If you’re looking to decrease your dependence on large retailers for fresh, chemical-free produce — or even if you’re just looking for a fun activity to keep the kids busy — you can grow your own vegetables from seeds!
Solanaceous vegetables - such as peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants - are a great way to begin, although the method outlined below applies to most vegetables. Here are the basic items you need to get started:
- Some sort of tray (minimum 2 inch deep)
- Clear dome cover, with air holes
- Seedling and sprout soil (available at J.A. Laporte Flowers & Nursery)
- High-quality seeds (available at J.A. Laporte Flowers & Nursery))
- Spray bottle or watering can
- Pen or pencil
- 5-6” Pots for transplanting
- Seedling heat mat
- Grow light
At the end of this post, we’ve included a list of suggested products to assist you with growing veggies from seeds.
12 steps to sow seeds indoors
Once you have everything you need, follow these step-by-step instructions to kick-start your nutritious vegetable plants:
- Mix the soil. Open the bag and check to see if the soil is dry. If it is dry, rehydrate by slowly adding water. The soil should be moist, but not soggy.
- Fill your tray with soil. Be careful not to over compress the soil; this makes it hard for oxygen to reach the seedling’s roots.
Level off the soil. Do this by gently patting the sides of the tray.
Deposit the seeds. If you have a tray with individual cells, drop in one or two seeds per cell. Using your index finger, make a slight indentation in the soil (approximately ⅛-inch deep, in each cell. If you have a tray without individual cells, use a pen or pencil and lay it flat on top of the soil, making a slight indentation; this will act as your row. Each row should be between half-inch to one inch apart. Deposit seeds in the indentation, about one seed every half-inch, depending on how many plants you wish to grow.
Cover the seeds with soil. Take a handful of soil and lightly scatter it over the seeds.
Water the seeds. Using your spray bottle or watering can, ensure that the top layer of soil is moist. You can verify that you have sufficiently watered the soil by inserting your index finger in the soil on the edge of the tray or cell, and ensuring that the soil is wet approximately a half-inch from the top.
Cover up. Cover the tray with the dome to retain moisture and humidity, allowing the seeds to germinate.
- Find the right spot. Place the tray next to a window offering bright indirect sunlight. If you don’t have such a spot, you should consider investing in a seedling heat mat and a grow light (see links below).
Water once daily. Be sure to water only when the top layer of soil is dry to the touch.
- Unveiling. Approximately five to 10 days later, the seedlings will emerge. Remove the lid and continue to water as instructed above.
- Transplant. Once the seedlings have grown 1.5 to two inches high, you can transplant them into a larger pot to await spring planting in your outdoor garden.
- Be patient. Wait until the first week of June before planting your seedlings outdoors, otherwise they may not survive the cold overnight weather!
That’s all there is to starting your own seeds organically at home like a pro!
Key things to keep in mind:
Soil temperature is critical!
- The soil temperature should be listed on the seed packet, but in general, for the seeds of solanaceous vegetables to germinate, soil temperatures should remain at around 70-80° F and will germinate within five to 10 days. If the soil isn’t warm enough, it will take longer for the seed to germinate, and in some cases will not germinate at all. You can achieve and track optimal heat by using a seedling heating mat and digital thermostat (see link below).
- Every day, remove the dome cover and inspect the top layer of soil. If the top layer is dry, you will notice that the soil is paler which indicates that it needs to be watered. Be sure to recover the tray with the dome until the seeds germinate, at which point the cover is no longer necessary.
- Contrary to popular belief, it’s important not to fertilize the seedlings while they grow indoors; ample nutrients are found within the seedling soil. Additional fertilization risks burning the seedlings.
Containers and lids
- You can start seeds by upcycling take-out boxes or used salad boxes at home, or you can buy all sorts of ready-to-use greenhouse kits (see links below). Most will have a plastic tray with a clear, plastic greenhouse dome; others even have a heat mat that gently warms soil to improve germination.
- Novelty Mfg Co 30301 Watering Can, 2-Gallon, Green
- AGROMIX® Soil Mix For SEEDLINGS AND SPROUTS
- SODIAL 10 Pack Seedling Tray Seed Starter Tray with Dome and Base 12 Cells for Gardening Bonsai-White
- VIVOSUN 10"x20.75" Seedling Heat Mat and Digital Thermostat Combo Set
- VIVOSUN Heating Seed Starter Germination Kit-Premium Seedling Propagation Dome and Tray with 5 Inch Vented Humidity Dome
- Super Sprouter Deluxe Propagation Kit w/ 7" Dome & T5 Light
Follow these instructions and you’re well on your way to growing veggies like a pro! Have questions? Most seeds packets include instructions detailing when and where to sow, planting depth and spacing, special watering requirements, and days to germination. You can also stop by J.A. Laporte Flowers & Nursery; one of our in-house experts would be happy to help you. Happy growing! Share your progress with us using the hashtag: #jalaporte