When I first started seriously gardening, I bought most plants from local greenhouses. I direct seeded what I could but things like tomatoes and peppers were purchased to transplant. Eventually, as I think happens to many gardeners, I wanted to start seeds at home to take advantage of a wider variety as well as start saving my own seed. Seed starting can seem intimidating at first, but it's not as mysterious or cumbersome as it may appear. Here are 3 ways to start seeds at home.
First things, first – make sure you know when to start those seeds. Check seed packets and know minimum starting time (4 weeks? 6 weeks?) before putting those plants into the garden. A little planning ahead of time can go a long way into having a productive garden.
Start Seeds in a Sunny Window
Plant those seeds in some good soil, in a pot and let them sit a sunny window. Keep them warm and give them water and they should sprout for you. Starting seeds this way requires a hardening off period, which is just moving them outside slowly to get them used to outside temperatures and direct sunlight. A cold frame can make this hardening off process happen more quickly but isn't necessary.
This is, of course, the most frugal option and if you reuse pots and share seeds with friends, this is much cheaper than buying starts locally.
Use Grow Lights to Start Seeds Indoors
Seeds can be started in a dark space by using grow lights in a basement or closet. While some of these systems can be quite expense, there are plenty of D.I.Y. plans online. This can be a great system for folks in apartments to start seeds before planting in a community garden.
Greenhouses to Start Seeds
There are many options here from plastic covered pallets, reusing old doors and windows, to rather fancy glass buildings. For years, I used a mini-greenhouse shelf. It was great for getting seeds started outside but trays needed to be brought inside during the coldest nights, It also didn't stand up to wind at all, in my experience. If you use one of those shelves put it somewhere protected.
These days, I use a full-size 8′ X 8′ greenhouse with seedling mats and a small heater that kicks on only if the temperature drops below 40. It's a great system for a small grower. Greenhouses can be very expensive but with a little research and some basic building skills, it's easy to find something to fit most every budget.
Once you decide on how to start seeds, start slowly and work up to more each year. The great thing about starting seeds at home is that you can pick unusual varieties that local greenhouses might not carry and further develop saved seed that is perfectly suited for your garden.
So get out that garden planner and don't be shy this year, start seeds at home and kick off the garden season in true D.I.Y. style. Be sure to keep track of what you do in your Garden Notebook so that you can refer to it next year and make improvements where necessary.