Growing plants from seeds is very cost-effective, fun, and a great way to get a head start on Spring. This is also a great activity to get children involved in gardening. It’s very rewarding to watch tiny seedlings blossom into healthy mature plants.
Planting seeds is also a great way to grow specific varieties.
When to Start
March is a great time to start seedlings indoors. Generally, start planting seeds indoors 6-10 weeks before the last frost date. Michigan’s last frost date is generally recognized as May 15th. Seeds are best sown directly in the garden when the soil has warmed to approximately 70 degrees. In Michigan, this is usually in May or June.
- Clean containers
- Seed starting mix (Espoma Seed Starter Mix recommended)
- Dibble or pencil (to poke holes for the seeds)
- Plant markers
- Starter fertilizer
- Sunlight and artificial light source (Grow Light)
Always start with clean containers with drainage holes at the bottom. There are many types of growing containers available at English Gardens specifically designed for seed starting. Jiffy Peat Pots work well as they come in a variety of sizes to accommodate the space you have and the number of varieties you’re growing.
Some varieties of seed are easier to grow indoors than others. Typically, you’ll want to start seeds indoors that have a longer growing season, like tomatoes and peppers. Some of the easiest to grow are: eggplants, marigolds, peppers, sunflowers and tomatoes. Read more about the 10 Easiest Seeds to Start Indoors.
Read the entire seed packet before you begin. The packets are filled with useful information, such as: days to germination and harvest, spacing, and planting depth.
To determine when to plant, check the seed packet to see how many weeks before the last frost seeds should be planted. Count backward from May 15 (usually the average frost-free date in Michigan.) When you reach the appropriate number of weeks, write yourself a note to start those seeds that week.
Use a planting medium designed for seed starting, such as Espoma Seed Starter Mix. Fill the containers with damp medium. Then sow seeds according to package instructions.
Place the seeds in an area where they’ll receive bottom heat, either from a seed starting mat, or on top of the refrigerator or water heater. Keep the soil moist, but not wet.
Once the seeds have sprouted, move them to a cool, sunny window, or near a grow light. Remember to keep your grow light close to the seedlings. You don’t want seedlings stretching towards the light. Raise the lights as they continue to grow, maintaining a distance of six to eight inches between the top of the plants and the lights. New seedlings need plenty of light: about 15-18 hours each day.
Continue watering and keep moist, but not wet. Fertilize young transplants with a starter fertilizer, according to label directions.
Plants can be transferred to the outdoors when temperatures are above 50 degrees F consistently. Gradually harden off your seedlings before planting them outside. Getting your plants used to the outside weather gradually is a major key for successful gardening.
When they’ve adjusted to the outside temperatures, plant them in the ground or containers. Be sure to follow planting instructions for best results.
Finally, enjoy your flowers, vegetables and herbs throughout the season.