You have been pouring through the seed catalogs since Christmas, and have ordered your seeds, or are getting ready to order your seeds. Spring fever is hitting hard! Here are some handy tips for starting your tomato, pepper, and other seedlings indoors. Pick out those mouth-watering heirloom varieties, and lets get started. You also get to have your own little piece of summer indoors.
1. Start your seedlings in a warm place, and if possible with plenty of sunshine.
2. If you have a heat mat use it under the planting tray until the seedlings emerge, you can also place the tray on top of the refrigerator for the first couple days. This will keep the soil warm, and improve germination. Be sure you move the tray as soon as the seedlings emerge, to a location with plenty of sunshine.
3. It helps to cover the top of your tray with a clear lid, or plastic. It holds the heat and moisture in while the seeds are germinating. When the seedlings emerge be sure you remove the cover to give the seedlings air, and prevent them from staying too moist.
4. I have also found it useful to give my seedlings an occasional drink of Chamomile tea (cooled) to help keep them from getting Damping off disease. The Chamomile has anti fungal properties to help keep your seedlings strong.
5. You should start you seedlings about 6-10 weeks before you plan on placing them in your garden. For most locations in the North, start your seedlings in February, or March for the best results.
6. You can use special seed starting soil, or peat pellets to start your seedlings. Use only fresh sterile soil.
7. Ensure your plants are receiving plenty of light, if plants do not receive enough light (especially Tomatoes) they will become leggy and spindly. This will make them easy to break, and less hardy than shorter stockier plants.
8. Try to keep your seedlings moist, but not soggy. The best method of watering is from the bottom up. Put water in the tray and allow the seedlings to soak up the water. Only give the seedlings as much water as they soak up in a couple minutes, if any water remains in the tray dump it out.
Your efforts will be rewarded with delicious home-grown tomatoes, peppers, and other delicious fresh vegetables this summer. There is nothing better than walking out to your garden and plucking a perfect tomato off the vine, taking a bite, and tasting the sunshine.