Simple Answers for Healthier Families
You might have heard that gardeners may live longer than non-gardeners. While a lot of the evidence is anecdotal, I believe it! It makes sense that gardening is beneficial to our health because it’s a reason to spend time outdoors and eat more veggies while you’re at it.
If you’re looking to start your own garden for healthy produce, you may get the idea to try starting seeds indoors rather than buying them from your local greenhouse. It saves money over buying more mature plants and is a great learning experience for the kids (and the adults too!).
I’ve had wins and losses when it comes to starting my own seedlings, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about gardening, it’s that there’s no better way to learn it than to just roll up your sleeves… and get dirty!
The timing of starting seeds indoors is going to be different for everyone depending on location. Typically you will look at your last frost date in your area to determine when you need to start your seeds.
Depending on where you live, you can start many seeds inside to extend the growing season. On the other hand, there are some seeds that do best directly sowed into the ground.
If you’re new to gardening, the information on the seed packet is a handy resource. There will be instructions for planting and it will mention whether the seeds should be sowed directly outside or planted indoors before being moved outside.
As a rule of thumb, these seeds do well started indoors:
And these are seeds to plant directly in the ground outside:
Luckily, most seed packets will tell you if you should start your seeds inside or direct sow them, taking the guesswork out of it for you. If you’re a beginner, opt for seed packets that give extensive information on the packet.
Knowing how much to grow is a really individual thing and many people don’t get it right even after years of experience. But to give you a roundabout answer you can look at this calculator to see how many seeds you should plant per person in your family for each kind of plant.
Most seed isn’t expensive and a little goes a long way, so don’t stress too much about this part. After all, if you end up with too many seedlings to fit in your square foot garden, the worst that can happen is that you have gifts for your friends and family members! I’ve even sold my extra seedlings or offered them for free on local swap websites before. It can be a great way to connect with fellow gardeners in your area.
Starting your own seeds indoors is fairly easy. Seeds need a healthy growing medium, water, and sun (or artificial light) to grow. Here’s what you need to get started:
Now, we get to work!
To speed up the process, you can pre-germinate the seeds in unbleached coffee filters or paper towels in unzipped plastic bags.
Plants that like warmer temperatures (~60-80 degrees) for germinating include tomatoes, peppers, and squash. Keep these plants warm the first few days after planting, using a heat mat if necessary. (These are also useful for fermenting kombucha or yogurt!
Plants that need cooler temperatures (~50 degrees) include lettuces, greens, and peas. These usually grow well in a room temperature house without any extra warmth.
Tip: A good rule of thumb to tell what temperature your seeds need for germination is to look at when they can be transplanted outside. Plants that can be set out near the last frost likely need a lower germination temperature. The plants that must wait 4-6 weeks (or longer) after the last frost to go outside likely need a higher germination temperature.
If you’re a beginner you may feel overwhelmed when it comes to choosing which plants to start with. My best tip here: it’s a good idea to start slow and learn with just a few plants.
Which plants you start with is going to depend on your priorities and where you live but here are some basic guidelines:
You also want to choose plants that are easy to grow. Here are some of the easiest plants to grow (even for beginners):
I recommend picking no more than 10 different plants to grow. This will help you learn about the ones you are growing and become an expert in those plants before expanding to more. Remember, it’s not just starting the seeds and caring for the young seedlings you need to worry about. You are also responsible for transplanting, caring for the garden, harvesting, and preserving your plants!
If you prefer a one-stop shop approach, this all-in-one veggie variety pack has most of the suggestions above and sticks to the rule of 10 or less.
About a week before it’s time to plant (remember, you calculated that based on the last frost date and the type of seed), start to reduce the frequency of watering. Expose heat-loving plants like tomatoes to sunlight outdoors in small doses in a spot sheltered from wind. This is called “hardening off.”
Follow these tips for transplanting and watch your babies grow!
Starting seeds indoors can be a fun way to get a jump on the season. It does take a little extra time and effort (and resilience when some things don’t grow!), but you’ll be rewarded with a wide array of heirloom and non-GMO veggies and flowers for your garden!
Have you started any seeds yet? What are your tips and tricks?
Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder and CEO of Wellness Mama and Co-Founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a wife and mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.
Is it okay to buy non organic seedlings? Hard to find organic.
Thank you so much for this. I haven’t gardened in years and this guide will be so helpful!
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