by Mary Jane Parker, Master Gardener
I have been starting seeds indoors since I was a kid. This was probably the fault of an early teacher for introducing me to Dixie cups and bean seeds or half egg shells as pots. I have run the gamut of single grow lights to a full-fledged grow room with a 1000 watt metal halide lamp on a track – serious stuff. I currently make do with a 3-tiered system which gives me everything I need.
First tip – Pay attention to seed packet instructions if available. They contain the best advice possible for timing. Obvious but a lot of people ignore that.
Choice of potting mix is personal and requires a trial and error mode to find out what works for you. I personally use a local product because I witnessed someone who owns a commercial nursery trotting out of a store with multiple bags. I thought, hmm, I’m going to try this and have used it ever since.
Damping off has to be the biggest issue I have faced starting seeds early. There is nothing worse than seeing your wonderful little seedlings wither and die. For years I mixed No Damp with my soil when potting seeds for ornamental (not food) plants.
When this became unavailable, I started using very strong chamomile tea as a soil drench and spray. Seems to work for me. I have also at times sprinkled cinnamon on the soil surface.
Two other important techniques/tools for indoor seeding are air flow – I use a fan when plants are a few inches high. This really strengthens the plants. And before I even start, I sterilize all my trays, etc. because I reuse them for years.
That’s pretty well it and then it is as Garry Edwards of Meadowview Gardens says “You might as well forget it if they dry out. Seedlings do not thrive on neglect.”
P.S. Garry Edwards suggested that seed packets do not always contain correct info. He noted many instances where they were totally wrong. He also concurred that air flow is important.