Things you will need:
Container with drainage
Tray to catch water
Additional items that are helpful, but not necessary:
Spring is coming, and now is the perfect time to start thinking about your gardens or patios or balconies. I had hoped that this could be a workshop, but given our situation, I figured maybe this info could be helpful for anyone looking for something to try out from home.
If you’re near me (Alliston) our last frost date this year is expected to be May 17. The general rule for this area is to wait until May 24 long weekend to get outside and get planting, but if you can sneak out earlier than that or are planting things that are a bit frost hardy, do it and get a jump on our short growing season! In Toronto, you might be able to get out as early as 2 weeks before we can. Lots of easy to grow veggies, flowers, and herbs can be started 4-6 weeks before your last frost date.
Start with your container. I’m using a mixture of soil blocks and cells because I’m growing a lot of flowers. You can use anything that holds soil and allows for drainage. Plastic pots, paper pots, egg cartons, yogurt cups with some holes cut in the bottom, toilet paper rolls, whatever you can find.
Soil. Any old potting soil will do. I like to use one that’s specific for seed starting and contains mycorrhizae. Mix your soil with enough water that the soil packs together, but isn’t dripping wet, and pack it into your container. Tamp tamp tamp, this will help things stick together a month from now.
Seeds. The general rule for popping your seeds into your soil is to plant them at a depth of 2x the width or length of the seed. The bigger the seed, the deeper it goes. If it’s really tiny, or needs light to germinate, then it can sit right on top of the soil. Seeds from last season are completely fine to plant! The germination rate may have decreased, so add a few more seeds to each pot than you would with fresh seeds. Your seed package should have planting directions on the back. Don't forget to label what you seed!
Germination. Some seeds require light to germinate, while others prefer darkness. Some seeds prefer a bit of extra warmth during the germination process, which is where a heat mat can come in handy. But to keep it simple, keep the soil moist, keep your seeds warm, and they should pop open in no time. To help with moisture you can sprinkle vermiculite on top of the soil and use a humidity dome. I’ve used plastic wrap and an elastic band before. During this time you can use a spray bottle to spritz your seeds and keep them moist, or pop your container in the sink and let the soil soak some water up from the bottom. Once your seeds have germinated, you can remove the humidity dome and let the plants soak up the light.
Growing. Check on your pals daily! If you’re using light from a window, give them a rotate so they grow straight. Give them a splash of water if the soil starts to dry out. Once the second set of leaves appear (these are actually the first true set) your seedlings are ready for fertilizer. I use concentrated fish emulsion that I mix with water and give to my plants once a week.
Hardening Off. When it’s time to move your plants outside, you’re going to need to harden them off and get them ready for the outdoor temperatures. A week before you want to plant your seedlings outside for good, bring them outside for an hour. Pick a sheltered spot, away from too much wind or hot direct sun. Each day, increase the amount of time that you leave your seedlings outside until they’re outside all day.
Transplanting. Once your seedlings have been hardened off, they’re ready to be planted in your garden. Give them a good soak, as this will make them easier to handle, and gently pop them out of your container or pot and into the ground. If you don’t have a big outdoor space, but you do have a patio or a balcony, you can transplant into larger containers. A few things that do well in containers are herbs, tomatoes, dahlias, pansies, and nasturtium.