Indoor Gardening: Starting Seeds Inside Indoor Gardening: Starting Seeds Inside

Spring is around the corner, and no matter where you live or what season you are in, your garden could use a head start. Give the garden production a boost by starting your garden inside. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Grow Lights
Some houses have a window that is naturally sunny. But most often you will need to supplement your plants with artificial light. There are lights, commonly called grow lights, that are used to do this task. You can buy these at any home and garden store.

These grow lights are a flourescent light. They give off the appropriate wave lengths of light needed for plant growth. If the budget is tight or you can't find grow lights, then consider using a kitchen flourescent light.

Seed Selection
Most seed packets will have exact requirements of seed growth. Read the directions carefully. If you can't find specific instructions, ask a local plant nursery or someone in the home and garden department at the local store if they can help you. Many agriculture extensions of a local university may also be of some help in cases of germination and growing.

Want to know if you got a great selection of seeds? Take ten of the seeds and place them in between two wet paper towels. At least a 60 to 70 percent germination rate is essential to a good proper planting. If in a couple days time, at least six of them grow, then you have a chance of good germination rate. If you have six or fewer, you are likely to have a high failure rate of germination. Buy new seeds if this latter event happens.

Soil Type
Good soil is important for proper growth of young plants. There are many types of soil commonly used in starting seeds.

The best type of soil for seed starting is a commercial potting soil or germination mix. These are sterile, free of weed seeds and have the right amount of nutrients needed for newly emerging plants. You want the soil loamy, meaning it is full of air and very light.

Most germinating mixes contain some of the following: peat, perlite and vermiculite. Peat, also called peat moss, adds to the soil's ability of moisture retention. It helps keep the soil moist. But peat can be expensive and it is commonly found in swamps and wetlands, which are disappearing at alarming rates. Perlite and vermiculite do the same without needing peat. They add air and moisture to the soil. Perlite is easier to find and it tends to last longer, and it also has a more neutral pH which most plants require.

Placement and Setup of Plants
Containers that can be used to start seeds could include seed flats, peat pellets and pots and even plastic cups. As long as the drainage is proper, it can be used.

Place the seed in the soil no more deep than twice the size of the seed. Sprinkle the soil with a little bit of water, making sure not to over water it. You don't want water logged soil since the seed may rot.

Place the covered seeds about three to four inches away from the lights. Keep this distance throughout the growing process. Always make sure the plants aren't touching the lights. The lights give off some heat so being close ensures that the germinating seed gets enough warmth and light for efficient growth.

Hardening Off
Once the plants have gotten big enough, about four to six inches depending on the type of plant, you need to harden them off before transplanting them outside. Hardening off involves getting them used to outside conditions. You can do this several ways.

If you have a cold frame or greenhouse, this is the best way to harden the plants off for the garden. If you do not have either of these, place the plants outside during the day and bring them in at night for a few nights. Eventually leave them out a little bit longer, say a night or two, and bring them in. Eventually the plants will be used to the outside and you can transplant them into their regular garden spots.

Transplanting
Transplanting means you are taking plants from their original containers and placing them into their permanent bed, whether that be the ground, another bigger container or a raised bed.

There are a few things to consider when transplanting. You should transplant after properly hardening off the plants (see above).

Pull the plant gently from its current pot or growing spot. Make sure to keep as much of the germinating soil as you can, as that can help prevent transplant shock, a condition in which the plant doesn't take well to being in new surroundings. If you like, you can gently tug at the roots a bit to spread them out, but it's not really necessary. It just helps the roots reach out once they are in the ground or bed.

Place the plant into its permanent place and water if needed. During the first few days, the plant may seem to wither. But with careful observation, watering and fertilizing (if it’s necessary and proper for the specific plant) the plant should bounce back.

Starting seeds inside gives a great head start to the gardening season. With patience, time and a little extra effort you should have a great abundance of production. By planting at the optimal time and starting seeds inside you can ensure a continual harvest of plants such as vegetables.

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