Chet Notes

Try Sowing Seeds Indoors

April 8, 2011

Recently germinated Marigold seedlings


After 6 months of cold, nasty weather, we’re ready to get our hands dirty and dig into some soil. Our central New York climate doesn’t allow us to start working our gardens until late April or early May but we can do some indoor gardening to prepare for the planting season.

Sowing seeds indoors can be rewarding and satisfies that craving to play in the soil, but there are guidelines you must follow to be successful. One misconception is thinking , “I have a sunny window, that would be a great place to start some seeds.” You probably will be successful germinating the seeds and getting a green shoot but you’ll notice the stem will get very long compared to the size of the first leaves. This is caused by the lack of sufficient light. The plants become leggy and weak.

Seeds need warmth and light. Choose a warm location in your house about 68-72 degrees. Artificial light is the next best thing to natural sunlight. Seedlings need 12-16 hours of bright light per day and that is difficult to achieve in a house window. Purchase a 4′ florescent fixture with 40 watt bulbs, or you can go some extra money for grow lights. Hang the fixture so it’s resting no more than 2 inches above the tray or pots. Adjust the height of the fixture as the plants grow.

Start with sterile potting soil, not dirt. You’ll also need a clean shallow container with drainage holes, a warm location and good light. You should be successful in starting your favorite flower, vegetable or herb plants. Read the seed package carefully on how deep to plant the seed. Some only need to be pushed into the surface of the soil and others need to be covered. The depth is usually determined by the size of the seed.

Timing is also important. You don’t want tomato transplants ready to go in early May, since we can’t plant our gardens outside until late May. If planted too soon the seedlings will get “leggy” or have a tendency to develop a root disease. Lori and the greenhouse staff at Chester’s would be glad to answer your questions. They will be ready with plenty of plants in May if you decide to leaving the seeding to the pros.

Time your seeding for success

Happy planting!


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