If you want unique annuals and vegetables in your garden this season, now is the time to shop for seeds at garden centers or mailorder companies. Here are three methods of starting seeds indoors:
Containers from home. Sow seeds in plastic cups, margarine tubs, or yogurt cups with holes punched in the bottoms to drain excess moisture. Put containers on a waterproof tray. Cover with plastic wrap and keep out of direct sun until seeds germinate.
Peat pellets. Drop compressed pellets into warm water until they expand. Plant seeds in the expanded pellets and place in tray with plastic dome. When seedlings emerge, remove the plastic dome. As seedlings and roots mature, plant pellets in a pot or in the ground.
Self-watering seed starter. Kit includes a seed tray, capillary mat, growing stand, and water reservoir with a clear cover. Some also include markers, fertilizer, soil, and water indicators. The capillary mat provides even bottom watering by wicking water from the reservoir. There’s enough water in the reservoir to keep seedlings moist for about five days.
• Use a sterilized, soilless mix to discourage soil-borne fungal diseases.
• Moisten medium before putting into containers.
• Place a fluorescent bulb 3 to 4 inches above seedlings to provide enough light. (Incandescent lights give off too much heat.)
• Water seedlings from the bottom to discourage damping off.
• Fertilize seedlings once they have some true leaves.