How to grow seedlings at home
After the winter months, during which the gardening activities are restricted, we are impatiently looking forward to the Spring and the moment when we will dig into the soil, get muddy, and reconnect with the earth. This season can start earlier and give us the chance for earlier activities, if we decide to raise seedlings the at home.
In this article, we will share some guidance, opinion and dates for the preparation of seedlings. The suitable time for planting the seedlings depends on the conditions in the regions where you are. The conditions differ in the mountainous regions and plain regions, in the Northern and the Southern part of your country.
It is up to you to decide on the kind of seeds to use and the place to get them from. If you already have collected seeds from some traditional plant varieties, it means that you have some experience in growing vegetables and seedlings. But if you are just starting, we have some guidance below.
If you buy seeds from producers or traders, the sign F1 means that the variety is a hybrid. This means that if you keep some seeds from the vegetables you pick from them for next year, they will not produce the same vegetables. The variety will have changed.
If you decide to look for old traditional varieties, you should keep in mind the region they come from and the specifics of your own place. The fact that a variety is developing well at a certain place, does not automatically mean that it would be that successful under different conditions in another region. This points to the advantage of the regional varieties – they have adapted to the environment and have gained immunity. What is more, the specific needs they have are already known to the grower.
The most common plants for which seedlings are grown are tomatoes, peppers, chili peppers and aubergines. It is good to know their needs. There are a couple of ways to prepare seedlings and we will comment on them below.
We can divide these ways depending on whether we will grow the seedlings indoors or outdoors – directly in the garden.
Growing seedlings indoors
We can use large flower pots in which to place 2-3 rows of seeds at a distance 2-3 cm. They will be later transferred into smaller flower pots (usually in pairs). Another way is to put 2-3 seeds directly in small flower pots or special seedling pots.
Tip: Pepper and chilies do not like to be transferred.
It is recommendable that the soil in which we will put the seeds contains soil from the garden where the plants will be grown afterwards. We can enrich it with compost, sand or other organic material, depending on the quality of the soil. Another good practice is to prepare the pots and the soil in advance and keep them at home (where it is warm) at least 2-3 days before the seeding.
The acceptable depth to put the seeds is around 1 cm. After we do this, we need to water carefully, preferably using a sprayer. We can pack the top of the pots with stretch foil and leave until the first leaves start to appear. Also, until this moment, the pots need to be placed in certain conditions – warm (25-27 degrees Celsius) and sunny. After the first leaves (cotyledons) have grown, we remove the foil and move the pots at a cooler place (17-19 degrees), at least for a week. After this period, we place them back at a warm and sunny place.
When the seedlings in the large flower pots grow a couple of leaves and start the second couple of leaves, it is time for transferring them in smaller pots. Good day light is crucial for the seedlings during the whole period.
We should not do too much watering. The top layer of the soil should be dry.
Two months after the seeds are put, the seedlings is ready. That is why, if you have a greenhouse where to plant earlier, you need to start preparing the seedling in the beginning of February. If you will plant directly in the garden – then you should prepare the seedlings at the end of February/ beginning of March.
Growing seedlings in the garden
For this type of preparation we need to pick a sunny warm day at the end of March. We separate into compartments for different plants a well-developed vegetable bed – enriched with compost where the soil is soft and puffy. Then we put the seeds directly in groups by type and variety. We water with a watering can. It is time to prepare small construction for a tiny hothouse. When there are cold nights, it is good to place a blanket or something like that on the hothouse to keep the seedling from freezing. On the other hand, in sunny and warm days you should let the air in the hothouse. This way of growing seedlings does not require any transferring of the plants. After 10th May, depending on the regional specifics, we can plant the seedlings in the other vegetable beds in the garden.
In short, these are the options for making seedlings at home. By being well prepared, motivated and caring, we can grow excellent plants.
Written by Emilia Ilieva
Information provided by Galina Pencheva and Emilia Ilieva