It is easy and inexpensive to start (or expand) a garden by growing seeds indoors for spring planting. Here at TGG, we use several methods. Get a head start on your flower bed, your herb garden or even your own veggies by starting your seeds before the last frost. Growing your own seeds also allows you to try plant varieties that you can’t readily get at your local nursery. Check out our complete how-to on growing seeds! And then jump on over to our post on Top Garden Seed Catalogs so you know just where to find the best seeds to plant!
Method #1 – Use a Seed Starter
Purchase an inexpensive dome style seed starter from your local garden center or discount store. These usually sell for less than $10, and contain everything except the seeds to get you growing, including a humidity dome to keep in heat, and soil or soil less cubes. The only downside to these is that the growing blocks are usually pretty small, so if you are going to plant fast growing annuals such as sunflowers, morning glories or squash, you might want to wait to just two weeks before last frost. Otherwise, you will have to transplant your seedlings into larger containers as they outgrow the seed dome. This method works very well for growing perennials, since they are slower growing than annuals as a rule.
There is a large selection of dome seed starter trays and germination trays available at Amazon. Check them out here.
Make sure the growing medium is moist, place the seeds at the depth recommended by the packet, and place the dome on. You will see moisture condense inside the dome. This is great for starting out, as the heat and moisture is trapped in. However, once seedlings start to appear, you MUST remove the dome to prevent “damping off” a fungal disease that will kill the seedlings. Add water as necessary to keep the soil moist, but not wet. This seed starter greenhouse is from ‘Gardeners Supply‘.
Method #2 – Use recycled pots
The second method is the most economical one. This is where we plant seed into reusable or recycled containers. These containers must have drainage, and be able to be moved easily. Tupperware, egg cartons or pots made from recycled newspaper are several popular ideas. Placed on a tray, such as an old cookie sheet- they make great planting flats, if not too terribly attractive. It helps when using this method to enclose the entire tray in a clear plastic bag until seedlings appear. This does the same job as the $10 dome, by keeping in heat and moisture.’Lovely Greens’ has 12 ideas for using recycled materials for growing seeds! Here is just one! Use egg shells to make biodegradable pots!
Or, use newspaper to make pots you can plant right into the ground when they are ready. Photo by ‘Fine Gardening’.
Method #3 – Use a greenhouse
This is my preferred method for growing seeds indoors, and one I just started using two years ago. I picked up a portable greenhouse. It has several metal shelves for seedling flats covered by a polycarbonate panels to keep in heat and moisture. This makes it very easy for me to move the entire set up outdoors for daylight, and the panels keeps the heat in, even when it hovers near freezing outside. I can grow several hundred seedlings in this setup. I caution you against leaving it outdoors during windy conditions, however. Also keep in mind during sunny days it can heat up inside the greenhouse quite quickly, so make sure you open up one side and occasionally monitor the temps in your greenhouse. Here is one from ‘Burpee‘ just like mine! (they also have larger ones, in case you want the dream!)
Once the seedlings are up, they must have very bright, though not direct light. If you don’t pick yourself up a greenhouse, then using a windowsill during bad weather is acceptable. But to grow healthy and strong, seedlings should be placed in either artificial light, or on a protected porch for much of the day. Make sure you bring them in at night, and don’t leave them out in frosty weather.
You can create an artificial light system easily and inexpensively with this tutorial from ‘Grow a Good Life’.
Growing seeds indoors will save you money and allow you to grow plant varieties in your garden that are special and unusual. It’s easy, so try starting your seeds indoors today!