We can do something worthwhile this winter as we pour over all the garden catalogs that look so enticing. Let’s get ready to start those seeds! Two of the important factors for successful seedlings started indoors are the type of soil used and the amount of light available. We can prepare to start seeds and maybe that will make winter go by faster.
Seedlings grown under low-light conditions are going to be leggy and weak and may fall over under their own weight. You need a sunny room or porch with southern exposure or supplemental lights. A simple fluorescent shop light with one warm white and one cool white bulb will suffice. This light must be within inches of the seedlings.
The best media for starting seeds is loose, well drained, fine textured, low in nutrients, and free of disease-causing fungi, bacteria and unwanted seeds. Commercial products that are soil-less are readily available and easier than mixing your own.
If you don’t purchase a soil-less mix and want to use soil containing garden loam, it must be pasteurized first. This is a smelly process, but can be done in the home. Spread the soil on a cookie tray and bake in the oven at 200 degrees F until the temperature of the soil is 180 degrees F and then bake for 30 minutes.
You can also make a Home Mix that has no outside garden soil. Following are two different recipes that are recommended.
Home Mix No. 1
4 gallons (½ bushel) of No. 2 grade vermiculite
4 gallons (½ bushel) of shredded sphagnum peat moss
4 Tbl. ground limestone
1 cup (8 oz.) 5-10-5, or ½ cup (4 oz.) 10-10-10 fertilizer
Mix thoroughly and store in plastic or nonmetal container. For better drainage, add one gallon of medium perlite.
Home Mix No. 2
1 gallon of milled sphagnum peat moss
1 gallon of No. 2 grade vermiculite
1 gallon of medium perlite
Mix thoroughly and store in a closed container.
I have learned that it is important to moisten the mixture for several hours before attempting to plant seeds. Follow the seed packet instructions for the number of weeks seeds can be started before our last expected frost date. That date is usually mid-May in our area.