Are you thinking about starting seed indoors? Here are a few reasons why indoor seed-starting is a great option to consider:
Some seed such as corn, squash, pumpkin, beans, and melons prefer direct sow into the soil once all danger of frost has passed. Be sure to check your seed package to find out the best method for that seed.
What do you need to start growing seed indoors?
Always use a sterile seed starting mix that is designed to be light, fluffy and retains the correct amount of moisture. These starting mixes can be purchased at big box stores and nurseries. If you try using a regular potting soil it could be too heavy for germinating seed to push new roots through.
Pre-soak your starting mix. You want the mix to be wet but not overly wet. Pick up a handful, squeeze the water out then place in your container. Too much moisture can cause your seed to become mush rather than germinate.
A tray underneath your containers will hold water making water available when plants need. Plants and soil will pull water up. This makes a better watering system than pouring water over the top of the container.
Once planted you will need to stretch plastic over the top of the containers. This will hold moisture in allowing seed to germinate easily. Once the seed has germinated you will need to remove the plastic. You can also purchase kits that have a clear lid to use for germination.
Some seed, like peppers, are difficult to germinate without an additional heat source. You can place the containers on top of a refrigerator that is a bit warmer than air temperature. Or you can purchase heat matts that keep the containers about 10 degrees warmer than air temperature. Once germination has taken place you can remove the heat source.
Light comes into play once the seed has germinated. You can place your containers in a southern facing window, or you can use grow lights. If you use a windowsill, rotate containers every couple of days so that they grow upright rather than leaning to one side. Platinum LED lights, T-8 light bulbs or CFL bulbs all have the range of light rays needed for healthy growth. You will want to keep the lights 3 to 4 inches above the plants. This will ensure the plants get enough light. Farther away and you could end of with weak, spindly plants.
Most plants should stay indoors until after the last frost date. For northeast Louisiana that would be around March 13th. Remember though we have had frost as late as early May so you will need to keep an eye on the weather.
Last task will be hardening off your plants. Place plants in a sunny location outdoors for 1 hour or more per day brining them in at night. After a week of this the plants will be hardened to plant outdoors.
Try out new varieties of vegetables, annuals, or perennials by starting seed at home indoors. Most seed packets will tell you when to start indoors.
Last, enjoy your new ability with lots of new plants.
Donna R. Lee
East Carroll, Madison and West Carroll Parishes