Starting seeds indoors is a vital part of successful gardening, and it allows gardeners succession planting and season-extending opportunities. Starting seeds is rewarding, exciting, and fun when you have effective seed propagation. However, it can be frustrating when your plans are foiled with failed indoor seed-starts plagued with pests, diseases, leggy plants, or stunted growth.
Luckily, our gardening friend, Resh Gala, has provided us with 5 seed starting hacks to give all gardeners the best chance for success when starting seeds indoors.
1. Pre-Moisten Seed Starter Mix With Boiling Water
Seed starting mixes have been sitting on store shelves or in your storage shed for extended periods of time, and over that time, they can harbor fungus gnat eggs. These little gnats can be troublesome pests that cause damage to seedlings as they are just getting started.
By adding hot boiling water to your seed starting mix and allowing it to cool before planting, the soil gets sterilized, eradicating those pesky gnats.
- Fill a bowl with seed starting mix.
- Premoisten by adding boiling water to the soil and stirring until it is the consistency of a brownie batter.
- Allow moistened soil to cool.
- Fill seed starting containers with soil and plant seeds.
2. Utilize Heat Mats & A Humidity Dome
Another one of our 5 seed starting hacks involves keeping seeds warm for faster germination. Consider buying a heat mat to help you on your way to successful seed propagation. Most seeds germinate at an ideal warm temperature. Heat-loving plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins are just a few examples of seeds that will benefit significantly from the consistent warmth of a heat mat.
Humidity domes can also be beneficial seed starting tools for maintaining warm and moist conditions for your seeds to get their start.
*Pro Tip: Once seeds germinate, remove them from the heat mat and place them underneath grow lights for best results.
Create a DIY Moisture Dome
Seed starting hacks don’t require a lot of money and supplies. Resh Gala, an urban organic gardener in New Jersey – Zone 6b, suggests using plastic cups and a sheet of clear plastic wrap over the top of them to create a DIY moisture dome.
- Poke a couple of holes in the bottom of some plastic cups.
- Fill cups with premoistened soil.
- Plant seeds in the soil.
- Tear off a piece of clear plastic wrap and place it over the top of each cup as a humidity dome.
- Place cups in a shallow tray.
- Remove plastic wraps from the cups as soon as you see that your seeds have sprouted.
3. Bottom Water Seedlings
Water your seedlings by adding water to the tray where your seeded cups or seed starting pots stand. It may take a couple of minutes to an hour for the water to soak up and fully moisten the soil. Remember that you don’t want your soil to dry out completely. Aim for evenly moist soil when seed starting.
By watering from the bottom:
- Moisture remains evenly distributed throughout the seed starting mix.
- Bottom watering limits the chances of diseases developing.
- Limits soil splashback onto plant foliage.
4. Place Your Seedlings 2 to 4 Inches Away From Grow Lights
Once your seeds have sprouted and you have removed your store-bought or DIY humidity domes, it’s time to get your seedlings under grow lights so they can grow strong and thrive. Resh Gala stresses how crucial it is to place your seedlings no more than 2 to 4 inches away from grow lights. This ensures that seedlings will not have to stretch themselves toward the light and become leggy.
Most grow lights are adjustable for height, but if not, you may have to stack some books or boxes to prop up the tray to get to the desired distance from the grow lights.
5. Separate or Cut Seedlings, Ensuring 1 Start Per Container
Enhance plant growth by snipping or cutting seedlings to ensure that there is only one seedling per container.
- Assess seedlings and snip off the weakest one, leaving the strongest one to continue to grow.
- OR transplant extra seedlings by splitting them from the others when they are at a very early stage and transferring them into their own individual pots.
5 Seed Starting Hacks Recap
Let’s recap these 5 seed starting hacks that will give you your best chance at successful, healthy, and vigorous seedlings.
- Pre-moisten seed starting mix with boiling water.
- Utilize heat mats and humidity domes.
- Water seedlings from the bottom.
- Place seed trays 2 to 4 inches away from grow lights.
- Separate or snip seedlings to ensure that you have only one seedling per container.