7 Seed-Starting Tips for Smarter Indoor Gardening

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Spring is just around the corner. I repeat, spring is just around the corner. Can you believe that winter is already almost over? Do you know what that means? It means we’ll get more sunshine (and maybe even some more rain) and it will be time to really starting digging into our spring garden plans!

Indoor gardening is just the start

Just because we still have a month and a half to go until spring arrives doesn’t mean we can’t get started on our spring gardens now. If you can get a jump-start on planning your spring garden, you can actually reduce your gardening costs.

How, you ask? I have one simple answer for you: indoor gardening.

It is so much more affordable to start a garden from seeds than from seedlings if you know what you’re doing. Seeds are far less expensive and easier to come by, too. Plus, you can buy them any time of year and store them until you’re ready to use them. Try doing that with seedlings!

Image Credit - Grigoriev Ruslan/Shutterstock

Indoor gardening can be incredibly rewarding. Photo: Grigoriev Ruslan/Shutterstock

While I grew up planting seeds directly into the ground in our garden because we lived in a very temperate climate, I live in a much colder climate now with a much shorter growing season. That means we have to start our garden from seedlings or start our seeds indoors so we can transplant them once the weather is warm enough. There is no other option in many parts of the country.

If you haven’t started seeds indoors for your garden before, it’s so easy! And you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that you used green gardening practices from the start. You won’t have to worry about accidentally buying plants that were sprayed with neonicotinoids or started with GMO seeds, either.

Indoor gardening can be incredibly rewarding. The satisfaction you get from growing a garden from seed is tremendous. Just seeing the food on your plate grow from a seed to a nourishing meal is very rewarding. It’s a great lesson for kids to learn where their food really comes from, too!

Ready to try out indoor gardening once and for all and start your seeds? Give these seven tips for starting seeds indoors a try.

1. Choose Organic, Open-Pollinated Heirloom Seeds

If you’re going to the trouble of growing your own food, you also want to make sure you’re choosing seeds that are sustainable. By choosing organic seeds, you’re choosing seeds that never encouraged the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides. By choosing open-pollinated heirloom seeds, you’re ensuring that you can save seeds and use those seeds to start your garden in years to come. Seeds from hybridized plants can’t be saved, so if sustainability is a concern for you, steer clear.

2. Select Your Seed-Starting Containers

Woman planting seeds for indoor gardening

Containers and soil make a big difference when it comes to indoor gardening. Do your homework. Photo: Syda Productions/Shutterstock

There are so many different seed-starting containers to choose from! You can make your own upcycled seed starters or you can buy something premade from your local gardening store. No matter which way you go, you’ll want to make sure that excess water can drain from the container. You’ll also want to consider where you’ll keep your seed-starting containers. If it’s somewhere that can be water damaged, you’ll want to choose a method that will reduce that risk.

3. The Right Soil Does Make a Difference

You can definitely find very cheap soil — many dollar stores even carry potting soil this time of year. However, if you want your seeds to germinate and turn into beautiful plants, you are better off choosing a quality soil. Quality seed-starting mixes are designed to reduce the risk of your seedlings succumbing to rot from soil-borne pathogens. A good soil mixture will also retain water and allow airflow at the same time. Consider those factors when choosing your soil.

4. Make Sure Your Plants Get Enough Light

During the winter months in some locations, getting enough light can be a real challenge. You typically can’t get enough light from windows during the winter months. Once your seeds have germinated and your plants have sprouted, they’ll need adequate light to continue their growth. You can use supplemental lighting in your house where you keep your seedlings. Fluorescent lights work well and don’t cost a fortune to run.

Another option is to keep your seedlings on a rolling cart in the garage. Every morning, you roll them out into the sunshine. Then every evening, you roll them back inside. Not only will this ensure they’re getting enough sunlight, but it will keep them from the frigid nighttime temperatures.

5. Don’t Forget the Nutrition!

While your soil mixture may start with enough nutrients in it, your hungry little seedlings will quickly consume them. Once that happens, you will need to add nutrients to your soil if you want the seedlings to thrive. You can absolutely buy some wonderful soil nutrients, but you can also make your own! According to this source, you can even make your own liquid soil nutrients for free. Making your own fertilizer tea is a great way to make your garden even more sustainable and affordable.

6. Keep Your Seedlings Toasty and Warm

Seeds need warmth to sprout. It’s that warmth combined with the moisture and light that triggers a seed to sprout. If you’re using a fluorescent light to give your seedlings light, that should be enough warmth. If, however, it still seems frigid in the area where you keep your seedlings, you can buy a seedling heat mat that you place under the plants to keep them warm. Keep in mind that you’ll want the temperature to be around 75 degrees for several hours of the day. You’ll also want the temperature to go up or down around 10 degrees each day, too. This ensures that the seeds will germinate and thrive.

7. Set a Timer for Best Results

If you have trouble remembering to turn on and off your lights or seedling warmth mat, then use a timer! You can set a reminder on your phone each day if that works for you. Better yet, you can get timers that plug into the wall just like a surge protector. Then you plug the light or seedling mat into the timer and set the hours you want it to run. The timer does all the work for you — the light or mat gets turned on and off at the time you designated.

Are you an indoor gardening guru with great seed-starting tips? What can you share?

Feature image Alena Brozova/Shutterstock

Chrystal Johnson

Chrystal Johnson, publisher of Happy Mothering, founder of Green Moms Media and essential oil fanatic, is a mother of two sweet girls who believes in living a simple, natural lifestyle. A former corporate marketing communication manager, Chrystal spends her time researching green and eco-friendly alternatives to improve her family's life.

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