Seed Starting 101


Seed starting is a great way to get a jump on the season and satisfy your green thumb!  In the following article, I will outline the equipment options for seed starting and some factors to consider before getting started.

In our general area, I consider our frost-free date to be May 24th.  This is the time that plants and seeds can be planted outside without risk of being harmed by frost.  Therefore, you may want to be starting seeds indoors 6-8 weeks prior to your frost-free date, around March 24th.  However, fast-growing annuals that will reach maturity on 90 days or less (this information is found on the seed package) should not be started more than 4 to 6 weeks ahead of the frost-free date or they will become too large for their growing container.

Seeds are fairly hardy and do not need a huge investment to get started.  Here is a list of items that you will need to begin your own seeds:

  1. Practically speaking you may grow your seeds in just about any vessel that will hold soil and water will drain from – egg cartons, old pots, plastic cups with holes poked in the bottom or seed trays designed specifically for seed starting.
  2. You will need some way of creating humidity for the seeds to germinate properly. 
  3. Soil
  4. Seeds
  5. Heat source
  6. Lights

In some instances, you may find “kits” that contain the seed tray, drainage tray and dome all in one. I have seen these commercially at Canadian Tire, Walmart, etc.  However, I find it easiest to order the supplies at the same time and from the same supplier as my seeds, a great Canadian option is William Dam Seeds.

For seeds to germinate rapidly, they need to be kept warm and moist.  If you have a cozy warm spot (eg. top of the refrigerator) to place your seed trays the heat will encourage them to sprout more quickly.  However, once you are hooked on starting your own seeds it is likely that you will outgrow these cozy areas quickly.  You may want to invest in a heat mat especially designed for seed starting.

For very little money you can invest in some growing lights that are available at just about any hardware or garden store.  Right now, we have two shelving units in the shop that contains five shelves each. Suspended from the underside of the shelf we have hung growing lights with floral wire 2-3 inches above the seedlings.  We keep the lights on 14-16 hours a day.  Ideally, if you can get a timer for the lights, your light timing responsibilities can be reduced significantly (eg. you don’t need to be home every night at 10 pm to turn off the lights). This gives you some freedom from your seedling babies.

Another factor to consider, when beginning your seed starting adventure, is water.  You will need to water the seedlings on a regular basis. Depending on the number of trays you are starting this could be a considerable amount of water.  If possible, your seed starting apparatus should be located in close proximity to a water source.

This is not a comprehensive list of considerations for seed starting but I hope that it provides some material to contemplate.  The most important part of seed starting is to have fun and watch the miracle of nature as we prepare for the season of renewal and growth!