Seed Starting Time!

Spring is just around the corner! Hopefully spring weather will arrive to stay soon! But, these occasional spring like weather days have our green thumbs throbbing to get planting. Luckily, it’s time to start seeds indoors to help calm that throbbing thumb. 

What to start?
Now is the best time to start most of the vegetable and flower seeds inside for Berks County Region. There are some vegetables like peas, beans, squash, watermelon, pumpkins, sunflowers, etc. that do best directly sowed in the ground. (Now is the time to plant peas outside!)

How to Start Seeds?
Lights: You need a light source for the seedlings. That sunny window may be okay… but typically leads to lanky seedlings stretching for the sunlight. So, a plant light hung just above them is best to prevent leggy seedlings. The plant light should be set up  so you can raise and adjust the height as the plants grow.

Trays/containers: You will need a container to start the seeds, this can be reused containers, plantable pots, planting trays, flower pots, homemade paper pots, etc. There is no one set solution. It depends on what you are growing and your growing area set up. I will say if you want to start anything that is recommended to direct seed or does not like the roots disturbed, then I would recommend using the plantable pots or homemade paper pots where the whole pot can be transplanted in the ground without disturbing the plant roots.

Water: You will need to water the seedlings. You can use plastic domes to develop a greenhouse effect if you would like, but make sure the seedling are not touching the dome. If they are touching they will rot. Also, make sure you have the correct amount of moisture under the dome. Too much moisture in the domed system will lead to rotting and molding of your seedlings. I recommend the ability to add water to a tray or saucer and let the soil wick the water up. Many times young seedlings are sensitive to watering from above, they may be knocked down by the impact from a watering can and not able to stand back up. But again, one method doesn’t work for everyone.

How warm does it need to be to start seeds?

Warm soil temperatures help to speed up the chemical reaction that is required to break down the protective coatings of the seeds to wake them up and start to grow. Again, there isn't a one size fits all magical number. But, generally a soil temperature between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for a number of plants. Does the air temperature need to be this warm? Not necessarily. The soil temperature is key for getting seeds to start going. So, a heat mat can provide warm soil temperatures without having to provide warm air temperature. Typically, air temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit are sufficient for seedlings as long as their roots are kept warmer.

How long does it take to start seeds?
Typically, seeds are started 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. There are some fast growing plants like tomatoes that only require 4 to 6 weeks before frost to be seeded. But, then there are seeds like onions that require to be started 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost date. Most seed packets contain the recommendations for planting, which include how many weeks before the last frost to start the seeds indoors.

How do I transition seedlings to outside?
After all your hard work of starting the seeds indoors, the key is not to shock the seedlings when you are ready to plant them outdoors. The plants should have a "transitional" period between growing indoors and being planted outside. This is easily done by placing the plants outside in a protected area in a shady spot or on a cloudy day. Over the next day or two introduce the seedlings to sun and the normal temperatures. Make sure to keep the seedlings watered! They will dry out fast since they are in small pots and making this transition to sunny warm locations.

So, get your green thumb started today with planting some seeds. In about 4-6 weeks the weather should be ready for your seedlings to transition to your garden! Spring is arriving soon!

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