Ellaberry Gardens
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Seed Starting

One of the questions I hear the most is "How do I start my own seeds?" So I'm going to try to answer it here for everybody. If I didn't address your specific concern, feel free to email me at ellaberrygardens@yahoo.com. Happy growin'!

Basic Indoor Seed Starting Tips

Have your supplies ready before you begin!

  • Basic Supplies for Seed Starting
    • Seeds
    • Seed Starting Mix (my favorite thing to use is ½ seed starting mix and ½ worm castings) or compressed peat pellets
    • Containers to start seeds in if you’re using a mix (empty yogurt containers, containers made from old newspaper, biodegradable seed starting cups, etc.)
    • Water
    • Labels/tape to mark plants….please label your seedlings…you won’t be sorry
    • Waterproof trays to keep starts in (can be as simple as old baking pans but I do buy plant trays for $1.49 at Atwoods. They fit my seed shelf nicely.)
    • Seedling heat mats (optional but helpful)
    • Light Source

Only start as many seeds as you actually want to grow! Plan, plan, plan!


Sow very deliberately to save money now and time later. Only put 1-2 seeds of each variety of plant you’re starting in each little pot. Don’t oversow or you’ll waste seed money and time thinning later.

Follow the information on your seed packets to find out how deep to plant your seeds or plant seeds twice as deep as they are thick/wide if you don’t have seed packet info.

Make sure you’re seeding at the “right” time…for instance, if you want to plant your tomatoes on 4/15, you’ll need to begin seeding around mid-February through the first of March. Use my planting charts to guide you.

It’s not recommended start root crops (beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, parsnips, and rutabaga) for transplanting. The danger of damaging the tap root (which would be your food) is very large and they germinate fine outside.

Sowing our seeds indoors can be a crucial step in ensuring that we’re going to have healthy and diverse plants for our gardens. We may find ourselves more mindful of our indoor seed babies because we don’t have to go out to care for them; they’re sharing our living space after all! If you are going to sow indoors, here are some things to consider:

1) Keep your plants under a fluorescent light placed only a couple of inches from their tops to prevent plants from getting too “leggy” and give them stronger stems. Move lights up as plants grow. You might read a lot about not burning your plants with grow lights so you should keep them far away from them. But fluorescent lights aren't grow lights and don't get too hot. If you don't keep them really close to the seeds/seedlings, they'll be leggy and weaker.

2) You must keep the seeds moist (but not swampy) until you see them germinate. A spray bottle set on mist can be a wonderful help. I also only use rainwater for my seed starting and young transplants. If you don't have rain barrels, no worries. But if you do, bring it in and let it warm up to room temp this time of year before you use it.

3) Do not let the seedlings get too root bound. You may have to transplant to larger pots once or twice before you transplant them into the garden.

4) And MOST importantly…..do not take directly from inside and plant outside. Plants must be hardened off or the direct sunlight and outdoor winds will kill them or damage them so much that they likely won’t recover enough to put on a heavy, if any, crop. Move them outside to a protected area in the shade for a couple of hours; add an hour or two each day and gradually move them into more and more sun. The hardening off process should take about a week. Do not skip this step.

5) Be aware of your climate…your heater or AC shouldn’t be directly blowing on your seedlings. The breeze isn’t a bad thing (makes sturdier stems) but both heat and cold are ridiculously drying.

Direct sow
these crops in Oklahoma summer gardens as soon as our frost date (3/27 – 4/15 depending on what chart you’re looking at) has passed:

Beans, bush and pole
Corn
Cucumbers
Melons
Okra
Peanuts
Squashes
Sunflowers

These crops are extremely reliable germinators, have large seeds and can be very easily seeded outdoors to save you time, money and energy. But don’t overdo it! Only sow what you actually want to grow!
Now all these things being said, this doesn't have to be hard or expensive. My seed shelf is an old plastic shelf I "rescued" from a cousin's garage sale for $10 or so. My lights are simple shop lights and fluorescent bulbs that cost me about $15 per shelf. My seed cups are newspaper and the bottoms of QuikTrip cups (a local convenience store) with holes punched in them. My seed starting mix is $4 from a local discount store mixed with my own worm castings. I did splurge on a timer for the lights because the seedlings need 12-16 hours of light and I need all the help I can get around here.

Here's a current pic of my seed starting shelf set up. I just use little "s" hooks to hang the lights from each shelf (there's a handy little lip on this shelf.) And the one on top is hanging from the ceiling. I just move the "s" hooks up the chain at the plants grow. My shelf is currently in my dining room blocking the doorway to the kitchen. There's a huge doorway into the dining room from another direction so it works. I swear the hardest thing is finding a place for the shelf each year. Fancy, huh?



And if all of this is just too much, consider winter sowing. There are many resources online. I've had great luck with this. Here's a link to my video to show you how I do it. Even though I start many, many seeds indoors, I do love to start chard and some of my herbs like this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vAda9F0m7lM
Here are a few pics of the seeds that were started in the above video just a few weeks later.







If you have any further questions, please feel free to email at ellaberrygardens@yahoo.com and I'll do my best to help you get growin'!

Ellaberry Gardens' favorite seed companies (no affiliation---just folks I either order from regularly or use their catalogs for inspiration and education):

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Bountiful Gardens
Clear Creek Seeds---locals to NE OK
Dust Bowl Seed---locals to NE OK
John Scheeppers Kitchen Garden Seeds
Johnny's Selected Seeds
Pinetree Seeds
Renee's Garden


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