The idea of owning and managing a garden fascinates most people. The only stumbling block to turning this idea into reality is knowing how to go about it. Interestingly, the process of successfully creating a garden involves many steps, from seed germination to plant growth and development, harvest, and more.
There is a lot to learn, especially if you are a newbie. But you need to start somewhere, which is why this article discusses one of the basics of gardening—how to germinate seeds and grow plants.
Let’s start by understanding what seeds are and why the germination or seedling stage is essential.
Why is the germination/seedling stage so important?
Seeds are one of nature’s greatest miracles. Every flowering plant on earth produces seeds to reproduce—it marks a restart of their life cycles. We are talking about a relatively small embryo with a pre-packaged food supply for the baby plant and the important genetic information required to develop into a full-grown plant.
Seed germination is the process of growing these seeds directly into baby plants. It requires creating an enabling environment for the dormant seed to break its dormancy and germinate into seedlings. An ideal environment for seed germination must have moisture, warmth, air, and light. Some seeds may also require additional nutrients, especially if they are smaller and their embryo contains less food.
A seed can only become a full-grown plant if it successfully passes through the germination stage. Therefore, both indoor and outdoor gardeners and growers need to understand how seed germination works, including setting up and maintaining an optimal environment throughout the duration of the germination. This may take up to 14 days in some cases.
How do you germinate seeds indoors?
As mentioned earlier, seed germination can happen both indoors and outdoors. Outdoor germination is simpler because you have almost all the requirements for optimal germination readily available in the environment. In contrast, an indoor grower will have to replicate these conditions artificially to ensure successful seed germination indoors.
If you are asking how to germinate seeds indoors, follow the essential steps highlighted below;
Step 1 – Get your timing right.
Sowing your seeds at the wrong time can cause problems. You do not have to sow too early or too late. Sowing too early may lead to plants outgrowing their pots before they are ready for transplanting. Sowing too late means your seeds may not mature in time before the end of the growing season.
You can check your seed packets for directives on when best to plant the seeds indoors. Alternatively, you can use online planting calendars to get the best planting time for your seeds.
Step 2 – Identify and source your seed starting supplies.
You will need a few essential supplies for successful seed germination. These include viable seeds, seed-starting soil mix, seed starting pots or cell trays, LED grow lights, spray bottle mister, watering can, and plant labels.
Step 3 – Prepare your seed-starting mix.
Your seed-starting mix is the ideal equivalence of soil for growing seedlings. Using garden or potting soil from your existing plants is not advisable because they are a potential source of diseases for your vulnerable baby plants. New seed-starting mixes are fresh, sterile, and contain the proper nutrients.
Pre-moisten the seed-starting mix and fill it into your containers. Then mix a little warm water into the soil when in the container. The goal is to have a slightly damp mix rather than a soaking wet mix. The mix should get within ½-inch of the top of the container.
Step 4 – Sow your seeds.
In most cases, every seed has a different sowing depth, which you can see on the seed packet instructions. Poke holes into the mix in the center of your containers. Sprinkle a few seeds into these holes and cover them with soil. Ensure the seeds are in contact with the soil, and then sprinkle more soil over the top.
Step 5 – Label your newly planted seeds.
Labeling each pot with the seed variety you have just sowed, and the sowing date is important. This helps you to keep an accurate record, considering most seedlings look similar in the early stages. You can use regular plant markers.
Step 6 – Provide moisture and warmth for your seeds.
Gather your pots in a seed tray and mist them with water to provide them with the needed moisture. It would be best if you also exposed them to air to ensure adequate circulation. For warmth, you can place the tray in the warmest part of your grow space.
It will take your seeds an average of three weeks to germinate fully into young seedlings. However, do not get worried if yours take longer. The duration of germination varies highly in seeds.
Step 7 – Provide your new seedlings with light.
Light is crucial to keeping your new seedlings healthy—your seedlings need up to 16 hours a day of light. But growing indoors means you do not have enough natural light in your home to achieve this. This is where artificial lighting comes in. Experts recommend using grow lights to achieve the right amount of light seedlings need to thrive.
Mars Hydro LED Grow lights are specifically made for plants, including young seedlings. The innovative, full-spectrum LED grow lights from this manufacturer are efficient and offer a similar effect as sun rays, ensuring your seedlings get the best light quality required to thrive in that growth cycle. You can also adjust the outputs to meet your light needs for seedlings and other growth stages.
Step 8 – Consider thinning if there are many sprouts.
If you have several sprouts coming from your pots, you should thin them. This is best done when the first actual set of leaves emerges, and it allows the other seedlings sufficient room to grow. You may also consider fertilizing the remaining seedlings with a water-soluble fertilizer at the rate recommended on the seeds package.
Step 9 – Transplant your seedlings.
Now that your baby seedlings are all grown up, it is time to move them to larger grow pots or containers in your indoor garden. Water these seedlings before transplanting to reduce transplant shock and keep the soil around the roots intact.
If you will be moving your seedlings outdoors, it is best to harden them off. Hardening off entails adapting your seedlings to the outside environment, especially the normal light conditions of the outdoor garden.
To Round Up…
We can describe the seedling stage of a plant as its early days. Similar to when we were toddlers, taking seeds through their embryonic stage to seedlings is a delicate process that requires adequate care.
This article has outlined the important requirements and the steps involved in the process. Now you have all it takes to germinate your first set of seeds into seedlings successfully.