How to Sprout Your Own Garden Starts

Gardening on the balconyOne of the best ways to ensure good food — and save money in the bargain — is to grow a garden. My parents always had a garden when I was growing up, and my husband and I regularly planted a garden when we had a house.

While you can buy young plants to transplant into your garden, it can be more cost-efficient (and rewarding) to sprout your own garden sprouts. If you want to get a head start on your garden, you can sprout plants indoors, where they are safe from the cold weather, and move them outside to your garden later.

Here’s how to get started:

Identify an Area with the Right Lighting

First of all, make sure you have room for your sprouts. Choose an area with the right lighting. Different plants have different needs, so make sure that you have a plan to keep sprouts with similar needs together.

A sunny window is usually a good option when it comes to your garden sprouts. Make sure you have enough room for the seeds you want to sprout. You can prioritize based on space.

Prepare the Containers

Next, you need containers to sprout the seeds. The good news is that, in many cases, you don’t need anything very big. For the beginning seeds, a small container that is one or two inches deep is usually fine. Egg cartons work really well. However, you can also buy “market packs” that include rows of small containers.

Think about how big your plants will get before you move them outside. The fewer times you need to move your plants, the better off they will be. If you know you will transplant your seedlings before they outgrow the smaller containers, that isn’t a problem. Another option is to plant your seedlings in bigger pots. This gives them more room for growth and root spreading before you move them to your garden.

Containers should contain soil that is dry and free of toxins. The good news is that you don’t need to go to great trouble to get nutrient-rich soil, since the seeds contain the nutrients needed for sprouting. However, you can grow your seedlings stronger if you mix your soil with perlite, compost, or peat moss. Just make sure you mix carefully so that you don’t end up with a mix that isn’t ideal for the seedling involved.

There are some seeds that will sprout without soil at all. For these, normally a damp paper towel is enough. Keep the paper towel damp and in the proper light. After the seed sprouts, you can transplant it in a pot for further growth and root development before moving it outside to your garden.

Plant the Seeds

When planting the seeds, make a small hole. You should only cover the seeds with enough dirt to be about three times its height. Some seeds don’t need to be properly covered with dirt at all. Check the seed packet for more specific instructions related to your seeds.

For the most part, you should just loosely cover the seeds with dirt. Don’t pack the dirt down. You can moisten the soil by using a spray bottle to mist the water. One of the keys to successful seed sprouting is to keep the soil moist, but not over-watered.

Find out whether or not the seeds need light to sprout. You can sometimes stack seed flats until the sprout if the seeds don’t need a lot of light. Continue to watch the seedlings. There will be a time to thin them out so that the seedlings that remain can grow stronger. You don’t want to keep all the sprouts, though, since you want the strongest for your garden.

Moving Your Plants to the Garden

Once your seedlings are strong enough, and the weather is favorable, you can move your plants to the garden. Make sure your garden plot is properly prepared and ready to receive the plants. Keep an eye on the weather, since you might want to wait a little longer, or be prepared to cover your plants, if the nights are still too cold.

Sprouting your own seedlings can be a cost-efficient way to get the starts needed for your garden. These plants are often stronger and hardier, and it can give you a good way to get your garden started without risk your plants to frost.

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