If it is still cold outside, start your seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date and then transplant to your garden. If the last frost date has passed(see “resources” on this site for your frost dates) simply sow your seeds directly in the garden. Use the coir disc as a starter soil in the garden. Spread the mixture on the ground and sow seed. This wondeful soil enhancer is filled with things to give your seeds a quick and healthy start. (Visit our resource link to learn more about Coir discs)
Sow fresh seeds individually into each container according to package directions. If you are unsure about seeding depth, a rule of thumb is to plant a seed three times as deep as its width. Think of it as planting a seed deeply enough that two more seeds could be placed directly above it.
Some seeds need light to germinate. Cover them with a thin layer of the “coir” medium(soil)-enough to permit light to hit the seed yet keep the medium moist enough to encourage seed germination. Hint: Place cell packs containing seeds that need darkness for germination in dark plastic bags or cover them with several layers of newspaper until seeds sprout.
If you want plant 2 seeds in each cell so that you have a better chance of germination. Once the seedlings have developed true leaves, cut back the one that looks weaker at ground level with scissors. Don’t try to separate and transplant seedlings, you’re likely to damage the roots of the one you want to keep.
Where can I start my seeds?
A windowsill can work to start seeds if you follow these guidelines.
Only use a south facing window that gets full sun (no shaded windows)
When you first start your seeds they don’t need light so you can put them on top of the refrigerator (great for keeping the tray bottom warm) until the first seedlings emerge. Then move them to the window.
If you have the space creating an area with a grow light is ideal. How to do this can be found in the Using indoor lights and heat mats section.
If you are using a south window , move your seeds on top of the refrigerator at night or someplace warm(windows are cold at night) Again another easy solution is an inexpensive grow mat. See Using indoor lights and heat mats
If you are using the window, rotate your carton every few days so your plants will not lean to one side looking for the light. Again this will only work if the window gets plenty of sunlight.
During the day the soil in your cartons will dry out, so be sure to water in the morning and then check the soil later in the day-mist when needed. Don’t over water and leave your new plants “sitting in water”. A spray bottle is helpful for misting during the day, but be sure all the roots get a drink. Your seeds are new babies and do require some attention. The time will be well spent and you can literally watch your garden grow.
Why use the egg carton?
The egg cartons are a good way to start your plants indoors as they allow you to transplant your seedlings with the egg carton cell into the garden without disturbing the roots. This is particularly useful for plants that are described as “resents transplanting”. With the egg carton and the cowpots you can start many more plants inside and jumpstart your garden.
Just remember it is very important to remove the bottom of the egg carton cell when you are transplanting into the garden. This will allow the roots to grow quickly into the soil. The key to your success in using the egg carton will be timing and moisture. If you start your seeds too soon then the plants will outgrow your carton. In fact it is important not to start your seeds too soon, no matter what size your container. The plants will get leggy if they stay inside too long. To see when to start your seed refer to our When to start your seeds section
Another good reason to use egg cartons is having less soil to start your seeds prevents any “root rot” that can come from having too much wet soil around the seed and plant. Commercial growers start seeds in small cells for this reason. They transplant them to larger containers later. If your plants begin to get too large for the container simply transplant the egg cell and the plant into a larger container (again cut out the bottom of the carton cell). We suggest using the cowpots found on our site. They not only give the plants more room, as you wait for spring, they will act as fertilizer when finally transplanted outdoors.
Keeping your babies warm
Most seeds need consistently warm soil to germinate and produce strong roots. Cooler soil temperatures can be a problem for seedlings. It is important to keep your plants warm at night. Covering them during the night with a light plastic bag can help or you can use a heat mat.
Providing a constant heat source from underneath can be very beneficial to seedlings. Bottom heat from a heat mat can help to prevent “damping off,” (the death of tiny seedlings due to pathogens at the surface of the potting mix).
There you have it: light, water, and warmth the keys to a successful early garden!