Starting your own seeds indoors may seem like a complex process, but it really is very simple and will give you an endless range of flower and vegetable cultivars from which to choose.
Seeds can be germinated in an open flat, individual pots or sections of pots like six-packs or four-packs. Individual containers or sections of containers are preferable. Some containers, such as peat pots, paper pots and soil blocks, can go right into the garden with the plant during transplanting. Other pots must be slipped off the root ball before planting.
Want to recycle as you start the seedlings? Milk cartons and plastic pop bottles can also be cut down and recycled for use in seeding if drainage holes are made in the bottom of each container. To reuse containers, wash them, then dip them in a solution of 1 cup bleach and 9 cups water.
Your growing media should be porous, with good air spaces, and allow good water drainage. Don't use plain garden soil to start seedlings; it becomes a hard mass that is difficult for delicate seedlings to grow in. There are several seed-starting mixes available at garden centers. Moisten the planting mix before filling the containers. This makes the media easier to handle and easier to water after seeding.
Plant two or three seeds in each pot (you will snip off the weaker seedlings later), according to the directions on the seed package regarding depth. Be sure to label each type of plant so that no mix-ups occur. After seeding, set the pots in a shallow container of water and let the planting media soak up the water until the surface looks moist. This will prevent the seeds from being washed away at the first watering.
Cover the containers with clear plastic wrap initially to help preserve moisture. Check the pots daily for the first signs of germination and remove the plastic immediately after germination has started. Until then, keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged, and temperatures at 72-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Light requirements:
As soon as new seedlings begin to emerge from the soil, they need to receive good, strong light. Sixteen hours of light a day is ideal. Plants that do not receive enough light, or strong enough light, will become tall, thin, leggy and pale green. Ideally your plants should be short, stocky and dark green. This can be accomplished with a combination of good light and cool temperatures.
The following workshops will be at the OSU Extension Center, 930 N Portland, unless otherwise specified. They are free and open to the public. Questions? call 713-1125.
• Third Thursday Gardening: Composting and Soil Fertility, 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday.
• Garden Boot Camp: Three Saturdays, Jan. 25, Feb. 1 and Feb. 8. Presented by Oklahoma County Master Gardeners. Cost is $35.