Starting seeds indoors before the actual outdoor planting season begins is a great way to get your vegetables growing early. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will have sprouts, and the sooner food will be on the table. Even if it is still a little on the inhospitable side outdoors, there is no reason to put things off when the ability to get started indoors exists!
The first thing you will need to do to get your seeds started is to come up with containers. This is a task that can be surprisingly simple. All you have to do is look at the things regularly consumed around your home and put them to work! Seeds can be started in most any type of container that will hold a couple inches of soil without becoming waterlogged and falling apart. There are plenty of items around the house that fit this bill, such as:
1. Juice containers turned on their side are great for starting seeds. Simply cut away one side to act as the top and place soil and seeds inside. The top of the container can even be used to house a marker indicating what you planted.
2. Toilet paper rolls can be used by either placing a bunch of them inside of a plastic container to act as a base or by cutting the bottom of the roll and folding the pieces inward to make it self-contained.
3. Egg shells are a good size for starting seeds, plus they come in a handy container. Just be sure to try to crack eggs at one end to preserve most of the shell for use.
4. Plastic soda or water bottles can be cut in half for seed starting and can be adapted to self-water. If you want to water yourself, just cut the bottle in half and place the top with cap on upside down inside of the bottom portion. Should self-watering be your style, pop a hole in the cap and thread some twine through. Fill the bottom portion with water and place the twine in the water, then set the top portion inside.
5. Instead of using items around the house, you can purchase other containers for starting seeds as well, such as open flats, pots, or soil blocks. It is ideal to plant seeds in individual containers, however, so that young roots are not disturbed when the time comes to transplant them.
Regardless of the container you prefer, seeds should be planted in moist potting soil and provided warmth and light. Even if it is not warm enough outside for seeds to thrive, they should get along fine by being started in the warmest area of your house. You can help contain warmth near to planted seeds by covering them with a clear plastic dome or even plastic wrap with a few air holes. Once they begin to sprout, this plastic can be removed. They will them need to be placed in an area where light is plentiful, such as near a window, to give them the light they need to thrive. During this time, exposure to diffused light for several hours a day will aid in the completion of the hardening off process, preparing your plant for transplantation. Hardening off is gradually acclimating seedlings to their future surroundings and is an essential part of their growth.
Once leaves begin to appear, the time for transplanting is near. These leaves are known as cotyledons and you can transplant sprouting seeds by grasping the leaves and moving them to larger pots or the garden. Adding some all-purpose fertilizer and keeping the soil moist will aid in successful growth. Once your growing vegetables have been transplanted, all you have to do is tend to their water needs (unless Mother Nature takes care of that for you) and watch for pests as you wait for a plentiful supply of food items to become table ready.