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Seed starting isn’t as hard as you might think. The tricky part is getting good germination and keeping the seedlings alive and thriving!
When I was a new gardener, I made a lot of mistakes. Sometimes I was lucky, and other times these mistakes caused me to lose my seedlings. It can be discouraging to see your plants dying when you worked so hard to get your garden started.
I’m too stubborn to give up and I want to encourage you not to give up either! Starting your own seeds is just like learning anything new, it takes time and practice. It’s worth it though as it opens a new world of vegetable, herb and flower varieties you can’t find locally.
You can easily avoid these seed starting mistakes, with some simple tips that will help you on your seed starting journey.
There’s a fine line between not watering the seedlings enough and watering them too much. When seeds are first starting or germinating they need a lot of moisture. Once they are up and the first true leaves have emerged, they don’t need as much. I tend to underwater them at this point because I don’t want to cause the stem to root from over-watering.
Starting seeds at the wrong time
I know this is the hardest one because we are all so eager to get those seeds started and be back in our gardens. I’ll be the first to admit I’m always champing at the bit for seed starting time to get here. I normally end up counting down the days’ till when we start seeds. I have found it helps to have a garden plan with dates marked for when you can start each thing you’ll be growing. I do this by taking my last average frost date and counting back how many weeks it takes for your seedlings to go outside safely.
There are several free seed starting planners/calculators available online that will do all the work for you enter your last frost date.
Not Hardening Off
Seedlings are delicate and need to be cared for gently. When it’s time to transplant your seedlings, you can’t just stick them outside and hope for the best. Well, I reckon you could but the outcome wouldn’t be what you expected after all the work you put in at the start.
You’ll want to expose them gradually to the elements outside. I start with just an hour or two outside not in the direct sunlight and with a wind block. Then bring them back inside and repeat the process over about the next 10 days leaving them out a little longer each time and letting them get more wind.
It never fails a Gail Force wind comes through some time when I’m trying to harden off my seedlings but they normally do just fine and bounce right back.
This is big even for the most experienced gardeners. You get all those seed catalogs and want to grow EVERYTHING. Before you know it you’ve ordered more seed than you planned and have no idea where you’ll plant half of what you bought. Been there done that and I’ll probably do it again lol.
For beginner gardeners, I suggest you start by trying a few varieties and taking your time to expand to all the things. It pays off so you don’t end up frustrated and quitting. Before you know it, you’ll be growing 10 different tomatoes and 4 kinds of peppers and well you get the idea lol.
Even if you’ve made mistakes starting seeds don’t give up, it’s so rewarding when you get those first bites from your own plants you’ve cared for all season.