Welcome, Ask Farmer Phoebe listeners (and anyone else who wants to learn more about seed starting)! I hope this post, and the links I’ve included, help answer all of your questions about starting from seed indoors. If there’s anything I haven’t covered here, or you have another question, feel free to drop me a comment or email me at colleen [at] inthegardenonline [dot] com. Thanks!
Seed Starting Set-Ups
Of course, you can purchase racks and light set-ups for your indoor seed starting, but that gets pretty pricey, and I’d rather spend money on seeds than racks. The photo below shows the set-up I use at home. It is constructed with two by four lumber with 2 by 12 boards for the shelves. Inexpensive shop lights are hung from the bottom of each shelf with small hooks and chains. This allows me to raise and lower the lights as needed. The lights should always be two to three inches above the tops of the plants. This results in sturdy growth, and prevents spindly plants. I use two typical, cool fluorescent tubes in each fixture.
A note on locating your seed starting set-up: mine is located in an unfinished part of my basement. A utility sink is nearby, and there are plenty of electrical outlets. This works well for me, as I am a fairly messy gardener. I can spill soil or water and it’s easy to clean up. Watering is a breeze, because I’m not carrying watering cans around. I realize that not everyone has this option, but it is something to consider when placing your seed starting racks.
Regarding electrical outlets, you’ll need access to at least one outlet. I have a power strip plugged into an outlet, and I am able to plug my shop lights, timer, and seedling heat mats into the power strip. I am a huge fan of putting your seed starting lights on a timer. This ensures that your plants always get the perfect amount of light to grow well. Sixteen hours per day is perfect.
Equipment for Seed Starting
I use a variety of containers and tools in my seed starting. What I use depends largely on what types of crops I’m growing. For example, soil blocks are perfect for eggplants, peppers, melons, and squashes–things that I don’t anticipate having to move to larger pots or that dislike having their roots disturbed. I start tomatoes in plastic cell packs, because they usually end up having to be transplanted into larger pots at least once or twice before making the move outdoors. Here are a few links about my favorite seed starting equipment:
- Making Soil Blocks
- Seed Sowing, and a New Soil Mix
- Start Hoarding Containers for Seed Starting
- What Equipment Do I Need to Start Plants from Seed?
Obtaining Seeds on the Cheap
When to Plant What
I put these charts together when I first started my website, In the Garden Online. They’re specific to Michigan gardeners, but if you’re in zone 5 – 6, the dates apply to you as well.
More Info About Veggie Gardening
- Vegetable Gardening in a Raised Bed
- Ten Tasty Heirloom Tomatoes
- Vegetables That Will Grow Without Full Sun
Of course, there’s plenty more at my About.com site, and if you subscribe to the In the Garden Online blog, you’ll get regular updates about what’s happening in my garden, as well as plenty of tips and information on all things gardening.