With Spring closing in it is definitely time to start thinking about starting some of your seeds indoors. If this is your first time, you may be wondering what tools you need to get started. Seed starting is relatively simple and thankfully we don’t need expensive equipment to get started. In fact, much of the tools we use here on our homestead are items that we have repurposed.
Seed Starting Tips and Tools
None of the other items on our list will matter if we don’t have our seeds. Here on our homestead, we purchase our seeds from Baker’s Creek, Sow True Seed, and The Seed Guy. We like these because they are non-GMO/heirloom seeds. Purchasing these types of seeds allows us to save seeds from year to year and also give us a true plant that has not been treated with any chemicals or modified in any way. If you’d like to learn more about saving seeds you can do so by clicking here. These seeds would be much the same as Adam and Eve cultivated in the Garden of Eden. Some have stated that heirloom seeds are just too expensive for them. However, when you consider that the seeds from each plant sown (if stored properly) can be saved from year to year, the $2 or $4 that were spent on one packet of seeds is a minimal investment. If non-GMO heirloom seeds are not something you are looking for you can always choose organic hybrids or purchase cheaper seeds from the Dollar Store.
Potting Soil Mix
The first time I ever went to purchase soil to start my plants I was totally confused by what to buy. There were tons of different types of soil and I really didn’t know what I was looking for. I’m thankfully D had a little know-how in this are (thanks to a few years as a kid working at a local nursery). What you are looking for is a potting mix, not a garden soil mix. The reason for this is, garden soil is very compact and is not suitable for seed starting. Potting mix is light and fluffy which will allow the seeds to sprout easier and provide your seeds with better water drainage. We use an organic potting mix. Other potting mixes contain materials that have been treated with hazardous chemicals.
Containers for Seeds
Just a stroll through any big box store will have you itching for some pretty pots to start your seeds in. But before you go and spend a huge part of your budget on these pretty pots, consider what your family already uses that could be repurposed for seed starting.
- Yogurt containers
- Juice, milk, or even soda bottles can be cut in half and the bottom portion saved
- Solo cups – these come in different colors so you can color code your seed starting
- An aluminum foil deep baking pan lined with cardboard to create individual cells
- Seed starting kit – we do use these on our homestead as well. I love the plastic domes on the top that turns the kit into a little greenhouse.
Get creative and have fun! If you are already purchasing these items, reusing them is a great way to save money and put those extra funds back into your homesteading projects.
Note: Be sure to poke holes in the bottom of all your containers to provide well-drained soil.
Spray Bottle/Turkey Baster
Your seeds are going to need a good watering after they are planted. Because seeds are tiny and super fragile, it is probably not a good idea to give them a good spray with the hose or even your shower or sink sprayer. Doing so can push the seeds to the bottom of the container and cause them to rot, resulting in zero germination. What you can do though is purchase a spray bottle or turkey baster and water your seeds using these instead. If you have planted a ton of seeds, then a spray bottle may take way too long and using a turkey baster may be a better option. I personally like using spray bottles. They give me a little better control over watering and I can then use them to mix my fertilizer in.
After your seeds are covered nicely in their new little dirt homes and watered, you’ll need to cover them with either plastic wrap or with the plastic dome that came with your seed starting kit. Doing this creates a mini greenhouse and allows the seeds to hold in all the moisture and warmth that they need in order to grow into healthy, viable, delicious food. Be sure to poke a few holes in the top of the plastic or dome cover to allow oxygen to circulate.
All seeds like to be warm and actually need this warm to help them grow. In the past, I have only ever used grow lights to provide this warm, but I wasn’t in the know like I am today. Plants like their warmth to come from the soil they are planted in and the best way to provide this warmth is from the bottom. Placing your started seeds on a heat mat specifically made for plants will ensure that your soil is kept at the perfect temperature. However, if you are not able to purchase a heat mat, you can place your seeds on top of your refrigerator, next to your stove, or in another warm area of your home.
There is some debate about whether seeds need light immediately or if they are to be in the dark until they sprout. The way I do them is to leave them without lighting until it is time to take the plastic off of the top – which is typically when 50% of what I am growing has sprouted. Once seeds sprout, they need approximately 14-16 hours of light each day. In order to achieve the best possible outcome for my plants, this is the way I’ve been doing it. So far, I have had luck using this technique.
So which light to use? In the past, I have always used grow lights and have had success with them. Recently I have learned that using a regular ballister or utility/shop light that you find in garages is actually a good alternative. In fact, Baker’s Creek suggests using this type of lighting with one bulb being warm and the other being cool. We are using this setup this year and within 3 days I had more than 50% germination, which is up from previous years.
Although you won’t use this until you see the first set of true leaves appear on your plants, it is a good idea to grab it while you are shopping. This way, you’ll have it on hand and be prepared. There are many different types of fertilizers available, so be sure to read the bottle. This year we’ll be using fish emulsion liquid fertilizer, which we’ll spray on our plants after their first true leaves appear with 50% strength.