Seed Starting Supplies
Beginning gardeners often question what supplies they need to start seeds indoors. Though the supply list isn’t as long as you think, these basics will ensure you get the best start to your seed.
Seed Starting Kit
A basic seed starting kit is great for beginners. Most kits will include a propagation tray, an insert to help separate your seedlings, and a humidity dome. Some may include a seedling mat. This is most of what you’ll need to get started.
The humidity dome is pretty important because it helps to mimic the moisture and in nature that triggers the seed to germinate. The heat mat is great because even indoors in the winter it can get too cold for some seeds to germinate.
If your seed starting kit doesn’t come with a seedling mat, I recommend one like this one. Even in a warm home, using a seedling heat mat is a great way to increase the soil. Soil is important in seed germination (both inside and outside in the garden).
Grow Lights for Seed Starting
Do you need a grow light to start seeds indoors? Basically, yes. Perhaps it’s possible that you could start your seedlings in a sunny window, but most experts will tell you it’s not likely. This is where most indoor seed starting efforts fail. Seedlings simply need more light than even a sunny window can provide — especially when you consider that you’ll be starting your seeds in the short days of winter.
Personally, my success in starting seeds only came after I an indoor grow light. My window attempts never worked. The plants that did survive were clearly stressed, and you don’t want to start out your valuable vegetables under stress.
You can choose and LED or a fluorescent grow light. Here is a simple LED Grow Light I have used that has worked well for me. LED lights provide the right spectrum that plants need to grow and they are the option. On the other hand, a fluorescent grow light is a little more but will give you much more space for your seedlings.
Which Seeds Should I Start Indoors?
While every gardener will have different experiences and viewpoints on this question, most will agree that tomatoes and peppers are the best options for starting indoors. They transplant well, and the head start and indoor beginning can give to a seedling will equal more harvest potential.
Other options include broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce (not necessary, but helpful for an earlier harvest). Some gardeners will start squash, zucchini, and melons indoors, though they are not ones I recommend for beginning gardeners. Check out my list of seeds that are best started directly in the garden.
How Long Does it Take for a Seed to Sprout?
Some will sprout in 1-2 days but others will take 2-3 weeks. It depends on the seed, so look at the seed packet to know what to expect with each variety.
Do Seedlings Need Fertilizer?
Early on in a plant’s life, they typically do not need fertilization because the nutrition it needs comes from the seed. For seeds that stay inside a little longer, some fertilizer is very helpful. You can buy a fertilizer but you will want to dilute it so that it your young plants.
Leggy seedlings are almost always by a lack of light. If you catch it early, best way to solve this is to put the light as close as possible to the plant it. In some cases — as with tomatoes — you could try to transplant the seedling deeper into a different cell. I have done this successfully with tomatoes. If the plant is too elongated, there may not be a way to save it, and it’s best to start over ensuring adequate light.