Starting Seeds Indoors

If you are starting seeds indoors in anticipation of the growing season let me share my experiences with you. Having learnt through trial and error I want to quickly highlight some do’s and don’ts of indoor propagation. By following these easy steps you too can ensure the successful growth of your plants.

DON’T …

Start seeds too early:

Check the planting and transplantation requirements of the seeds. Starting too early may result in plants maturing well before your estimated frost date and could take up more space than you bargained for. The farmers almanac is a great resource for learning when to start your seeds.

Assume your kitchen lights will provide sufficient light:

You will likely end up with long and leggy seedling that will struggle through the transplantation process.

Over-water:

Indoor plants require much less water than you might think. Get a spray bottle and mist gently every morning.

Use soil to start seeds:

 Start with an organic 3-3-3 starter mix. It is light and loose and will allow the seeds to germinate with ease. Do ensure you moisten the start mix generously prior to planting seeds.

DO …

Use biodegradable pots:

It will make the transplantation much easier and lessen the shock plants experience. I use coconut coir pots as I consider it a much more sustainable option over peat moss pots.

Find chemical free fertilizer:

Starter mix contains no nutrients, therefore a couple weeks after your seeds germinate you must add liquid fertilizer. I lightly dust vermicompost on top of the seedling or spray with ‘worm tea’. Always start with a low ‘dose’ and gradually increase the amount of any fertilizer you choose.

Create a green-house effect:

Cover your trays with cling-wrap or a clear plastic lid as it will keep the moisture in. Your plants will thank you. Once they have outgrown the lid consider using a humidifier to maintain adequate moisture in the air.

Adequate circulation:

Air movement can help the plants build and maintain a strong stem. Consider using a fan to promote air circulation.


The last few years I have had endless problems starting seeds indoors. Generally the problems I encountered ranged from starting the seeds too early, having inadequate space to accommodate growth, leggy seedlings, and even a full blown aphid infestation.

This year I finally have a south-facing window and vacant wall that was just waiting for a customized grow-box. As an added bonus the wall has a radiator that will keep my seedlings all cozy until it’s time to move them outdoors.

Rather than telling you step-by-step how to build a box, I will share some photos and pointers to help demonstrate how easy it will be for you to design your own.

First: Customize your design so it fits your space.

We built ours so that It would fit in our kitchen nestled between 2 south-facing windows. We designed it so that its height would fall just short of the base of the window sills. We wanted it to have 2 shelves where LED lights would hang from. The top shelve we reserved for our house plants. Although we plan to use it year round for mirco-greens, we still wanted the option for it to act as shelving and storage if we weren’t ever using it as a propagation system. The dimensions worked around the LED lights that we rigged up with hooks and chain that could be adjusted or removed entirely if desired. We also decided to put wheels on it so we could move it out of the way if we needed to.

design plan1 design plan2

Second: Go to the local hardware store and shop.

Materials:

  • wood (we opted for pine as it was cheap and straight)
  • chain
  • screws
  • zip ties (to attach the chain to the lights)
  • hooks
  • wheels
  • LED lights

Tools:

  • drill (appropriate drill bits)
  • saw
  • measuring tape

materials

Lastly: We built it.

model

All in all it was a success. We did forget to measure the cords that plugged into the LED lights. Unfortunately it affected our design. Now the lights can’t be pulled up as high as we planned because the shelve support boards prohibit it.

Always remember to measure twice and cut once!

growbox

I painted it with a double coat of primer. Now it blends into the background. More importantly it reflects more light back to the plants.

growsystem

I bought trays and this beauty can hold up to 400 seedlings!

Please comment below and share your growing experiences with me.

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2 Responses

  1. Collin says:

    Great article! I can’t wait to start my new collection of herbs this season.

  2. Shavone says:

    update: it’s still too early to start many seeds indoors. So, I’m testing it will a tray of spring greens and basil. So many shoots are poking up and I can’t wait for my first salad! Goodbye store bought lettuce!

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