Photo by Sheila J. Schmitz
What Houzz contributors are saying:
5. Start your vegies earlySowing spring and summer vegetable seeds under glass or on a windowsill now means they will be well established by the time you plant them; that is, when the soil warms up. Try doing this with aubergine, capsicum, cabbage, celery, cucumber, lettuce, radish, tomato, spring onion and spinach. TIP: When watering seedlings under cover, use tepid water so they don’t rot. Easy vegetable gardens for black thumbs
What Houzzers are commenting on:
Sowing spring and summer vegetable seeds under glass or on a windowsill now means they will be well established by the time you plant them; that is, when the soil warms up. Try doing this with aubergine, capsicum, cabbage, celery, cucumber, lettuce, radish, tomato, spring onion and spinach.
Planting Plant 2 seeds per small starting pot, or scatter seeds across the top of the mix in a seed tray. Lightly tamp them in place and cover them with more mix to the recommended depth given on the seed packet. Moisten the soil on top but don’t overwater it. Label the container or tray with the plant name and planting date. You can find plant labels at nurseries and home stores, but popsicle sticks also work well. Just be sure to use permanent ink that won't fade or run if it gets wet. At this point you may want to cover the seeds with plastic wrap or a plastic cover to help keep the soil damp and warm, which will speed germination. Keep the soil temperature above 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) for heat-loving warm-season plants by setting them on a heating mat or on top of a water heater or refrigerator. Don’t let the surface get too hot, though; above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) is too high. Cool-season plants will be fine with average home temperatures. Watering from a tray placed under the seedling containers is good way to keep the soil moist but not overly wet. Caring for Seedlings Once the seedlings start emerging, remove the plastic covering and move the plants into a brightly lit spot with daytime temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 24 degrees Celsius). This may be a warm window in your home, a sunny porch or even a greenhouse. Avoid crowding by thinning your seedlings according to the instructions on your seed packet. If you don’t have a bright spot in your home, a grow-light setup with or without a heating mat underneath will work. Keep the light about 3 inches above the plants, raising it as the seedlings grow. Plants will need about 12 to 16 hours of light per day for best growth; too little light will result in leggy and weak plants. Once leaves appear, begin feeding the seedlings weekly with a diluted liquid organic fertilizer or other fertilizer designed for seed starting. Transferring to Larger Pots Depending on how big your original containers were and how large your plants are growing, you may want to transfer individual seedlings to their own pots. 4-inch pots are a common size for seedlings that have outgrown their seed trays. Tempting as this is, especially if the seedlings look crowded, be patient. The first “leaves” to emerge are not really leaves, but rather cotyledons, which provide the first food for the seedlings. Wait until the true leaves form; they will look different from the cotyledons. Once you have a second set of true leaves, it’s OK to transfer plants to new pots. Fill the new containers with moistened potting mix to just below the rim and make a hole in the soil for the plant. Turn the original container upside down and gently squeeze it with one hand while removing the plant and the soil from it. Hold the plant by the leaves and the soil and root ball, not by the fragile stem. If you pull out several seedlings at once, separate them with your fingers, a skewer or a toothpick. Take your time so you don’t damage the roots. Place the plant in the new container and firm the soil around it. Moisten the soil but don’t overwater it. Place the pot in bright light (avoid direct sunlight for the first few days) and continue to keep the soil thoroughly damp but not too wet. Tip: Many gardeners swear by gently brushing their hands over the tops of seedlings as they grow, moving them back and forth. This simulates a gentle wind and helps develop stronger stems.