Seed starting indoors........

 if you don’t have a greenhouse.......        By Sabine Hilding

You will need:


Seed starting tray

Clear cover, plastic or an upside down old glass fish tank to cover tray

Seed heating pad (these can be expensive, look online

Peat plugs OR soil mixture of 1/3 compost, 1/3 coconut fiber, 1/3 good dirt


The easiest way to start seeds indoors is to purchase a seed starting kit.

It is a black tray sometimes with cups in it to hold each new plant once your seed has sprouted, (or you can just sow right into the pan) with a clear plastic top.  Some seed starting kits come with peat plugs on which to put your seed. Or you can purchase paper mache ‘pots’ (these can be square or round) and fit as many as you can into your tray. Follow directions on kit when using the peat plug idea.


You can also just get the black tray, possibly some peat or paper pots (6 pack) to nestle in the tray, and fill the pots with 1/3 clean compost, 1/3 fine coconut fiber, 1/3 good dirt.  The coconut fiber is to lighten the soil and hold moisture. Peat bogs worldwide are getting scarce so best to use coconut. Available in garden centers and nurseries. Comes in a small tightly packed brick, which you then crumble until fine and mix into the dirt.


Suppose you don’t have coconut fiber handy.  What to do? Mix in whatever medium you have to lighten the soil. Vermiculite comes to mind but you have to get it asbestos free. I guess you could try Perlite too. Some people bake soil in the oven to sterilize it.  This stinks, and you don’t really need to if you have a fine good soil mixture.


Fill your water-tight tray or the pots in the tray with your dirt mixture. Moisten so the dirt is damp, but not runny.  Plant your seed at the proper depths following directions on back of seed pack. Put clear plastic cover on top. Set entire onto the seed heating pad.


You can start seeds without this seed heating pad (ordinary heating pads are much too hot, you want even temperature) BUT seeds will be slower, in the case of pepper seeds they just sit there and don’t sprout.  Check under cover daily. If you get mold you’re watering too much. The seed sprouting heat pad also discourages mold.


When plants are a couple of inches high, remove the clear cover on top. Take tray off the mat and put in a sunny window sill. You want to ‘harden them off’ a bit. Let the plants grow until they have to be planted.  This last assessment is up to you.  If you have several young plant sprouts, pick the strongest one and take a pair of scissors and cut off the others so you have one healthy plant per pot. Don’t pull them out as this disturbs rootlets of the plant you want to keep.


You can then transplant the young plant starts either out of doors (if they are big enough) or into yet another pot possibly one of those 4 inch square black plastic ones (you should have saved these by the way when you purchase plants at garden centers and cleaned them for re-use.  Harden the young plants off outside, put out a few hours, back in, then out longer, and voila!


You’re ready to plant, if the weather cooperates. Do not think that you can just plant the peat or paper mache pots into the soil and expect them to compost.  Doesn’t happen here in the Intermountain West.  You’ll just get girdled roots and likely find the un-decomposed pot material stifling the roots of your plant.


Clean all plastic pots and trays and store until next year. This is definitely reusable material, and there is enough plastic in the landfill.


And by the way, you can really use any watertight container to start your seeds. Just be sure not to get the soil mix too wet. For example you could get an empty plastic tub and cover with a glass salad bowl. Some seeds like dill don’t even need covering or a heat pad, just a sunny window


Have at it, experiment, tolerate failure, delight in success, go as low tech as you can go.