Ingredients

What Kind of Starting System?

First, choose your tray type. Here are a few options of what you can buy:

There are several types of trays for you to consider; an open cell tray, Jiffy peat pellets, pure peat pots, or a mini-greenhouse with water well. Any tray needs to have holes in the bottom for drainage and should be placed into another container that catches the drainage and creates a water well.

The first choice, cell trays, has individual cell spaces with holes in the bottom, similar to the old ice cube trays. They need to be filled with a seed starting soil.

The second choice, Jiffy peat pellets, is a compressed peat disc that expands to 7 times its’ size when put in water. They contain sterile sphagnum peat with enough nutrients to grow the plants to full planting size. When ready, you plant the pot and the plant continues to grow uninterrupted. You can buy individual peat pellets or peat pellet greenhouses that come with their own domes.

The third choice, pure peat pots, can be either a single pot or a tray of pots, similar again to the old ice cube trays. They need to be filled with a seed starting soil. Pure peat pots are made from formed, compressed peat moss and eliminate transplanting shock because like the peat pellets you plant the whole pot directly into the ground.

Both of these peat options are good for plants that do not like their roots disturbed in transplanting. These include melons, cucumbers and peppers.

My favorite system to start seedlings is a mini-greenhouse with water well. As you can see, before and after germination, your seeds receive just as much light, water, heat, and air circulation as they need, thanks to the adjustable vents and bottom-tray watering design.

Whatever system you use you need to have a source of light and warmth. Place the seedlings in a sunny spot or window with Southern exposure. You can also use grow lights to get longer light times. There are both incandescent and fluorescent.

For a seed starter you need a Sphagnum moss and vermiculite mix, as they both hold moisture. Do not use potting soil. Before putting into the trays, prepare the seed mix in a bucket by adding enough water to get it soaking but not soupy.

Directions

What Are Seedling Start Dates?

To get maximum growing times from your seedlings you want to start several weeks before the last possible day of frost. In New England you can use the following as a guide as to how many weeks you could start the seedlings before setting them out in your garden.

Cold weather leaf crops such as lettuce: 6 – 8 weeks
Warm weather leaf crops such as basil:  6 – 8 weeks
Cold weather plants such as broccoli and cauliflower: 8 weeks
Cold weather plants such as leeks and onions: 12 weeks
Warm weather plants such as tomatoes and peppers: 10 – 12 weeks
Every gardener can, with some simple planning, have the satisfaction of starting many of his garden plants from seed indoors in the early spring so that they are ready for transplanting into the garden come planting time. When you live in areas such as the Northeast where the growing season is relatively short (90 to 120 days), you may want to consider starting your seedlings indoors. By doing this you can lengthen your growing season by several weeks.

The other alternative is to buy starter plants at a nursery or garden shop, but of course that will cost you more money and you may not always find the variety and quality of plants that you want. Plus you will miss out on a little of the satisfaction of witnessing the miracle of growth. If you do start from seeds and some of them do not work out, you can always buy from the garden center anyway.

To many of us home gardeners growing your own plants from seed is very satisfying. There is something about harvesting a vegetable that you know you started as a seed, and by the miracle of growth it becomes one of the best tasting tomatoes, cucumbers or lettuces you have ever eaten. No matter what your occupation or where you live, it brings you closer to nature, a feeling that is often lost in our busy lives in the modern world we live in.

We also need to think about the health benefits of growing your own vegetables. First, it is good outdoor exercise that you can do on a regular basis, probably at least three times a week, and it does not have to take too much of your time. Gardening provides the regular physical exercise listed in the prevention of heart disease, obesity, adult-onset diabetes and high blood pressure. Second, if you want to grow it that way, there are health benefits to eating good, nutritious food that is pesticide and fertilizer free. The choice is yours but however you do it you will always know what the true source of your food is.

Lastly, never underestimate the importance and value of participating in a stress reliever such as gardening. It never fails to relieve much of the stress I feel from the surgery department at the hospital. Gardening requires you to live in garden time, in the present tense and in the moment. We all could use a lesson in slowing down. Studies have revealed just viewing a garden or nature has healthy psychological benefits.

You should always have fun gardening. Just relax and remember your garden doesn't have to be picture perfect all the time. Whether it's a window box or a large garden, you will be healthier for it. It has been repeated often that "gardening is a labor of love. A treadmill is just labor."

Here we will show you how it is relatively easy and rewarding to start some of your own vegetable garden plants.  You will need a seed starter grow media, containers, and a proper light source.  I will show you how to do it step by step.
Seedling Start Materials
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