Seed Starting 101 – Part 2: A Pictorial Guide


In yesterday’s post, we discussed the three basic requirements of starting seeds: temperature, water and light. Today we’ll be looking at the down and dirty (pun intended) of sowing your own seeds. It’s very important for your flats to be clean and sanitized so we’ll start there in our journey.

seed starting

You can see in this picture that I’ve used a large tub to sanitize the flats. I added a nice sized serving of bleach to the water; I like for the water to smell good and bleachy. The general rule of thumb is that you want a 10% bleach solution. If you want to measure, knock yourself out; I’m just not that kind of person.

seed starting

I then laid the flats out to dry in the sunshine. Sunlight is nature’s sanitizer.

seed starting

I still haven’t purchased any seed starting media and I had Jiffy pellets left over from last year so I used them. Here you can see them in the flats waiting for water.

seed starting

I added about a quart of water to the flat and allowed the pellets to absorb the moisture. I had to go back and add a little water over the top to make sure that the pellets were wet all the way through. Peat is sneaky in that it can look perfectly wet but when you scratch the surface it can be bone dry underneath. When it’s dry, it’s hydrophobic which means that it repels water…don’t let your peat dry out once it’s wet or it will revert to its hydrophobic nature.

seed starting

I like to take a toothpick and pull the netting back from the center of the pellets. In the past, I’ve had seeds try to germinate under the netting and then die from not being able to make it past the netting.

seed starting

I then sow at least two seeds in each pellet. If they both germinate, I can always cut the weakest one off at the soil line later. These are cabbage seeds…can you see them in there?

seed starting

I then use my finger to press the seeds down…it’s important to ensure that there is good seed to soil contact. Otherwise, your seeds may germinate but quickly die when there isn’t any soil around to grab hold to. I also cover them with a tiny bit of soil for good measure.

seed starting

The next step is to label everything. I used the craft-style tongue depressers broken into fourths. I wrote on them with a sharpie and stuck them in peat pellet themselves. I try to sow in groups of 6 or however many pellets form a line. I also had some larger peat pellets so I sowed those in rows of 5. Here are the 15 cabbage seedlings I’m starting.

seed starting

And I just continued on down the line and sowed broccoli, cauliflower, onions and asparagus. Yes, I even sowed asparagus. I know it’s easier to buy them bareroot but where’s the fun in that?

seed starting

Here is the final picture. The lights are set up and the seeds are waiting for the the combination of temperature, water and light to be met so that they can germinate.

Join us tomorrow for more Mid-Atlantic Gardening adventures in seed starting. We’ll talk about which types of lights to use and how you can get more light for less money. Leave me a comment below or e-mail me at Happy gardening!

February 29, 2012Permalink 8 Comments

8 thoughts on “Seed Starting 101 – Part 2: A Pictorial Guide

  1. Over the past few years I drape alum. foil over the light & down along the sides of the flats. This reflects more light in and also keeps heat in. I also start with the light 2″ – 3″ from the soil.

    • OK Steve…have you hacked into my post for today? That is one of the things that we will be looking at in today’s post. I like to be thrifty (not cheap lol) and I use the foil too. Glad to hear that I’m not alone!

  2. Pingback: Seed Starting 101 Part 4: A Week in the Life of a SeedMid-Atlantic Gardening

  3. Pingback: Seed Starting 101: Part 1Mid-Atlantic Gardening

  4. Pingback: Seed Starting 101 Part 3: LightingMid-Atlantic Gardening

  5. OMG did anyone else notice the adorable little baby slug hatchling? Bottom right corner of 4th pic, right on one of the pots. So cute! As long as he doesn’t get bigger lol

  6. I was watching you-tube and you were using a seed starting guide sheet. I haven’t been able to find it. Can you tell me how to find it.

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