Seed Starting Basics: Basic Supplies & Prep

So you’ve decided to start some seeds, but aren’t sure what you need? There are a lot of decisions to make. With all of the decisions about containers, soil, markers, and, on top of all of that, what seeds to choose?  It isn’t as difficult as you might think. It might be tempting to give up before you start because there is just so much to learn. Please do not let information overload stop you from beginning. It doesn’t need to be perfect. In most cases, the things we procrastinate on are not nearly as bad as we think they will be. With that in mind, let us begin!

To begin on your seed starting journey, you will need some basic supplies. Most are easily accessible at your local hardware or lawn and garden store.

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Basic Supplies

The most basic of supplies would be:

  • Pots and Trays
  • Soil (seed starting mix or potting soil work just fine)
  • Seeds
  • Plant Markers
Pots and Trays

There are a variety of methods used for this. You can buy pre-portioned seedling trays (which normally come with a watertight tray to catch the runoff), soil blocking, and mini-clay pots, among others. They even have kits to get you started, although they tend to be a bit more on the pricey end. The most common are probably seedling trays, like you would see used at most nurseries, and peat pots.

If you are considering plants that don’t handle transplanting well (i.e. cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, etc.) consider using peat pots. These pots decompose around the plant after you put them in the ground, without requiring transplanting. You simply put the whole thing in the ground. A note on that: When putting peat pots in the ground, you have to make sure they are completely covered by soil. If they are not, they will wick the moisture out of the ground and kill the plant.

If you are reusing pots from last year, they will need to be sanitized first to prevent the growth of molds and fungus. Simply wash with dish detergent and water, and then rinse in a water and 10% bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide (1/2 cup of bleach per 5 cups of water).

Soil

Using a seed starting soil mix is often suggested, but we have used potting mix the last couple years with good results. And our experience with the seed starting mix we started with was not very satisfactory. If you would like to read more about this topic, check out this comparison done by underwoodgardens.com.

SeedsSeed Starting

There are innumerable sources for seeds. And really a completely separate post could be written about them. Generally speaking, most seed magazines have a glossary telling you what the various abbreviations and symbols mean. We will go over this in another post, as there is a lot of information about this topic. But for starters, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Find a company that you feel is trustworthy and gets good reviews and go with it!

Plant Markers

We use these plant markers, and so far we love them! They have withstood a couple of planting seasons and are still going strong. We used pencil on them, and didn’t have any trouble with the writing getting lighter or rubbing off. There are also custom-made ones on Etsy.com, and I’m sure you could find or make some pretty nice ones as well.

As you can see below, I actually ran out of our usual plant markers, so we are improvising with craft sticks.

So, after you have gathered everything, and sanitized as necessary, all you need to do is get your dirt ready and plant! Here are the steps lined out simply:

Prep

  1. Gather your materials
  2. Sanitize as necessary
  3. Dampen dirt and fill pots. The soil should be damp, but should break apart when you let it go. It shouldn’t ooze.
  4. Set your pots on the trays (the ones that catch the excess water).
  5. Time to plant! 🙂

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