedlings.
- Ensure that your containers of choice also have adequate drainage, so that the seedlings are not sitting in water.
Soil & Water:
Your choice of seedling mix is also very important. Black Gold Seedling Mix is a great choice; this OMRI Certified Organic mix of fine peat and perlite is a great way of getting dependable germination rates, even for the tiniest seeds.
- Always moisten your seedling mix slightly and break up any clumps before filling your containers evenly, and then gently firm down the surface of mix.
- Refer to your packet of seeds to see how deep they need to be planted, and how far apart.
- You can use a pencil to poke holes at the correct depth, and then pinch the holes closed.
- Using a spray bottle or watering can fitted with a fine rosette will moisten the soil without disturbing it.
- A humidity dome is helpful to prevent the surface of the seedling mix from drying out too quickly.
TIP: If you want even more of a head start, some types of seeds germinate faster when a heat mat is placed under the seedling trays or pots.
Keep in mind that there are some vegetables that should generally only ever be seeded directly into your garden. For example, some cool season leafy veggies with fewer days to maturity prefer to be direct-sown. So why not expand your repertoire of (health-supporting) greens by trying something more unusual, such as mustard greens, claytonia, or mâche/corn salad? These seeds can all be planted outside now!
If you’re wondering about what and when to start seeds indoors, transplant, or direct sow in our climate, a great resource is the West Coast Seed Gardening Guide, which contains invaluable planting charts that are tailored to our climate in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. You can pick one up for free at any GardenWorks location.
Materials List for Starting Seeds Indoors
- High-quality seed – Investigate different options for each type of vegetable you want to grow. Different varieties may have varying size, flavour, days to maturity, tendency to bolt, disease resistance, cold/heat tolerance, etc.
- Sterile potting mix – Black Gold Seedling Mix is a great choice
- Container – Clean tray or pot with good drainage.
- Light source
- Spray bottle or watering can with fine rosette
- Seed-starting Journal: keep track of when and how you plant your seeds; this allows you to adjust your methods next time if needed (or know exactly how to repeat your success!)
- Humidity Dome
- Heat Mat (optional)
As always, for more information, visit your nearest GardenWorks and talk to one of our knowledgeable staff—we are eager to share our knowledge and passion for growing!
For more online on Seed Starting Indoors, download our full tip sheet here.
Written by: Chantel Taylor