If you’re looking to nurture some seedlings of your own this spring, here are some tips on the equipment and supplies you’ll need. After you’ve purchased your seed (or swapped some at a Seedy Saturday), read the instructions on the packet about when to start the seeds and at what temperature. For example, I start peppers in the middle of March, and tomatoes around the first of April.
Containers and Labels:
You can choose from a wide variety of containers to start your seeds, but I like using the plastic seeding trays sold by seed companies. You can wash them afterwards and use them for years. Be sure to label everything carefully so you know who’s who! Once you’ve labelled all of your seedlings, set up a fan for air circulation, use various sizes of plastic “tents” for seedlings and track your schedule of planting and germination on a calendar.
I use a soilless seeding mix (I buy mine at William Dam Seeds in Dundas Ontario) because it is light and fine, and because I know it has no organisms that could cause the seedlings to get diseases. I recommend using soilless mix for planting seeds for several reasons. Soilless mix does not have fungi that can cause “damping off” that can kill seedlings and it has more air in it than potting soil, giving the new roots space to grow! Once your seeds have sprouted and put on their first leaves, you can start fertilizing. I use an organic fish/kelp fertilizer.
Table or Shelving Unit:
An area for your seeds is going to help when your seeds grow bigger and need more room. The size of your area will depend on how many seedlings you plan on growing.
Once the seeds have germinated, I find that artificial light really helps grow strong seedlings- any fluorescent light will do. For seeds that need warmth to germinate (e.g. lavender, tomatoes, peppers), underneath heating pads are very helpful.Make sure your lights are the right distance from your trays (no more than about 4 inches above seedlings). If you use adjustable lights you can raise them as the plants get taller. There is a product called “Jump Light” that comes with its own stand and is easily adjustable.
I water from below to minimize the chance of fungus disease, and am careful to keep the seedlings slightly on the dry side, to make sure I don’t drown them. When the seedlings are still quite small (one or two sets of leaves), they need to be transplanted to little pots or cell packs. then spray the containers with water from a watering can with a fine spray head and use wooden or plastic labels for your seedlings using a waterproof marker.