5 Tips for Growing Your Vegetable Starts Indoors
If you are planning to or have started your vegetable seedling indoors, here's reminder of some best practices to keep your seedlings healthy so that you can have the best spring and summer garden possible!
Thin seedlings as they emerge from soil
- When your seedlings poke through the potting soil in your plug trays, snip all but one of them. Pick out the strongest seedling that you'd like to save and cut the rest out. Of course, it depends on what seed you are growing; for lettuces and herbs, for example, you'll want several per cell as these plants are intended to grow in bunches. Typically, for garden vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, squashes and more, you'll want to only have one seedling per cell.
Touch soil every day
- As you go on maintaining your seedlings, touching the soil can inform you of how much water they need--if any. Whether you are using potting soil or coco coir, it should feel moist but not soggy at all times. So, if the substance feels moist, check back in a few hours and water them if needed.
Water using a bottom tray
- Seedlings can be delicate and can get displaced if water abruptly flows from the top. Watering this way can also cause fungal diseases (rare) that can be a problem in the future. That is why we opt for what is called "bottom watering", a method by which you pour water into a bottom tray where the soil in the celled trays can wick it up as it dries. This also helps to prevent over watering as the soil will only draw what it needs.
Provide plenty of light
- Grow lights are the simplest solution for providing enough light that you seedlings require--at least 10 hours with the full 6500 K spectrum lights. The next best option is to place them next a window (south-facing) where it receives AT LEAST eight hours of sun per day. Otherwise, the seedlings will struggle and affect it ability to reach maturity. Because of this light requirement, many people choose to direct sow their seeds when outdoor temperatures are right.
What to do with extra seedlings
- It is good to over-plant so you can choose the best seedlings to transplant and subsequently grow in your garden. It can leave you with a surplus of vegetable seedlings, which make a great spring time gift to your neighbors, family, and friends. Often folks remember to start their garden when it is too late. Seedlings are a great surprise for those who missed the window to plant!
- Jordan Freytag