No matter what growing zone you’re in, it’s time to start preparing your seed starting area. If you’ve been relying on your local nursery for your starts, and haven’t tried starting your own seeds at home, this is your year! The advantages are huge. The whole wide world of varieties are at your fingertips, where as if you rely on buying starts you’re limited to what the grower thought would sell. You also remain in control of what, if any, chemicals are put on your plants, which can be alarmingly high.
You can spend a ton of money on equipment to get started, or you can do like I do and spend money only on lights and soil mix. You can expect to spend around $40 on a grow light, and sometimes you can find these used on sites like craigslist. Seed starting mix will run you about $5 to $10, depending on brand and quantity. Your containers and pots can be free if you’re clever and savvy like me.
Make your own seed starting pots!
Newspaper pots are my favorite. They’re easy to make and, as long as you don’t try to move them too much, they hold up just long enough for the seedling to be transferred into the ground. The trick is to make your newsprint at least 3 layers thick, and make your fold over underneath run the whole diameter of the pot. You can also use your favorite old non-glossy seed catalog, as long as it’s soy based ink.
Fold your bottoms over heavily, and then give it a good squish with your jar, can or whatever form you use. You won’t need to tape or staple once some nice moist soil is in it, I promise it will hold. You can secure the top with a paperclip, which is what I do. I like this method because I don’t like foreign material hanging out in my garden beds and the paperclip can be easily removed before final planting.
I’m also a fan of collecting yogurt cups throughout the year. These work great for things like tomatoes and peppers that will stay in your care a bit longer than others. I also save clear plastic containers, like spinach packs, 1 and 2 liter bottles that I cut in half, and various snack containers. These are amazingly perfect little greenhouses! Just make sure you drill (or poke) holes in the bottom so you don’t drown your plants.
You can also use things like the cardboard tubes from paper towels and toilet paper, egg cartons, egg shells themselves, and of course there are an amazing array of peat pots, plastic pots and the like for sale at your local garden center. All have their pros and cons, and you as a gardener will find what you like best and probably then stick to it like glue. Like gardening itself, seed starting is an art, and like gardening, takes some trial and error to master.
I can tell you it is well worth the effort though. The only thing better than eating a just picked tomato warm from the summer sun is knowing that the you’re responsible for the whole cycle, seed to fruit. I hope you’re inspired to try some new varieties this year!