When we began starting our own seedlings I really had no idea what I needed. I looked around at local shops and talked to friends and quickly became overwhelmed. Then a light bulb went off. Plants sprout every season in nature without anything fancy. I took a deep breath and began planting with just the basics. Soil, water, light, and seeds.
Over the years I’ve attended many seminars, read countless books and articles and when it comes to supplies most gardeners will tell you all you need are the 5 items I’m going to share with you.
If you’re not sure of the benefits of starting your own seeds be sure to read: The Benefits of Growing Your Own Seedlings
INDOOR SEED STARTING SUPPLIES & EQUIPMENT
You don’t need to buy a ton of expensive indoor seed starting supplies and equipment, but you will need to purchase a few things. Besides seeds, the main essentials are seed planting trays, and a high-quality seedling soil mix or peat pellets and light. In addition to these essentials, you may want to buy a heat mat and some fertilizer. I’ll talk about each of these types of supplies in detail next, so you can figure out exactly what you’ll need to get started.
SEED PLANTING TRAYS & SEED STARTING KITS
If you’re a beginner, I recommend using plastic seed starting trays or buying some kind of a seed starting kit (like this peat pellet kit). Using containers that are specifically designed for growing seeds indoors like these will make it much easier for you. We’ve been using the domed trays for 4 years and have had great success with them. That domed lid keeps the soil moist and warm.
If you already have seedling trays that you’re planning on reusing, it’s crucial to clean and disinfect them first. Disinfecting seed trays will help prevent diseases that can wipe out your seedlings. Learn exactly how to clean and disinfect your seedling trays. This is a step that I never skip.
To give your seedlings the best start you want to plant them in a seed starter mix. Seed starter mixes can be purchased or made. The mix you want to use actually contains no soil. Seed starting mixes improve moisture retention and promote better root growth. The light and airy mixture is perfect for those delicate little roots that will be developing at first.
After the first true leaves appear and they are ready to be transplanted into larger pots you can move to a traditional organic potting mixture.
Avoid using soil from outside, it dries out too quickly and can damage your plants.
Lights are a must if you want strong plants with straight stems and green leaves. You can’t get the same effect by placing them on a window sill. Seedlings need consistent light throughout the day. There are some great plant light kits and stands on Amazon and at local plant shops. Scott and made our set up to accommodate our shelves. We purchased the light strips and bulbs at Home Depot.
Heating mats are often considered optional but they make a huge difference in the amount of time it takes a seed to germinate! Our seeds germinate in a matter of 2-3 days instead of 10+ days shown on the seed packet. That time makes a difference in the size of the plant you will be transplanting once it warms up outside. We have two very large ones and one small one. We’ve had the same VIVOSUN mats for years and the mats still look and work like new!
Without water, your seeds will not germinate. Allow the soil to dry out and your plant will quickly show signs of stress. You want to keep the soil moist but not soaking wet. The tiny hairs on the roots like to breathe and too much water will prevent that. We water our seedling with rainwater from our barrels. Distilled water works great too. I avoid tap water but it will work too.
This one is optional but suggested.
A seed actually contains all of the nutrients it needs to get started. That being said I like to use either a light seaweed emulsion on our seedlings or compost tea. I’ll share more about how we fertilize in an upcoming post.
There are so many other cool things you can buy for seedling starting these are just, in my opinion, the must-haves. Do you start your own seedlings? Did I leave anything out?