Thursday, April 1, 2010

DIY: Starting Flowers and Vegetables from Seeds

Hello! I'm Rachael and I've recently joined CM's Custom Lawn & Landscape's landscape division. I am responsible for landscape bed maintenance and, with the help of my cat, Tobias, am writing some do-it-yourself features for our newsletter and blog. If you don't receive our monthly newsletter electronically yet, please go to our website and sign up.

Have you ever started plants from seeds? This is not only a fun and rewarding project, but it is also a great learning experience for kids and can help cut the cost of this season’s flower and vegetable gardens. Here are a few tips from Tobias and me for easy, successful seed growing.

Gathering supplies.
The traditional seed tray filled with potting soil will work just fine for growing seeds, but there are a few products on the market that you may want to consider. One option is peat pellets, sold under several different brand names. It is a pellet made of peat moss that measures about 1”x ½” in size. When you add water, they expand to about 4”x2”. Tobias finds this part absolutely fascinating to watch. They are usually sold along with a tray and a lid to keep the moisture in. I like these because they eliminate the need for potting soil, which can be messy when using indoors.
Another handy product is the peat pot. These are small pots, about 2”-3” in size. You fill these small pots with potting soil and sew the seeds the same way you would in a seed tray. When the time comes for transplanting, simply make a few cuts in the side of the pot and place in the ground. The pots will begin to decompose rather quickly once they are in the soil, giving the roots plenty of room to grow. While Tobias prefers digging the plants by paw out of the traditional seed trays, I like the peat pots because I don’t have to worry about disturbing the root system of the young plant during transplanting.
These products will slightly raise the cost of growing plants from seed, but they make the process a little easier. In addition to these products, there are many others available in the garden centers of just about every hardware store in the area.

Dampening the soil.
Seeds should always be sewn in damp soil. I find the easiest way to achieve the correct moisture level is to use a zip top plastic bag. I start with my potting soil in the bag and slowly add water while mixing it until it is fairly damp, but not dripping.

The right location.
If possible, find a warm spot to keep the seed tray. During germination, warm temperatures are more important than the amount of available light. After germination (when the first leaves come above soil level) sunlight is important, but direct sunlight should be avoided.
We hope you enjoy your seed-starting project. If you have any questions about this or other gardening issues, don’t hesitate to call us or send an email to Rachael at

Happy planting!
Rachael and Tobias

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