Seed Starting Tutorial
Hi, I’m Jeff, I’m your CGRA Parks Foreman. Spring is on its way and I always get excited this time of year to be starting my gardens. This time between seasons is a perfect time to start from seed. With our relatively short growing season here in Northern Alberta its always best practice to start now. Not only does starting from seed cost much less than buying developed plants it can be quite rewarding as well.
This is what I do to start my plants every year and usually have great success. In this information section we’ll cover how to start your very own herb garden. In future sections we’ll cover starting your vegetable seeds, bulbs, starting annuals and perennials and if there’s interest starting trees from seed, acorn or nut.
The first thing you have to think about when starting seeds are the seeds themselves. I like to choose non-GMO, heirloom seeds. You can chose other types but heirloom seeds have a better chance of sprouting and germinating. Non-GMO because GMO’s suck. Again this is what I’ve found that works for me, you can choose your own products or systems.
You’ll need a seed starting tray, there are many types and brands, choose one that you’re comfortable with. Shown in the picture are a variety of seeds as an example.
Next, you’ll have to fill your tray with soil. There are MANY types of soil, this can be confusing as what to use to start your plants. I use an Organic in ground soil mix, this simulates what the plants will be planted into when I get to sticking them in the ground. (Natural soils are best, the bagged stuff is good to grow in as well but needs more attention and replacing as it is mostly synthetic and not actually dirt. If you have questions about different types of soils or what to use or if you want more information please feel free to email me at the address included at the end of the tutorial.)
Most herbs can be laid directly on top of the soil, without needing to cover them over with additional dirt. (More about this later). Tarragon, Oregano and Basil seeds are incredibly tiny as well as many other types of herbs, and will be very difficult to get only one seed per pod in your tray, what I do is poor a bunch into my hand, then take a pinch, and try not to put the whole pinch per pod. As every seed is a potential plant for herbs with small seed we with either have to separate them from each other when we transplant them into their next home before their final planting (we’ll cover this procedure in a future tutorial) or Let natural competition determine the strongest plant after transplantation.
(Sorry about photo quality) These seeds can be hard to see once you have put them into the pod. But if you know that you have put seeds in it, don’t add more. This can cause excess competition and few if any of the seedlings will start at all.
Rosemary seed is a bit larger, I only put one per pod as rosemary can be problematic to separate for transplantation
Cilantro can be started in pairs (shown) or solo. Cilantro isn’t difficult to separate, I like doing them in pairs. They’re like to two friends that are always together.
Always remember to label what seeds are in what rows, it can get difficult to remember if you are starting a lot of seed of various types. Also date your labels with the date you are starting them, as a way to track progress.
After you have placed seeds in each pod it’s time to water them in. What I do (you can use any technique) is with a small watering can, gently drip water onto the seeds, SLOWLY, you want the water to push the seeds into your soil but not float out of the pod. This simulates what happens in the spring with a rain storm, the rain drops will push the seed into the ground, nature doesn’t have to plant them exactly ¼” into the ground them cover them over and yet we have these wonderful plants. Once you have some water in each pod let it soak in. Then continue gently watering until the tops of the pods are moist, but not wet.
Next what I do is, In the bottom of the tray I add approximately 2-2.5cm ( 1”) of water. This water will soak up from the bottom of the pod to finish the watering process. You can continue to water from the top but the potential of moving your seeds (floating them away) out of the pod is greater and you might not get what you expect. In a day, drain the additional water, from the tray.
Once your seeds are all watered in cover the Tray with the lid provided, or cellophane works as well. Place in an area were the Tray will get indirect, full light. (An area that gets light but no shadows can be seen). If you see humidity on your lids that is perfectly normal, don’t repeatedly open them to “see” how they are doing this disrupts the humidity in the tray and can prevent seeds from establishing themselves. Once your seedlings are touching the lid, remove the lid and place under plant lighting or in an area that has an abundance of light without excessive heat (a north or east Facing window is perfect) and keep moist with a spray bottle. As they grow you’ll want to keep the soil moist in the pod but not wet, wet conditions can cause rise to bacteria and fungi that can harm your plants.
Herbs typically are late risers so they might take 2-3 weeks to sprout, don’t worry they will show up.
At this point it’s important to say that not ALL seed will sprout, if you have waited more than the recommended time (Instructions are always on the reverse of the seed packet) and still have not seen sprouts from any particular pod, you can either wait a bit longer or abandon it completely. As you become more experienced you’ll start to notice that small things make a difference and you can be very successful at starting from seed. Typically I expect about 10% of my seed not to sprout but I am working on getting that as close to 0% as I can.
I hope this will help with starting your own herb garden at home. We will cover transplantation of seedlings in a future tutorial and further on we will go through planting tips.
Again if you have any questions feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org or if you’re in the park and you see me don’t be afraid to come over say hi and ask away, I always enjoy taking the time to talk about Gardening.