Three Seed Starting Mistakes
It’s the time to year to start thinking about starting your seeds inside, and I wanted to share some of the most common reasons that you may have issues with it.
Using Old Seed
Using seeds that are past their prime is a common reason for poor germination rates and lack of growth. Plants differ in how long their seeds are viable for, and some seeds, like onion seeds for example, are generally only good for a year or two, whereas other seeds can be good for many years.
If you’re unsure of how old your seeds are, or want to try growing them anyway, it would be useful to consider doing a germination test. This consists of putting 10 seeds into a damp paper towel, folding it up, putting it into a plastic baggy and letting it sit for 1-2 weeks. Then you can check to see how many of the seeds have sprouted, and this will give you a germination percentage. Then knowing this ahead of time, you can plant extra seeds to make up for some that will likely fail to sprout.
Not all seeds packs that you buy will come with a year listed on it. If you notice this, write the year on it so you know how long you’ve had it for if you don’t use it up in one season.
Planting Too Early
While it’s time to start THINKING about planting your seeds, it’s generally not quite time YET. Planting seeds too early can mean that they’ll get too big for indoor conditions before you’re able to plant them outside in the late spring. This can actually set them back and mean that they’ve fallen behind with a lack of root room or nutrients and will end up taking extra time trying to sort themselves out once they’re planted in their forever homes. Unless you have a heated greenhouse where they can hang out before frosts are over, it’s best to note suggestions on the seed package.
As you gain more experience, you may want to experiment with this a little bit—for example we always find that the suggested seed starting dates for kale and swiss chard don’t give enough of a head start, so we plant them earlier than suggested on the package.
Not Enough Light
This is a huge reason for seedling struggles! When a seedling doesn’t get enough light, they can become “leggy.” This means that they get really tall and kind of lanky looking because they’re trying too hard to reach for and get closer to better light. Unfortunately this reaching leaves them with weak stems and way more susceptible to everything from pests to disease. Likely if you’re starting seeds early you’ll want to consider getting a grow light to ensure strong and robust seedlings, as even south facing windows don’t generally provide enough light. With grow lights you can then adjust their distance to the seedlings and make sure they’re close (without burning them!).
Are You Starting Seeds This Year?
I’d love to know if you’re planning on doing any indoor seed starting this year! Reply and let me know what you’re planting!