Starting Seeds – Lessons Learned So Far

For the past six weeks, I’ve been focused on starting seeds indoors to get a jump-start on the growing season. So far, things seem to be going pretty well, but I have learned a few important lessons.

Focus on a smaller number of flowers: I went stir-crazy in January and ordered way too many seeds than I probably should have. It’s been several years since I’ve started seeds indoors, and focusing on handful of varieties might have been the wiser move. To counter this, I made decisions on which ones to start indoors and which ones to plant directly outside once the danger of frost has passed. Also, a variety of seeds were planted in each flat, instead of a flat with a single variety, and the extra seeds were saved for planting outside. This helps saves room in my house too.

Mix soil before planting in trays: This tip was mentioned in another post, but mixing the soil with water before placing in trays is smart, as it limits the amount of watering you need to do at first. I’ve been following this tip with all of the seeds I’ve planted and it’s working great.

Thinning seeds with scissors: When I read this idea recently, I had a complete “A-ha” moment. When thinning seedlings in cell packs, clip the weakest or shortest seedling with scissors rather than pulling it out with your fingers. This prevents possible root damage.

Water only when soil is dry: Still finding the right balance here. Peat pots wick away moisture, causing the soil to become drier faster. I’ve been afraid of over-watering in general, but now I might be under-watering which is bad too. I’ve been feeling the soil with my fingers and watering when it’s dry to the touch. Another option is using Cow-Pots instead of peat pots. They retain moisture longer, I love them.

Germination in peat pots: Since sweet pea seeds need to be planted in deeper pots, I planted them in peat pots BUT I didn’t cover them correctly (I didn’t have a cover that was tall enough). This slowed the germination process. After several days, I realized the pots lacked the humid environment required for germination. Each pot was placed in a gallon-sized plastic bag and after about 5 days, the seeds sprouted. The bags were reused when additional sweet pea seeds were planted and the second round germinated much faster. Sweet success!

Hardening off: Rushing or not performing the hardening off process correctly is probably the my biggest mistake in the past, so I’ve been reading about the proper way to approach it (even if we’re about 6 weeks away from doing this). For most seedlings, when the fear of frost has passed, you place them in a safe spot outdoors, out of direct sunlight. On the first day, place them outside in their trays for 1 hour, on the second day, place them outside for an additional hour. Keep tacking on an hour each day until the 8th day, where they’ve acclimated to being outside for 8 hours. The goal is to transition them from the comfortable and controlled environment they’ve grown up in to the outdoors where the conditions vary greatly. We’re going to nail this process in 2016.

As much as I would love to go through this experience making all of the right decisions, I’ve had to embrace making mistakes (so hard to do!). Instead of becoming discouraged, I’m approaching mistakes as a way to improve in the future. In addition to this blog, I’ve been documenting observations and lessons learned in a gardening journal.

If you have any lessons to share, I would love to hear them in the comments!






  1. April said:

    Love the idea to thin seeds with scissors. I pulled out some desired plants on accident by not doing this. Oops! Hudson and I started only strawberries and lettuce. Neither are going too well, but we’ve learned a lot, which was the goal (I’ve never started seeds inside before). I’ve definitely been guilty of overwatering, and at first, none of the plants had enough sunlight. Now we have a plant light. We might start some more indoors this year just to see if we can build on what we’ve learned.

    March 24, 2016
    • thistleandvine said:

      Yeah! I was pulling out the extra seedlings with my fingers and uprooted the one I wanted to keep. The plant light should be a big help! I was concerned over some seeds not sprouting and thought, “Well, if these don’t work, I can always buy a $4 pack of seeds and start over.” That’s the beauty in this. Build on lessons learned and keep going!

      March 24, 2016

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