I love starting my own plants from seed, whether it be beautiful flowers or delicious veggie garden plants. We plant a LOT of things each year, and I came to the realization a few years ago that if I wanted to grow the size of garden that was in my dreams, I needed to either sell a kidney or learn how to start them myself from seed. Greenhouse started plants can add up quickly, but you also should keep in mind the time and patience aspect of starting from seed and determine if that extra greenhouse cost is actually worth it for you in the long run.
What you’ll need if you start your own seeds
The simplified shortlist of the items you’ll need is: seeds, soil, water, and the sunniest spot inside your home. While these 4 things make it perfectly possible for you to start your own plants, there are also a few things that make seed starting a little easier, and gets them off to a very good start to become the strongest plants needed for transplant in the Spring.
A few of the extra items that will start you off with strong plants are:
Lights – Although some window light will do fine for seedlings, you might have issues with them looking “leggy”, which just means that the stems grow super long and floppy, instead of short and strong. To combat this, I use these simple plug-in shop lights from our local Wal-Mart instead of using just window light. They are hung on chains with S hooks from some shelving, which makes it pretty simple to raise and lower them as needed to keep them the right distance from the seedlings.
Warming Mat – This seedling warming mat from Amazon gets things off to a quick start. You will find that some seeds take longer to germinate (check the backs of your seed packages), but this warming mat creates a nice cozy environment for your seedlings to want to sprout. After they’ve sprouted, I usually move them from the warming mat to under the lights as long as they’re in a generally warm room. For heat-loving plants like peppers, they might do better leaving them on the warming mat. Just keep in mind that the warming mat will dry out your soil quicker so don’t forget to check on them often.
Watering Mister – Getting a mister to water your seedlings will greatly reduce the chances of you dislodging the roots when they’re still small and fragile. When the seeds aren’t sprouted yet I usually bottom-water in the trays and let the soil soak up the water it needs, then use the mister to supplement where I can see it’s needed on top. After they’ve sprouted and have a good root system, the kids LOVE using the mister to water all the seedlings as well.
Shelving – I personally like any open wire shelving to hang my lights from because it makes it easy to find a place to put the S hooks I’m attaching them with. You can use any type of shelving from an old shoe rack you have hanging around, to something more substantial, or even on wheels to be able to move around. Keep in mind the size of warming mat you want and see if you can find shelving it will fit on to make things more streamlined.
Oscillating Fan – You will want to use some sort of oscillating fan on your seedlings after they sprout for a couple different reasons: to help your seedlings from combat damping off disease, and to strengthening the stems my mimicking wind as they grow. You can get fans that sit on the floor, or even ones that clamp onto the shelving. Choose what works for you and your budget, but don’t skip this step because that disease can be a downer when it chops down all your hard work at the soil level.
Timer – Dig out your timer that you use during Christmas and use it for your shop lighting over your seedlings. You will want the lights scheduled to be on for 8-10 hours through the day. Leaving them on constantly can sunburn your tender seedlings, and is just wasting electricity as well.
Trays – I love these 1020 trays without drain holes from Amazon to contain the water from getting on tables and my warming mat. You will also want some plug trays, or some other type of plastic container with drain holes to set into the trays to start your seeds in. The plug trays come in many different hole sizes, but keep in mind, the smaller the hole, the quicker you’ll need to plant-up your seedling into bigger containers. I personally prefer the 48 or 72 plug trays. You can also use things like the clear strawberry and raspberry containers from the grocery store as well to save on cost – and they come with a built-in humidity dome if you use the lids – SCORE!
Garland Catch Tray – I start my seeds inside my house in a carpeted room, with my kids, so I try and keep the soil mess to a minimum. I have some Garland trays that I use that are similar to these ones. They make cleanup a breeze and definitely makes it less stressful for Momma.
I hope all that information helps you decide what you do and don’t want to use to start your seeds indoors on your own this year! I do have some IGTV videos that you can watch and get an idea of how I do my own seed starting at home now every year now. You can do it too!